The winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Svante Paabo, has been visiting a Zen temple in Japan regularly for more than 20 years, writing a book during his stay there in 2013.
The Swedish-born scientist was awarded the prize on Monday for his major contribution to the genetic study of human evolution through his groundbreaking work to establish technologies for deciphering the genome of Neanderthals and other extinct human species.
Danjo Soken, chief priest at a Zen temple in Miyoshi City in Hiroshima Prefecture called Saiko Zenji, says that Dr. Paabo has been visiting his temple almost every year for over 20 years, practicing Zen meditation every morning and eating Zen-style vegetable dishes during his stays, as he works to improve his powers of concentration.
Danjo says that during his three-month stay in 2013, Dr. Paabo wrote his memoir "Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes."
Most recently, Dr. Paabo made a three-day stay at the temple in early September.
Danjo says he first met Dr. Paabo about 25 years ago at another Zen temple in Hiroshima. Since then, the two of them have kept in touch with each other.
Danjo says that since around 10 years ago, he has kept telling Dr. Paabo that he would win a Nobel Prize some day. Dr. Paabo would respond by saying he was not interested in the Nobel Prize at all. Danjo says when he told Dr. Paabo this April that he would win the prize this year, Dr. Paabo smiled, tilted his head, and said, "Maybe."
Danjo said when he heard the news of Dr. Paabo winning the prize, he was extremely happy.
Danjo says that for Dr. Paabo, his temple has served as a place where he can relax and reflect on himself.
He adds he believes that given that Dr. Paabo has kept visiting his temple for more than 20 years so regularly, his stays must have helped his academic work.
Dr. Paabo is founding director at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.