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Feature JAPAN'S TECHNOLOGICAL ACHIEVEMENTS Mitaka Kohki Co., Ltd. On the Horizon of Innovation Mitaka’s Specialized space shuttle TV camera President Nakamura in the Mitaka workshop MIKE KANERT F OUNDED in 1966 on the outskirts of the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory – now the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan – Mitaka Kohki Co., Ltd. has grown from telescopes and rocket-mounted observation equipment to encompass precision three-dimensional measuring instruments, medical microscopes and solar-thermal energy systems. Despite a modest stable of 57 full-time employees, partnership 16 | highlighting japan and collaboration have allowed Mitaka Kohki to touch the world. A 27-year relationship with German optics giant Leica Microsystems has netted the company half of the U.S. surgical microscope market, while efforts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have put cameras on shuttles and electron spectrometers in space probes. “I capture images in far more detail than anyone else,” enthuses company president Katsushige Nakamura. He should know; he has spent his life immersed in the mechanics of observation, his father having been charged with assembling a massive astronomical telescope at the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory. Nakamura was only 22 when he founded Mitaka Kohki with his older brother, Giichi. It was in the same year that he devised the operating mechanism for a collimator that pinpointed the position of Cygnus X-1, the first celestial X-ray source generally accepted to be a black hole. Valuing on-the-spot innovation above all else, Nakamura’s company places no premium on book learning. “We have employees who are junior high school graduates,”