“The engineer who single-handedly created a lunar rover and was selected for a NASA project” Shinichiro Nakajima, Daimon Co.Part1

Zen and Innovation : Kouji Miki
11 min readOct 22, 2021

Table of Contents

●Greetings and introduction of the performers
●Mr. Nakajima’s self-introduction and his time in Belgium at the automotive company Zexel
●From Bosch to Toyota Koki and JTEKT
●How he quit his job at a large corporation to start his own business on the day of the earthquake
●Encounter with enmono and the HAKUTO lunar exploration team, and attending zenschool
●The origin of the company name “Daimon Co.

●About the “八起/YAOKI” lunar rover
●About the “七転/shichiten” lunar lander
●A lunar robot that looks like a lunar alien and development that everyone can do together
●The lunar robot at the exhibition
●About Avatar X and the Lunar Module Test Facility
●Mr. Nakajima’s thoughts on “the future of XX in Japan”.
●After the conversation, he was hired for a venture lunar exploration project commissioned by NASA.
●Video of the conversation

This article was originally published in Conversations in 2019. Please note that the information is current at the time.

●Greetings and introduction of the performers

Miki: Happy New Year 2019! I’ll be doing micro manufacturing streaming again this year. In today’s 174th episode, we’d like to talk about the lunar rover developed by Mr. Nakajima of Daimon Corporation. Thank you very much for your time.

Nakajima: Thank you very much.

●Mr. Nakajima’s self-introduction and his time in Belgium at the automotive company Zexel

Nakajima: I’m Nakajima, a student in the 17th year of zenschool. I’m 52 years old and I’m in my eighth year of starting my own company. I have been doing design and development for 27 years, including when I was a salaried employee, and I am still doing it today. I have 25 years of experience in 3D CAD design, and I’ve been using it since 3D CAD first came to Japan, and I’m still working on it, so I’m probably the longest-serving designer in Japan.

Miki: That’s amazing.

Utsunomiya: Do you use CATIA?

Nakajima:I’ve been using NX for a long time, but last year I switched to the middle version because NX is too expensive.

Utsunomiya:Isn’t it still expensive?

Nakajima:The middle one is also a million dollars, but I’ve been using it for about 25 years and my skills are still improving.

Miki: That’s amazing. It’s been a quarter of a century. It’s like a part of your hand is now a 3D CAD system.

Utsunomiya: A 3DCAD craftsman.

Nakajima:That’s the only thing that makes me feel like a craftsman.

Miki:You first joined the company when it was an automobile company?

Nakajima:Yes. I joined a company called Zexel, which was related to the automobile industry. I joined the company because it was located in the countryside in Saitama and the size of the company was just right with 5,000 employees.

Miki: How long have you been here?

Nakajima: About three years.

Miki: Suddenly Belgium. What language is Belgium?

Nakajima: There are three languages in Belgium: German, French and Dutch. I’m working for a French company.

Miki: French all of a sudden?

Nakajima: They were about to close down their factory and they had lost all their engineers, so they needed at least one person to help out, so I was sent there.

Miki: Had you ever practiced French before?

Nakajima: No, I hadn’t. Hell, no. The first French phrase I learned was “je ne sais pas” (I don’t understand). I started in escape mode (laughs). (laughs) There were 100 people there, and just as they were about to fold up, I walked in and actually invented and developed the Audi Quattro.

Miki: The quattro mechanism. You got excited about it? Miki: The quattro mechanism.

Nakajima: Yes. A car has one engine and four tires, so the power from one engine has to be distributed to the four, so we need some kind of mechanism to distribute the power.

Utsunomiya: We used to do that a lot, didn’t we? It was a mechanical system.

Miki:While speaking French?

Nakajima:Yes. Sometimes I was sent to Germany by myself.

Miki: What did they want you to go to Germany for?

Nakajima: Technical explanations and promotions.

Miki: What language do you speak in Germany?

Nakashima: I would ask them to speak English, but when the discussion got heated, everyone would start speaking in German.

Miki: How did you get through that?

Nakajima: I used English for that. But we could talk about the company’s work, especially the engineers. But the hardest part was getting to know each other and saying, “Let’s go out for a drink today.

Miki: Because you don’t know what’s going on?

Nakajima: I couldn’t talk to them at all. I would talk in fluent local language and sit there for about two hours by myself. I just sat there for about two hours. I didn’t want to look bored, so I just smiled and pretended to understand half of what they were saying.

Miki: But that’s the best way to learn, isn’t it? Of words.

Nakajima: It’s not like I can catch them at all. It’s not like I’m catching anything. There was a lot of noise. That was when I was in Belgium.

Miki: The Belgian engineer and inventor who developed the Quattro part.

Nakajima: Yes. It was a company that was going through restructuring, so even if I designed something a little strange and made a prototype, no one said no…

Miki: So that’s why you were hired?

Nakajima: Yes. When I first went there, I developed a new product, drew the plans myself, wrote the order form myself, and they built the product without any review.

Utsunomiya:What about the budget?

Nakajima: No one had the ability to detect the budget. But I told the local president, “We’re going to reach 100 million yen. That was the first time I realized that I was spending a lot of money, but no one said anything, so I thought we could do it.

Miki: So you went ahead and made a lot of prototypes?

Nakajima: Yes. If you put yourself in their shoes, you might have thought, “If we just sit here, we’ll be shut down, and even if we have enough money, it will be taken to Japan. I said to the president, “We have no choice but to put our future on this,” and he said, “I guess so.

