Yoshinori Namihira: Dialogue with an Adventist optical fiber research engineer in Japan

Can an Adventist engineer survive in the competitive world of modern technology and gain professional recognition? “Yes,” says Dr. Yoshinori

Namihira, the senior project manager and research engineer of International Telephone and Telegram Company (Kokusai Denshin Denwa Research and Development Laboratories, or KDD R&D Labs),Tokyo, Japan.

Dr. Namihira is a child of the post-World War II era. Born in Okinawa four years after the war ended, he received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Ryukyu University, Okinawa, and M. E. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical communication engineering from Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. In 1979, he joined the KDD R&D Laboratories. Since then, he has been engaged in research on transmission loss characteristics, polarization fluctuation characteristics, polarization mode dispersion (PMD), optical fiber nonlinear measurement coefficient methods in single mode optical fibers, and optical fiber submarine cables.

Professionally, Dr. Namihira’s achievements have been impressive. His work has received both national and international recognition. In 1984, he received the Electronics Letters Premium Award from the Institute of Electrical Engineers in the United Kingdom for research done on the effects of hydrogen on optical fiber loss increase. The following year he was given the Company President’s Prize by KDD R&D Headquarters for research done on hydrogen permeation into optical fibers. In 1990 and 1992, he received the Best Paper Awards at the International Opto-Electronics Conference in Japan for his work on PMD measurements of the optical fibers. In 1994, in Atlanta, Georgia, he was given the Best Paper Award at the 42nd International Wire and Cable Symposium (JWCS ’93) for his presentation on PMD reduction of optical fiber cables. Last year, the Optical Fiber Communications Conference, the largest optical fiber conference in the world, elected him as a member of the Technical Program Committee.

Dr. Namihira is currently a member of the Institute of Electronics, Information, and Communication Engineers of Japan as well as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the United States. He has co-authored seven technical books that are widely used by university students, and holds 31 technical patents.

A very busy and hectic work schedule, however, has not kept Dr. Namihira from taking an active role in his local Seventh-day Adventist church. He is one of the elders of the Hachioji church and leader of a team that plans evangelistic outreach programs.

Yoshinori Namihira is married to Michiko. They are the parents of Ai and Koyo, their daughter and son, respectively.

Dr. Namihira, can you tell us how you became a Seventh-day Adventist?

Approximately 30 years ago, my younger brother, Yoshinobu Namihira, who now is a doctor and lives in Vicksburg, Mississsippi, U.S.A., attended a series of evangelistic meetings in Okinawa, Japan, conducted by Professor Toshio Yamagata, an 89 year-old Adventist scientist. After my brother was baptized, he invited me to attend his church one Sabbath on Visitor’s Day. There I met the late Elder Warren Hilliard, one of the early American missionaries to Japan. I was deeply impressed by the Christian commitment of Elder Hilliard. This led me to know more about the Adventist faith and lifestyle, and I took Bible studies with the late Elder Mitsuhiko Hayashi and Professor Toshio Yamagata in Sendai, Japan. A new world of faith opened before me, and soon I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Sendai Church.

You received all of your college and university education in non-Adventist institutions. Did you encounter any problems because of your faith commitment, such as Sabbathkeeping?

When I was working on my Ph.D. degree at Tohoku University, my first technical paper, “Effects of Mechanical Stress on Transmission of Optical Fiber,” was written in Japanese. This paper was to be evaluated by the U.S. Air Force. They wanted the optical fiber for use in their airplanes and requested an English version of my paper. My professor, Dr. Yasuto Mushiake, assistant professor Dr. Masaaki Kudo, and I were working on the translation. However, as it was my practice, I went to church on Sabbath. Although my professor knew that I attended church on Saturday, he had his secretary call me at the church to tell me that I had to get back to continue working on the translation.

