Style Koriyama special interview in English.
“How do you like FUKUSHIMA?”
I’ d like to ask foreigners about Fukushima. This is a relay-style interview series.
This time we interviewed Nihon University Professor Sanjay PAREEK, Dr. Eng. who teaches building materials and structures at the College of Engineering.
We asked about what brought him to Japan, how he felt about Japanese life or culture, about his studies and so on.
Professor Sanjay PAREEK, Dr. Eng.
Where are you from?
I’m from Jodhpur in India. Jodhpur is a historical city with a gorgeous Meharangarh fort and several magnificent palaces including Umaid Bhawan Palace. Maharaja of Jodhpur is very famous locally. My city fought many wars for its independence and was never defeated, so we are very proud of our heritage.
Umaid Bhawan Palace
↓With Maharaja of Jodhpur at Umaid Bhawan Palace.
We celebrate many festivals in India for Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, is a prime festival that falls in October/ November. Holi, the festival of colors, is celebrated in March/ April. Our calendar is based on a unique combination of lunar and solar celestial calculations. Our new year starts in Chaitra just after Holi festival during March/ April.
↓At Holi festival in Jodhpur.
What did you do for fun as a child?
↑With his mother when he was 4 years old.
In my childhood, I used to play cricket and badminton. When I went to Nigeria after my primary school I played soccer, which is the most common sport in Nigeria. As my father worked for the ministry of foreign affairs, I had a scattered residency during my childhood. I lived in several places like Jodhpur and Mumbai in India, Ibadan in Nigeria and Tripoli in Libya. I went back to India from Nigeria after my high school graduation. I went to university for my bachelor’s degree in India and finished my graduate studies in Nihon University in Koriyama.
↓With his young brother and young sister.
↓He studied in Nigeria when he was 12 years old.
What brought you to Japan?
When I was in India, I came to know about Professor Yoshihiko Ohama who was doing in depth original research in the field of polymer concrete. Professor Ohama went to an international conference in Libya where my father met him. My father informed me about Professor Ohama’s research work. It was very interesting to me, and I was highly impressed by his extensive research work. I read a lot of his research papers and got to know about him. I wanted to do the same kind of research and get my masters and doctorate in the field. I actually corresponded with him by letters because there was no internet or email at that time. He was also very interested in taking me in his research team and invited me to Japan for my higher studies.
↓He saw snow for the first time in Japan. With Professor Ohama.
When you came to Japan the first time, did you feel some differences between India and Japan?
Yes, mainly in language, food and culture. Since Indians use English and Hindi, I had no Japanese background. After I came to Japan, the Japanese language was a big barrier for me to communicate and do any official work. I could hardly communicate with any of the students in my lab because they wouldn’t speak English. So most of the time I couldn’t talk to anybody. There were always many students present in the lab but we couldn’t communicate, which was disastrous for me. I studied hard to learn Japanese to overcome this barrier, and now I am teaching Japanese university students building materials science in Japanese. I also review and correct their theses in Japanese. I could do it because now I’m fluent in the technical language.
I’m a Hindu by religion and Brahmin by caste, so I was a vegetarian. In our country, Brahmins don’t eat any kind of meat, fish or egg. When I came to Japan, I couldn’t find anything to eat for vegetarian people in restaurants and cafeterias. Only salad, or maybe bread, but most bread also uses eggs in its preparation.
Did you make the food by yourself?
No, I was very busy at the university with my studies, so every day I used to eat bread, salad and milk. Consequently, I lost weight and had no physical energy, so I called my mother and explained my stressful conditions. My mother said God had sent me to a country where I had to survive, so I had to eat whatever the people eat in that country. So I prayed to God for forgiveness, and now I love most of the Japanese food and avoid keeping restrictions regarding eating. Incidentally, my wife is Japanese, and she makes very good Indian and Japanese food. I have developed a taste for Japanese food and like it very much.
↓Wedding at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in India.
The culture was not too difficult to understand. Japanese and Indian cultures are quite similar. We’ve to speak in different forms when we deal with people who are older, younger or the same age in the same way as in Japan. In India, to show respect to older people we use the honorific expressions and younger people do to me and can learn from me because I’m older.
↓He got a doctorate at Nihon University. He went on the stage at Budoukan as a student representative.
What have you been researching recently?
My research work mainly focused on self-healing (self-repairing) concrete. I’m also working on concrete that doesn’t use cement.
The third area of my research work is development of a concrete battery, for which I’m applying for patents.
Almost all batteries are alkaline, and concrete is also alkaline. But we include a special material so that we can light a lamp. So even if a big earthquake comes, we can get light from concrete. All the research topics focus on sustainable evelopment goals (SDGs), so my lab’s main motto is SDG-oriented materials.
Also, I want to do something for India, so now I’m developing non-fired (non-baked) bricks. Generally, bricks are made from clay, and baked by coal to make them strong, but this uses a lot of energy. So now I’m trying to make bricks without baking, using fly ash from power stations. Mostly electricity is produced by coal-fired power stations in India, but this releases a lot of carbon dioxide and produces a huge amount of fly ash as waste material. Non-fired fly ash bricks can reduce problems of waste disposal, save energy and cut down carbon dioxide liberation.
What is your favorite place in Fukushima?
My favorite natural place is the Inawashiro lakeside on Mount Bandai, and my favorite man-made place is Ouchi-juku. I like Ouchi-juku because it evokes all the old travelers rest houses coming from Edo, and going on to northern Japan. It is a well preserved site. If you want real peace of mind, you can see the mountains and Lake Inawashiro there. Apart from this, the historical city of Aizu-wakamatsu with the old samurai culture of Byakkotai is also very admirable.
What would you like to do in the future?
I want to bring more Indian students to Japan, and send Japanese students to India, to have a cross-cultural exchange of education and technology. India is developing fast and needs a lot of technology-transfer from Japan and also Japan needs a huge amount of young engineers for supporting the local industry, and I would like to strengthen our friendship with Japan.
How do you feel about Fukushima after experiencing the Tohoku earthquake?
The earthquake was a massive disaster for the community in theTohoku region. The explosion at the nuclear power station compounded the tragedies of this immense disaster and social degradation due to the nuclear pollution in Fukushima. It only took about 6-12 months to restore the earthquake damage of the lifeline, but the nuclear power reactor problem was worse, and is still persisting. I feel very bad about it, and hope that this kind of tragedy never happens again.
Have you helped nuclear power station problems with your research?
Yes, I started doing research work on making concrete that does not allow radiation to go through it. It’s high-density concrete. A container made of this concrete was used to store radioactive waste. I am a firm believer that as a researcher, you have to help the locality through your research. I concentrated my thought process to find an optimal solution for the problem of radioactive waste storage. I tried hard and succeeded in developing a kind of high density concrete for radioactive waste storage to help our local society. I have the firm opinion that researchers and educators should think how to help our society, because we are part and parcel of the society. Most of the people think of big achievements in writing research papers then go to foreign countries and do something, but I think you should concentrate on local issues rather before pondering globally.
The idea of developing a concrete battery initiated from my desire to find a solution for imminent local problems. During floods or earthquakes, power failures are common, so we should develop something like a concrete battery to help our society reeling under such conditions. I’m always thinking about using my research to help the society in a natural disaster and save the electric power.
Finally, could you give Style Koriyama readers your message?
I’m a researcher and educator, so I want to help students from various schools in Fukushima. I have many foreign students, and I’m from a foreign background, so I try to give them the information and knowledge to make them aware of the global conditions. I inspire my students to go abroad and experience foreign countries culturally and professionally so that they can utilize their skills in or out of Japan.
Being from India, and having traveled to many countries, I want to motivate young people to act or work in an international environment. Japan is a very small country, and is saturated with business, education and technology, so to expand and help the international society we have to focus on Asian, African, and South American countries to help them grow.
↓With the laboratory members at Nihon University.
Professor Sanjay PAREEK, Dr. Eng.
• Graduated Abadina College, Ibadan, Nigeria in 1983
• Graduated University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India in 1986
• Entered Department of Architecture, Nihon University Faculty of Engineering as research student in 1987
• Started master’s course in architecture at Nihon University Faculty of Engineering in 1988
• Obtained doctorate in architecture at Nihon University Faculty of Engineering, and joined Daito Concrete in 1993
• Left Daito Concrete in 1996, and became an Assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, Nihon University Faculty of Engineering in 1996
• Became a full-time Lecturer in the Department of Architecture, Nihon University Faculty of Engineering in 2000
• Promoted to full-time Associate professor in the Department of Architecture, Nihon University Faculty of Engineering in 2008
• Promoted to full-time Professor in the Department of Architecture, Nihon University Faculty of Engineering in 2018