Oral history interview with Toshio Tsukiyama

Oral history interview with Toshio Tsukiyama

  • 2003-Oct-24
  • 2003-Oct-27
Photograph of Toshio Tsukiyama

Toshio Tsukiyama was born in Chiba, a prefecture near Tokyo, Japan, the second of two children. His father began as an engineer in a company that built chemical factories, but he eventually became an executive. His company exported its factories, so Toshio's father travelled outside Japan a great deal. For that reason and because he was, as Toshio describes him, a typical Japanese male, the family did not interact much with him, and he did not discuss his work at home. Toshio's mother was a housewife and the children spent part of each summer visiting grandparents. Toshio's sister wanted to be a veterinarian and wanted to get away from home, so she enrolled at a vet school on Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan, Japan's last frontier. Influenced by her, Toshio also went to Hokkaido, but to a different school, Obihiro University. His sister's college turned out to be better in basic science, and she switched to biochemistry. Again influenced by her, Toshio decided to go into scientific research. Also, one of their aunts was a chemist and an uncle a physicist, so they had been exposed to science for a long time. While in vet school Tsukiyama met the woman who is still his girlfriend; she currently lives in California, and she and Toshio take turns visiting each other. While at vet school, Toshio read an article he found very interesting, and he decided he wanted to study with its author, Ohtsura Niwa, at Hiroshima University. He met Niwa and persuaded him to accept him as his student. Niwa had obtained his PhD from Stanford University, so he was familiar with the American course of study; he made Toshio read and present books and articles, something the Japanese did not do. He also influenced Toshio to come to the United States for his postdoc, which he did at Whitehead Center for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There he worked on chromatin remodeling in Carl Wu's lab. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, hired him as an associate member. He also has an affiliate assistant professorship at the University of Washington. He continues his research in molecular biology on the regulation of chromatin structure and its effect on cellular processes. He likes to read, to do outdoor things with his girlfriend (currently gardening), to teach, and to think about—though to leave to others to adapt—the practical or clinical applications of his research. Upon hearing that Toshio was going to the United States to study, a friend told Toshio that he would not come back to Japan, and Toshio is still here.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 92 pages
  • 5 h 4 m 50 s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute
Digitization funder
  • Audio synchronization made possible through the generous funding of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Physical location

Oral history number 0604
Physical container
  • Shelfmark R134.86.T7855 A5 2003

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • October 15, 1962
  • Chiba, Japan


Year Institution Degree Discipline
Obihiro Chikusan Daigaku DVM
Hiroshima Daigaku PhD

Professional Experience

National Institutes of Health (U.S.)

  • Postodoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Carl Wu

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

  • Associate Member

University of Washington

  • Assistant Professor


Year(s) Award
1998 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

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PDF — 825 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

7 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads