KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森

I want students to go the full distance in pursuing “the truth about the earth” that exists in the natural world.I want students to go the full distance in pursuing "the truth about the earth" that exists in the natural world.Vice President (New School) Dean of the Faculty of Social and Cultural Studies Dean of the Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Global Society Director of the Advanced Asian Archaeological Research Center Professor / Doctor of Science Yasuhito Osanai

Vice President (New School) Dean of the Faculty of Social and Cultural Studies Dean of the Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Global Society Director of the Advanced Asian Archaeological Research Center Professor / Doctor of Science

Yasuhito Osanai

Professor Osanai’s research focuses on substances (minerals and rocks) in the depths of the continental crust. With “the truth lies in the natural world” as his motto, he travels far and wide across the globe, including to places well off the beaten path, such as Antarctica’s Sør Rondane Mountains. For almost 40 years without a break, he has been a front-runner in the field of geology and petrology, helping to drive the world forward through his tireless efforts to reveal “the truth about the earth,” which he hopes that humanity wants to discover.

Professor Osanai's research focuses on substances (minerals and rocks) in the depths of the continental crust. With "the truth lies in the natural world" as his motto, he travels far and wide across the globe, including to places well off the beaten path, such as Antarctica's Sør Rondane Mountains. For almost 40 years without a break, he has been a front-runner in the field of geology and petrology, helping to drive the world forward through his tireless efforts to reveal "the truth about the earth," which he hopes that humanity wants to discover.

Profile Details

Professor Osanai was born and raised in Sapporo. Having developed a keen interest in railway photography while he was a junior high school student, he began visiting mountains across Japan, looking for vantage points that would give his photographs a unique perspective. One day, he wondered, "Why are the shapes of mountains and rocks all different?" This proved to be the stepping stone that led him to both mountain climbing and geological research. From the time when he was conducting his graduation research and on through his research at graduate school, he would spend about three months every year living in a tent in Hokkaido's Hidaka Mountains, a whisker away from brown bears. Looking back, he says, "I have good memories of that time, now." After completing his doctoral program in 1986 at Hokkaido University's Graduate School of Science, focusing on geology and mineralogy, Professor Osanai held positions including assistant professor at Fukuoka University of Education, visiting researcher at the University of New South Wales, assistant professor at Okayama University, and visiting assistant professor at the National Institute of Polar Research. In 2004, he was appointed professor at Kyushu University's Faculty of Social and Cultural Studies. He attracted considerable attention from academic societies when he presented a paper on his Hidaka Mountains research, using a pioneering theory of plate tectonics. Professor Osanai makes trips to continents across the globe to conduct geological surveys, participating in four Japanese Antarctic Research Expeditions as a team member and deputy leader. He is involved in founding Kyushu University's School of Interdisciplinary Science and Innovation, the new undergraduate school due to open in April 2018.

What is your research about?What is your research about?

Antarctica, Vietnam, Mongolia...Professor Osanai travels the globe to conduct geological surveys. He is so energetic that he is always in short sleeves, even in the mountains of Hokkaido!

During a geological survey in Antarctica. Antarctica is sometimes called "Earth's treasure chest," because it is the region where the largest number of meteorites — which hold the key to the earth's creation — have been collected, as well as being home to what are regarded as Earth's oldest rocks.

One of Japan's few advanced instruments for analyzing isotope ratios (laser ablation multi-collector inductively coupled plasma source mass spectrometer). It identifies the period when rocks and minerals were formed by analyzing isotopes of uranium and lead. Some Antarctic rocks have been found to have an absolute age of about 4 billion years.

Antarctica, Vietnam, Mongolia...Professor Osanai travels the globe to conduct geological surveys. He is so energetic that he is always in short sleeves, even in the mountains of Hokkaido!

You probably know that the continents were formed over hundreds of millions of years, joining together and splitting apart again. It has already been forecast that one big continent (a supercontinent) will be formed again 200 million years from now. Continents are sometimes a single continental landmass (a supercontinent) and sometimes split up into separate continents, like on Earth at present. Their movements form a cycle taking approximately 500 million years, so even now, our continents are continually moving toward the formation of the next supercontinent.

During a geological survey in Antarctica. Antarctica is sometimes called "Earth's treasure chest," because it is the region where the largest number of meteorites — which hold the key to the earth's creation — have been collected, as well as being home to what are regarded as Earth's oldest rocks.

In fact, this continental movement can be understood from deep crustal rocks. I collect deep crustal rocks (metamorphic rocks) from across the globe that have been brought to the earth's surface, subject them to precise analysis, and compare the results with experimental petrological data. Through this, I identify what changes metamorphic rocks have undergone before now. Based on this research data, I analyze dynamic crustal movements over the last 4 billion years through to the present day and on into the future. You could call the minerals in rocks — and indeed the rocks themselves — the earth's living witnesses. They are packed with the whole history of the planet since its birth and we can utilize modern technology to identify which natural phenomena occurred and in what period.

One of Japan's few advanced instruments for analyzing isotope ratios (laser ablation multi-collector inductively coupled plasma source mass spectrometer). It identifies the period when rocks and minerals were formed by analyzing isotopes of uranium and lead. Some Antarctic rocks have been found to have an absolute age of about 4 billion years.

