Takeo ShimizuAutobiography of a Pyrotechnist Dr. Takeo ShimizuEdit
New Hampshire Pyrotechnic Association, Inc. Newsletter March 1991 Volume 3, Number 3
I was born in 1912 in the small village of Takamata in Yamaguchi Prefecture which is in the middle part of Japan. My father was a farmer. After I finished primary school I then studied at a middle school in Hagi, a famous town which produced a number of loyalists of the Restoration Period of Meiji, Shoin Yoshida and Shinsaku Takasugi, etc. Hagi faced the Japan Sea and I could hear the sound of the rough sea while I lay in bed at the dormitory of the school on quiet nights.
At school I studied English for the first time. My teacher, T. Ito, had a great respect for English gentlemen. While I was in the fourth year class an accident happened to me. I was severely scalded by him and with that I did not do my English homework. I then became slow with the progress of my English. Many of the school boys dreamed of becoming military or naval officers to perform our duty for our country. I passed the famous severe entrance examination of the Military Academy, although I was not so tough but rather delicate.
The Military Academy was divided in two courses. The preparatory course of two years and the regular or one year and ten months. Between the two there was a duty in a regiment for six months. The preparatory course was for liberal arts and the regular was for military affairs. The students were divided into small learning groups of about thirty people.
Soon after I entered the preparatory course, the teacher read my paper as a superior style in a lesson of composition. I was very much delighted, however, such a case never came again in all my life at the Academy. I only once won at Judo with my friend, Mr. Kondo, who looked much tougher than me, however, I never won in competitions or games in all other cases. Therefore, even at present I have no passion for games of chance. After the preparatory course I arrived at the Saseho Heavy Artillery Regiment in Nagasaki-ken. There I met Lieutenant K. Egucbi and other young officers. They were men of great diligence and would read books of tactics even on their horses. They did not like to spend time on worthless matters. After the duty of hard training I was certainly changed into a more diligent young man when I returned to the Academy to study further in the regular course.
All of the students, called cadets, wore a uniform with shoulder-straps of sergeant and the gorget patches with numbers of regiment. They also seemed changed from the idle students in the preparatory course. I liked the regular course because I was not bothered by mathematics, and physics, etc. I was good in the lessons of tactics, weapons, and surveying. In July 1933 I came down from the Academy at Ichigaya Hill with a diploma.
I started again for my post with the Saseho Heavy Artillery Regiment and in November I was commissioned a sub-lieutenant. Young officers in the regiment were trained with cannon firing. When the black smoke from a shell was found before the target, we had to increase the range of the next shell so that it would fall behind the target. It might seem easy, but for me it was very difficult because I would suddenly forget the position of the black smoke. I was very disappointed and thought I might not be suitable as a company commander on a battlefield. I decided to change the direction of my future life and began the hard study of mathematics, physics, and chemistry in spare moments from my duty.
In November 1934 all officers of Artillery and Engineers of my contemporary came back from the regiments and entered the Military Artillery and Engineer Academy. We were taught mathematics, physics, chemistry, metallurgy, electrical engineering, and ballistics, etc. So many things were stuffed into our heads by the cramming system of the Academy. After the regular course of one year and the higher course of one year I was selected to learn more at Tokyo University.
In April 1937 I entered the School of Explosives at Tokyo University. In my class five other students from regular high schools gathered. Professor Nishimatsu, who was the highest authority of the day on manufacturing explosives, was chief. Professor Dr. N. Yamaga, who was a rear admiral in the Navy, lectured on interior ballistics. Assistant Professor S. Yamamoto lectured on manufacturing explosives. Their speaking was terrible and the students suffered to note their lectures.
I felt most of the lectures in the School of Explosives were not of much interest. Therefore, I often visited the School of Chemistry, where Assistant Dr. Morino was studying the Raman Effect. I learned quantum mechanics with the help of Professor Dr. K. Higashi, who was an authority in the chemical structure of molecules. Dr. Higashi gave me a book, "FUYU NO HANA" which means "WINTER FLOWERS" in English, by Professor Nakaya (1902-1962). It gave me a deep impression that I knew how to do experiments without any noble instruments of high cost, but using only the human head with excellent success. I named such a method "Terada's Style". The late Dr. Terada (1875-1935) was a famous professor in the Faculty of Physics in Tokyo University. Dr. Nakaya was student under Dr. Terada and had most faithfully succeeded Terada's school. Although I had no personal acquaintance with Dr. Nakaya nor Dr. Terada, I decided to succeed Terada's school in my future life. Therefore I thank Dr. Higashi who gave me such a direction until today.
In April 1940 I graduated from Tokyo University and arrived at my post at Ohji Factory of Explosives of the Tokyo Second Military Ordnance. I worked there as the section chief of manufacturing nitric and sulfuric acids. There stood a nitric acid plant producing twenty tons per day. Large absorption towers of 18-8 nickel-chrome steel were in use at that time. There were other sections for manufacturing TNT, picric acid, nitrocellulose, and tetryl and about a thousand people worked at the factory. I learned the controlling method of a chemical plant which moves continuously in the day and night with few people.
Lieutenant Abe and Mr. Kojima who had a special sense on chemical plants helped me. Thus I started with this very interesting work as a chemical engineer. I feel it was the most happy days of my life.
After the daytime duty in the factory was over I studied in my home at Saginomiya in the western part of Tokyo, I read papers of philosophy by professors Dr. Nishida and Dr. Tanabe of Kyoto University. They founded what was called the "Kyoto School". I learned the dialectics. I also learned Buddhism and the Old and New Testaments by translations in Japanese. I intended further to read them in originals and began to study Sanskrit, Pali, Hebrew, and Greek. I thought the principle of Buddism might be:
"All things change with time and go in the worse direction when making no human effort".