That posed a dilemma. Should I obey my professor and break the Sabbath or run the risk of falling out of favor with him and perhaps jeopardizing my future at the university and eventually my career? My doctoral program was at stake. I chose not to break the Sabbath and stayed in church. After the service, as we got into our car, my wife and I prayed about the matter and left it with the Lord to work out His will in His own way. As we were returning home, my favorite hymn was ringing in my heart: “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” I felt at peace. I had placed the burden on Jesus, and I knew He would work it out. My decision to obey His word felt reinforced by the words of that song. I strongly believed that God would provide for my future even if I were to leave the university. I chose to claim at face value the promise of Genesis 22:8: “God will provide.” Indeed God did provide in my case. My professor understood my position, and I completed graduate school and earned my Ph.D. degree with distinction.

What kind of problems do you have working in a non-Adventist organization, and how do you handle these problems successfully?

I can remember one problem that I encountered about 15 years ago. At that time we had a big project planned—to test the laying of the optical submarine cable in the Pacific Ocean. The test was scheduled for a Sabbath afternoon. I was in a quandary. As I pondered over my problem, I recalled the story recorded in Mark 4:39, where Jesus is portrayed as the Lord with command over the seas. After all, He is the Creator of the earth and the sea. I turned to Him for help, and prayed earnestly for the Lord to send the wind to stir up the water. The weatherman had predicted calm seas—a perfect condition for the test. But around midnight, a strong wind whipped up the waves, and soon there was a storm. The weather was not safe enough for our experiment, and the test was postponed to another day. My Sabbath problem was solved, and I found myself in the church, thanking my God for the wonders He performs to enable us to keep our faith. I shared my experience that day with my fellow church members. God never asks us to do something for which He does not provide the way and the power.

You have worked in a secular environment most of your life. What kind of opportunities do you have for witnessing to your colleagues regarding your faith?

There are approximately 150 staff members working at KDD R&D Laboratories. I happen to hold the largest number of awards. My colleagues are impressed and often ask me the secrets of my success. My response is “I got all the ideas and inspiration by attending a Christian church every Saturday.” Also, I eat very healthful food: Whenever I attend a company function, I am able to witness to my colleagues by refraining from taking alcoholic beverages. Instead, I drink herb tea or fruit juice. My choices in such simple things lead to inquiries from my colleagues, and we get to talk about my faith. To my surprise, some of my colleagues have adopted the Adventist lifestyle.

I can think of another instance. In 1982 we had first discovered that the problem with the increase in optical fiber loss was due to hydrogen. To confirm my theory, I measured the data every day except Sabbath. In spite of the fact that I missed the data for one day, my paper received the best paper award from the Institute of Electrical Engineers in the United Kingdom.

In your workplace, how do you make up for Sabbath absence?

The work schedule at the KDD R&D Laboratories is a six-day week. But I do not work on Saturday. However, I keep busy and work very hard Monday through Friday and my colleagues appreciate my position and contributions. I am a conscientious worker, and the company values my work.

What kind of counsel can you give to Adventist students studying in non-Adventist institutions or for Adventists working in non-Adventist organizations?

My advice is simple. Always do your best. Let your life and work bear witness to your faith. Ellen White’s counsel in Steps to Christ is still valid: “The apostle says, ‘Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.’ 1 Corinthians 7:24. The businessman may conduct his business in a way that will glorify his Master because of his fidelity. If he is a true follower of Christ he will carry his religion into everything that is done and reveal to men the spirit of Christ. The mechanic may be a diligent and faithful representative of Him who toiled in the lowly walks of life among the hills of Galilee. Everyone who names the name of Christ should so work that others, by seeing his good works, may be led to glorify their creator and Redeemer” (p. 82).

God will reward faithful Christian students and employees no matter where they may study or work. I know He has fulfilled His promises in my own life.

Interview by Mary Wong. Mary Wong (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is the director of children’s ministries, family ministries, and women’s ministries for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, in Seoul, Korea. Her e-mail: mhtwong@kornet.net Dr. Namihira’s mailing address: 2-1-15, Ohara, Kamifukuoka; Saitama 356-8502; Japan. His e-mail: namihira@kddlabs.co.jp