No matter how accomplished students are in science, it seems Japan doesn’t have the resources to tap into their full potential.

Japanese students can be absolutely brilliant, with some of them able to break through the strict rigidity that the Japanese school system enforces. And with their rare talent, a bright future surely lays ahead of them.

Or so we’d like to think, but reality can be a harsh master indeed. A recent Japanese TV program took a peek into the present day lives of ten people who were considered geniuses during their younger years, and one particular case stood out among the rest: a truck driver.

▼ The driver of the bus you’re on could’ve been a science prodigy once.

He was a high school student who excelled in physics, and the first in Japan to be offered a grade acceleration program that let him skip grades and jump straight into Chiba University. He got married and became a father while still in graduate school, and his outstanding academic record supposedly guaranteed him a comfortable life.

He poured all his energy into cutting-edge scientific research after graduation, only to be rewarded with an unstable job that came with a meager monthly salary of 200,000 yen (US$1,763). Feeling exploited, he called it quits and took up truck driving instead to support his family, which netted him a stable 300,000 yen every month.

▼ Those researchers wearing white lab coats?
Sometimes they’re aptly called “lab slaves.”

The truck driver currently holds chemistry and physics classes during weekends in the hopes of generating more interest in the field. Working from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, he has managed to purchase a second-hand house and considers himself lucky to be able to enjoy dinner together with his family.

The TV program generated mixed reactions from Japanese netizens:

“Japanese companies are so terrible they can’t even tap into his full potential. He’d make it big if he went abroad.”
“This really made me think, but I guess it’s fine as long as the dude’s happy.”
“Studying and working are two different things. Research might not have been his forte after all.”
“This isn’t his problem; it’s Japan’s universities. He simply wasn’t trained properly.”
“Society’s vision of research is really distorted. A person’s intelligence doesn’t reflect their performance in research.”

To be fair, scientific research often comes with job instability no matter which country you’re in, and it’s a real shame he spent a good part of his life chasing a dream, only to be struck down by the harshness of reality.

We should be more thankful for scientists nevertheless, for without their research efforts we wouldn’t be able to make chickens that lay eggs filled with valuable medicine.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Images: Pakutaso (12, 3)