In 1941 World War II broke out. I was in the ballistic section of the Institute of Explosives of the Second Tokyo Ordnance. All the officers in the ordnance felt uneasy because Japan was already fatigued by the long war in China. However, our works proceeded with no confusion. Everyone knew that battle is very foolish work for human beings, which are not different from animals. Men made many inventions in the war, however, there had been no invention which decreased the pain in their lives.
In 1942 I had an additional post, as teacher at the Artillery and Engineer Academy, where I gave lectures on interior ballistics to the young officers in the higher course. My students returned from the battlefields. I completely rewrote the text-book which had been a direct translation from a French one. I discovered a similarity rule to obtain velocity, pressure, and time, as functions of four parameters. When the war was over in 1945 I was a lieutenant colonel and the leader of the ballistic section of the Institute of Explosives. My military life was over with the defeat of Japan.
I had lost my spirit to survive, however, I had to live to support my wife and two children. I decided not to make explosives any more and selected to live in my birthplace, the village of Takamata. My parents were already dead and my junior brother was killed in battle in the Philippines. Few relatives supported me. I bought farm fields of two and a half acres from which I could obtain rice and vegetables for one years living. I built a small house of my own, a shack, without any help of a carpenter.
The house faced the south. There was a hill of Japanese Cedar behind the house. After a walk of ten minutes going up through cedars I would see a vast wild field. Before my house there were rice fields and eleven houses. The village was surrounded by copse hills through which a road and a stream passed outside. In the daytime my wife and I labored in the rice and vegetable fields and in the night I read sutras of Buddha under the light of an oil lamp while my wife and children where sleeping in bed. In spring and summer I enjoyed the twitters of birds. In the autumn my garden was full of flowers of cosmos. In winter it snowed deeply, and I heard the voices of hunted rabbits while I was weaving charcoal containers around the fire. I became very idle in writing letters and I acted rudely to people in acquaintance against my will. No radio or newspaper was in the house, and I could escape from troubles among people. The most terrible times were the rain storms and blizzards in the night. When attacking, I protected my family against the rain or snow by binding the doors and pushing them from the inside, however, it came into the rooms and fell onto the beds through the roof of cryptmeria barks. At last I fell into financial difficulties and had to sell books from my library with the help of my friend, Professor Namba of Tokyo University. One day I suddenly lost my eyesight. I thought I could not work anymore, fortunately I recovered in about a month. My wife fell ill, perhaps it came from an unbalanced diet. She had to go to her father living in Osaka. I had to bring up my children by myself.
One day in the autumn of 1951, when the sun was shining in the blue sky, I received a letter from Professor S. Yamamoto of the School of Explosives at Tokyo University. Dr. Yamamoto recommended Hanabi, fireworks, to me. I did not know anything about fireworks, but felt it might be very interesting and I accepted Dr. Yamamoto's request. Dr. Yamamoto was the only one who was concerned with fireworks at that time as a scholar in Japan. Dr. Yamamoto asked me to suppress accidents in this field and to make the traditional technique more scientific.
In November 1951 I obtained a position at Hosoyo Fireworks Co. in Tokyo through the introduction of Dr. Yamamoto. I had there two duties; to learn the manufacturing of fireworks from the president, Masao Hosoya, and to modernize the factory in business and technique. Mr. Hosoya very kindly taught his secrets in the technique called the "Machida School". I analyzed the technique of Japanese chrysanthemum shells and Dr. Yamamoto recommended that I submit the paper as a thesis for a degree. In 1958 I was granted the degree of Doctor of Engineering with the paper "The Design Conditions of Chrysanthemum Shells".
My senior, A. Kawai, who was a friend of Dr. Yamamoto, asked me to help with his work, the manufacturing of rocket propellants at the plant of Dainippon Celluloid Co. in Kochi village in Hyogo-ken. Therefore, I often visited the plant and helped Mr. Kawai in designing rocket propellant. In the plant there were not many people, but two very superior assistants, Matsumoto, and Matsuda.
In 1963 I changed my position to the Perfect Liberty Religion Order in Osaka, accepting the offer from the founder, T. Miki, who planned to build a new factory and an institute of fireworks. However, the plan was not realized because of financial reasons. I had been very much disappointed. Dr. Yamamoto had passed away in the same year and I lost my largest prop and stay in fireworks. I had plenty of time every day and decided to learn languages from the NHK Broadcasting. I had a secret desire to live in some foreign country to build a fireworks factory. I learned English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and by books, Italian, and Arabic. I used to walk from my house to the PL fireworks office memorizing Arabic letters. I was often interrupted by the kind PL teachers who offered to bring me by car.
In 1967 1 got my present position in the factory of Koa Fireworks. The factory was built by my old friend, the late N. Mizogami, who built a small laboratory for me. The factory was mainly producing maritime distress signals. I continued the study of fireworks finding time intervals at the work until today following the request of my old teacher Dr. Yamamoto. Therefore, very often, even on holidays, I am not working at home, but in my laboratory at the factory, which is fifteen kilometers distant from my house.
In the past some friends from overseas countries stayed overnight in my home in Kawagoe-shi, which is thirty five kilometers distant in the north-west from Tokyo: Miss Sigrid Wied, Dr. F-W Wasman, W. Zink from Germany, Pierre-Alain HUBERT from France, and Mrs. Pettit from the USA. Recently my wife fractured a vertebra and I can not invite guests to my home any more. My work room has been recently confused. The book-shelves are full of books and the residual books are scattered on the tables and floor. On the shelves there stand the complete works of philosophy by the late Dr. Nishida, and the same of the late Dr. Tanabe and of the late Kenji Miyazawa on his poets, the Testaments in various languages, books concerning Buddhism plus technical books, etc. They are covered in dust and will sleep until I have more time.