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'NakaMats': Creative mind is the key

Japan's invention king follows a strict path to discovery

Ian Grayson

Yoshiro Nakamatsu and 9-year-old Riki Ota show off the inventor's hopping shoes in Tokyo in 2002.



(CNN) -- As a country where conservatism and conformity are ingrained from birth, Japan is an unlikely place to find one of the most prolific inventors of all time.

For more than 70 years, Dr Yoshiro Nakamatsu (known as NakaMats) has been focusing his mind on the challenges of the world and devising ways to overcome them.

Taking a slightly offbeat approach, the energetic inventor has produced a stream of devices -- some useful, and some just plain quirky. He's managed to chalk up more than 3,000 patents to his name, and is showing little sign of slowing down.

His list of creations include a domestic hand pump, retractable landing gear for aircraft, the digital watch and a primitive version of the first computer floppy disk. He's also responsible for a type of spring-loaded running shoe and an aphrodisiac spray called the "love jet". Not all of them could be termed commercial successes.

However, in a world where athletic prowess and good looks are usually rated more highly than intellect, NakaMats stands out as an example of just what clear thinking and motivation can achieve.

"My mother (and) my grandfather had inventive minds," he told CNN. "Therefore my DNA just builds from my parents.

"And in addition to this DNA, I studied very hard and I graduated from the most difficult university in Japan."

NakaMats is may be intellectually gifted, but he believes that anyone can train themselves to be more creative and productive, and in doing so greatly enhance their quality of life.

On a broader scale, the Japanese inventor is convinced nations have the best chance of ensuring future prosperity by encouraging their citizens to become more creative in their professional and personal lives. From new ideas come new products and eventually, he says, even new industries.

NakaMats has adapted his lifestyle to maximize his physical and mental well being, thus ensuring a steady flow of new ideas. He sleeps for just four hours each day, and maintains a strict dietary regime that incorporates a single meal of just 700 calories. As well as stimulating his brain, he believes this approach will allow him to continue living until the age of 144.

According to NakaMats, true creativity comes from a balance of regimentation and freedom -- with freedom being the most important element. "Genius lies in developing complete and perfect freedom within a human being," he said in a recent presentation. "Only then can a person come up with the best ideas."

For children, the road to creativity and invention should begin at an early age. Through a combination of memorization and free thinking, their brains will become accustomed to looking at challenges in creative ways, overcoming any hurdles that may be put in their way.

When looking for creative inspiration for his next invention, NakaMats follows a defined series of steps to determine whether each is worth pursuing. He calls it "ikispiration" and it follows the phases of inspiration, knowledge acquisition and then checking the feasibility of the idea to ensure it can actually become something worthwhile.

It's this continual flow of new ideas and the energy they create that is so important for the future of mankind, says NakaMats. Politicians and other leaders need to do all they can to encourage creative output as a means of generating future wealth and prosperity.

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