New Kyurizukai
Dr. Tanaka says as a child he liked playing amid nature and was extremely inquisitive. However, a dream of becoming a researcher never occurred to the boy. What drastically changed the course of his life was an encounter with administration engineering as a field of research. Approaching highly complex social phenomena, administration engineering aims to solve problems by developing mathematical models and offering concrete solutions to practical problems. Dr. Tanaka explains that this discipline is appealing partly because it has the powerfulness of making specific solutions to real-world problems, something which is common to engineering, and partly because it offers scientific excitement common to physics which describes natural phenomena by simple laws.

What was your childhood like?
      I was born in Musashino City of Tokyo, where Nogawa Park, Koganei Park and Inokashira Park were found within several kilometers from my home. On holidays and during summer vacations, my father often drove a car to take me to nature-rich destinations like Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures, which also helped make me an outdoors-oriented boy. Insect hunting was my favorite pursuit, which I used to enjoy with my friends. I was particularly fond of stag beetles. Going to the sea, it was often the case that I was absorbed in watching small fish and crabs in a tide pool rather than swimming. I was also interested in stars and constellations. As an elementary schoolboy, I referred to astronomical picture books to memorize names of constellations and nebulas. Books about supernova explosions and black holes were also full of surprise. I remember I was too excited to sleep at night when thinking about the end of the universe (Laughter). All in all, I was a natural science freak throughout the elementary and junior high school days.
      In the meantime, I had learned to play the piano in my childhood, influenced by my father who was an acoustic engineer and my mother who was a classical music lover. During my junior high school days, I even learned under a music college teacher, wishing to advance to a music college. It may surprise you to know that in those days I played piano for six hours or so every day. However, I quit piano lessons halfway after hesitating to decide which way to go. I’m now away from piano playing to my regret, but I’d like to take up playing piano as a hobby again some day.
      Under such circumstances, I went to a local metropolitan high school. It was around that time that I was awakened to the fun and excitement of mathematics. It was really surprising for me to know that the area of a figure surrounded by a curve can be found by means of a manipulation called integration. Just at that moment, I found mathematics is a really fascinating subject – for the first time in my life. Looking back at myself, I seem to have had the inborn sensitivity to appreciate the fun of natural sciences and mathematics. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I got good grades in these subjects (Laughter).

That’s why you chose an engineering course rather than biology upon entering the university?
photo      Well, the fact was I had no particular discipline in mind yet in those days. At Keio University, the Faculty of Science and Technology has the system in which sophomores choose a particular department to belong to. I chose the Department of Administration Engineering simply because it appeared somewhat interesting due to the diversity of areas it covers, such as humans, urban planning and social problems. After listening to some lectures, I found the approach used in administration engineering very interesting as it expresses social problems, human behaviors and other complex and “soft” targets mathematically and sheds light on their underlying structures. In those days, I was still interested in physics due to its ability to describe phenomena in the world in terms of simple laws. But after receiving lectures, I came to realize that administration engineering could also use the similar approach in dealing with real-world problems. I was lucky in that sense.