It should come as little surprise that Japan, home to the world’s most advanced and strangest inventions, would give rise to an inventor like Yoshiro Nakamatsu. But the quirky, fun-loving 81-year-old scientist seems ripped from another dimension altogether. Dr. NakaMats, as he’s known, is a kind of mash-up of Thomas Edison and Willy Wonka – on steroids.
The mastermind behind over a world-record breaking 3,000 patents, Yoshiro Nakamatsu (中松 義郎) began inventing at the age of five, and is responsible for a universe of genius gadgets you probably use every day, like the “PyonPyon” spring shoes, the karaoke machine, CinemaScope, the “Cerebrex” armchair, the sauce pump, the taxicab meter, and a hydrogen-powered engine. And if you’ve ever happened to use a digital watch, a floppy disk, a CD or DVD, you’ve also got him to thank.
Dr. Nakamatsu harbors other ambitions too: in 2007, he took his penchant for political campaigning to a new level, becoming a candidate in the gubernatorial election in Tokyo, and the election for the Upper House. Although he failed to get a seat, Dr. NakaMats has other tricks up his sleeve. In 2005 he was awarded the Ig Nobel prize for Nutrition, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting). By the time he dies at the age of 144 (a goal he maintains with an elaborate daily ritual that rejuvanates his body and triggers his creative process), he intends to patent 6,000 inventions.
Motherboard recently visited Nakamatsu’s lab in Tokyo to learn more about the mad scientist’s inventions, his underwater brainstorm sessions, and his quest to spark technological creativity in others.