To unravel the movements of the continents, it is vital to analyze the chemical composition and constituent minerals of (ultra) high-temperature metamorphic rocks formed in the earth's layers all the way from the deep crust through into the mantle and work out the process of transition in temperature or pressure from the results. It would be a quick process if we could collect samples of substances directly from the deep crust, but the earth has a radius of about 6400 km and the boundary between the crust and the mantle is located at a depth somewhere between 30–50 km from the surface. However, even the world's most advanced mining technology can only drill down to a depth of about 10 km, so we cannot reach the deep crust. Accordingly, I research continental formation and evolution processes by analyzing the substances in the earth's deep crust, replicating the physical conditions (temperature and pressure) inside the earth in my lab and running simulations to find out what kinds of minerals and rocks can exist in a stable form under those conditions. In recent years, geoscientific analytical techniques have begun to be used for analyzing not only rocks and minerals, but also archaeological materials such as artifacts made from stone, metal, and clay, as well as human bones and teeth. Thus, completely new developments in archaeological research are being pursued right now.

The key to this research course is here!!The key to this research course is here!!

Rocks tell us everything — we can learn all about the earth’s history over the last 4.6 billion yearsRocks tell us everything — we can learn all about the earth's history over the last 4.6 billion years

We unravel our planet's magnificent history in units of hundreds of millions of years. But at the same time, natural disasters that occur on a monumental scale — earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, major landslides, and the like — also form part of our research, because they too are aspects of major changes in the earth's surface layer. Revealing the history of the planet over the last 4.6 billion years sheds light on natural phenomena around us and also clearly shows us what Earth will look like in the future. There is no room for romantic visions in the geosciences. It is an extremely practical field of learning that is closely connected to the daily life of humankind, offering a great deal of knowledge that people on our planet ought to understand, even if they are not researchers. Geology sheds light on how our planet has changed and forecasts its future shape. These forecasts are closely related to our lives today and have useful information to offer. That is the biggest part of the appeal of the geosciences, I believe.

DAILY SCHEDULEDAILY SCHEDULE


OFFの1コマ

On Sundays, the professor and his wife spend the day in a leisurely fashion, shopping and visiting bookstores. If he decides to go mountain climbing, he takes some leave and heads off on Friday evening to one or other of his favorite mountains in other parts of the country, camping out in the mountains with friends from the area. Professor Osanai also enjoys picking and cooking edible wild plants. His specialty is pasta made with rawanbuki, the biggest variety of giant Japanese butterbur! These plants are so big that “standing under a rawanbuki makes you feel like one of the korpokkur of Ainu legend,” says the professor, referring to the little people whom the indigenous people of Hokkaido believe lived under the leaves of ordinary butterbur plants.On Sundays, the professor and his wife spend the day in a leisurely fashion, shopping and visiting bookstores. If he decides to go mountain climbing, he takes some leave and heads off on Friday evening to one or other of his favorite mountains in other parts of the country, camping out in the mountains with friends from the area. Professor Osanai also enjoys picking and cooking edible wild plants. His specialty is pasta made with rawanbuki, the biggest variety of giant Japanese butterbur! These plants are so big that "standing under a rawanbuki makes you feel like one of the korpokkur of Ainu legend," says the professor, referring to the little people whom the indigenous people of Hokkaido believe lived under the leaves of ordinary butterbur plants.

The Teacher's Must-have Items!The Teacher's Must-have Items!

Loupe

Used to look at the surface of rocks, a loupe is the most essential piece of equipment by far for a geology/petrology researcher. This German-made loupe has been the professor's constant companion for more than 15 years, even accompanying him on his expeditions to Antarctica. Housed in an elegant leather case, this loupe is equipped with an LED light.

Personal organizer

This is an important item, housing Professor Osanai's packed schedule. He puts his plans into both his organizer and his smartphone. With pockets for his smartphone and a fan, this leather-bound organizer is very stylish.

Bento made with love by his wife

Even the cloth napkin around it has a frog pattern! "I can't live without this," says Professor Osanai, for whom the bento lunches prepared by his wife are his biggest source of energy. As you might expect, since he comes from Hokkaido, salmon fillet is a staple side dish in the professor's lunchbox.

Message to the StudentsMessage to the Students

I want every member of humankind to turn their attention to the world in which they live. I want people to pursue the truth about complex, beautiful natural phenomena.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the expression "tsunami tendenko" became the focus of attention. This saying from local folklore in the area means, "If a tsunami comes, forget about everyone else — just save yourself." From ancient times, people knew that an earthquake would be followed by a tsunami and I think that they knew that because they paid close attention to nature.

The discipline of earth science is directly linked to people's lives, examining such matters as natural disasters and resource issues. You can only solve problems if you are well-equipped with knowledge. With major natural disasters occurring around us today, learning about the planet on which we live is synonymous with learning the information that humanity needs to survive. I want students to go the full distance in their pursuit of this truth. Doing that will enable them to see a natural phenomenon, forecast what will happen next, and then solve problems.

In April 2018, Kyushu University's new undergraduate school, the School of Interdisciplinary Science and Innovation, will open. Integrating the humanities with the sciences, this new school is brimming with the potential to combine diverse fields of study in multifaceted ways and learn methodologies for solving the various problems faced by humankind. I want motivated students to take on this challenge.

If we liken Earth's history to a year, a human life (80 years) lasts 0.548 seconds, while a four-year undergraduate program plus a two-year master's is just 0.042 seconds. Our lives are over in the blink of an eye, so live your life at top speed, to make sure that you don't have any regrets!

Back to Top of PageBack to Top of Page