Friday, June 23, 2006

Ralph Came to Japan

Ralph Leighton

Ralph Leighton, the author of the book "Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey," paid a twelve-day visit to Japan, and finally stayed in Osaka on the 20th and 21st of June, 2006. He is the son of Robert Leighton, who was a Caltech professor and an editor of "The Feynman Lectures on Physics."

Ralph made "Friends of Tuva" [1], a clearinghouse of information about Tuva. Tuva is the country Feynman and Ralph eagerly wanted to visit, but when their plan was almost complete, Feynman passed away. Masahiko Todoriki, who is a member of Tarbagan, sings Tuvan Khoomei (throat singing) and has made a new Web site of "Friends of Tuva Japan" [2], guided Ralph's travel group during its trip in Japan. The group consisted of Ralph, his wife, son, daughter and her friend. In the evening of June 20, Ako Hoki, who made Friends of Tuva Japan, and her husband Shigeaki joined him to entertain the travelers in Osaka.

I, one of the enthusiastic members of Friends of Tuva Japan, was asked to join them at a supper with Ralph in the evening of June 21. We talked over okonomiyaki (an Osaka-style dish) and beer at a restaurant in Umeda, Osaka. There I was also introduced to other members of the travelers. I heard that Ralph's group traveled energetically to Kanazawa, Noto (where Feynman once visited), Tokyo, Matsumoto (Masahiko's hometown), Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Awaji Island (Hokudan-cho Earthquake Memorial Park). Ralph seems to be a man of much curiosity and be interested in teaching just like Feynman.

I gave Ralph a reprint of a paper [3] on mirror reversal, in which Feynman's explanation of this problem in his student days was cited from James Gleick's book "Genius." I got in turn Ralph's signature in my copy of "Tuva or Bust!" as well as three copies of a "Feynmonk" poster. In this poster Feynman with a "Feynman diagram" in his right hand is portrayed in the garb of a Ladakhi monk. In the background is the scenery of Los Alamos, where Feynman worked on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War (when I saw the background first, I thought it a landscape of Tuva).

On July 22 Ralph's group departed from Kansai Airport to Hong Kong, which is the native town of his wife.
  3. T. Tabata and S. Okuda, "Mirror reversal simply explained without recourse to psychological processes," Psychonomic Bulletin & Reviews, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 170 (2000); Available online at