Miki: Is the president Japanese?

Nakajima: He’s a local.

Miki: He said, “I guess so. “He said, “Wee-wee.

Nakashima: They spoke to each other in unfamiliar English.

Miki: I can feel their passion. The spirit of an engineer. How did you end up hiring them?

Nakashima: In the end, European car manufacturers adopt about 50% of the products if they feel good after putting them on the car and driving it. Audi is one of the top-class brands in the Volkswagen Group, but their approach to car manufacturing is rather drastic.

Miki:So you put it on the car and it was well received?

Nakajima: I was confident that the product would be well received. Then we had to mass-produce the products and maintain the quality.

Utsunomiya: Mass production is very difficult, isn’t it?

Miki:Mass production is difficult. Did you also start up mass production?

Nakajima: I was involved in some of it, but the automobile industry is still very unique and releases are usually announced four years in the future. They usually announce a release date that is four years from now, which is a pretty high level date, but they start with a situation where half of the product is going to be ready but half of it might not be. That’s an amazing story. That’s why car manufacturers are also interested in trying out new units if they can make a breakthrough, so we’re going to try driving something new for now.

●From Bosch to Toyota Koki and JTEKT

Nakajima:While I was in Belgium, the company became a subsidiary of Bosch, or in other words, it was bought out.

Utsunomiya:So you became a foreign company?

Nakajima:I was now working for a foreign company in Germany. I was exposed to a completely different culture.

Miki: The company was still in the development stage when it was acquired, wasn’t it?

Nakajima: Yes, it was. The French-speaking factory and Germany were not a good match. The local president who said, “We’ll spend 100 million yen if you don’t mind,” was a man with a strange bone in his body. When I came back to Japan, I found out that Bosch had acquired my business to Toyota Koki. That’s why we are a domestic company.

Miki: You moved from Bosch to Toyoda Koki?

Nakajima: An ultra-global company and an ultra-domestic company. Toyota Koki is a Toyota company. After about two years, when I had gotten used to the company, it merged with Koyo Seiko in Osaka and became a company called JTEKT. As people in the Kansai region know, Aichi and Osaka do not get along well either.

Utsunomiya:It’s like Germany and France.

Nakajima:The Japanese version of that started here, and I usually get tired of it around here.

Utsunomiya:How old are you? At that time.

Nakajima:I was 44 around here. I’d had enough…

Miki:The earthquake happened.

Nakajima:Eventually I started my own business and now it’s a one-person company.

●How he quit his job at a large corporation to start his own business on the day of the earthquake

Miki: Briefly tell us a little about how you started your business.

Nakajima: The reason for starting the business is that I’ve been working in the development field for 20 years, and it’s very difficult to come up with ideas in a team. I can come up with ideas and get patents, but I’ve become a manager who has to get the team to come up with ideas, and I can’t. So I held a “Power Generation Conference” at an exhibition in Ota Ward, Tokyo. So, I went to an exhibition in Ota Ward, which was titled “Hatsudenkaigi”, Brain Revolution and I thought it was worth going to.

Miki: It’s like a precursor to today’s design thinking.

Nakajima: That’s right. After hearing that, I exchanged business cards with Mr. Ishihara (of Toshin Seisakusho), who is also involved with enmono, and on my way home, the 3.11 earthquake struck.

Miki: On your way home?

Nakajima: On the way home. I was on the train. I thought, “This is it,” and decided to resign.

Miki: Out of the blue?

Nakajima: On my way home, I guess. I was walking home.

Miki: So you walked home? I got off the train.

Nakajima:Yes, I walked home.

Utsunomiya:But you were in Saitama, right?

Nakajima:I didn’t walk all the way home, but I was allowed to stay at Aoyama University, where I was told that I was in big trouble. I saw the TV for the first time there, and I realized that there was no time for me to be working on automobile development because there was more going on than I thought, so I decided to quit. I didn’t go to the office on that day. I had to hand in my resignation, so I only came to the office to hand in my resignation on the day that was the limit for about two weeks.

Miki: What did they say? “What did they say?

Nakajima: I don’t remember much. I was able to quit, so they didn’t hold me back strongly.

●Encounter with enmono and the HAKUTO lunar exploration team, and attending zenschool

Miki: What did you aim to do after quitting through that experience?

Nakajima: I quit on the spur of the moment, so I wasn’t fully prepared. “I didn’t have a plan for how to make a living, so I talked to Mr. Ishihara, who gave a lecture at the Power Generation Conference, and he told me to start Facebook.

Miki: Facebook?

Nakajima:Yes, and when I tried Facebook, Mr. Ishihara didn’t have many friends on Facebook at the time, so there were only about three people on my timeline: Mr. Ishihara, Mr. Miki and Mr. Utsunomiya. “So I contacted Mr. Utsunomiya and Mr. Miki, and they told me to try Facebook.

Miki: Yes, I received something. “Like, “Hello.

Utsunomiya: “Who is it? I was like, “Who is this?

Nakashima: The first reply I got was, “Basically, I only make friends with people I’ve met, so I don’t accept people who just call or email. I also found out through Facebook that there was a “HatsudenKaigi” event, and I said, “I’m going to participate in that, so please become my friend.

Miki: It was a precious opportunity. Was it only about a month after the earthquake?

Nakajima: It was only about two months.

Miki: It was quite close to the nuclear accident. We went there often. We did too.

Nakajima:I quit my job on the spur of the moment and joined the event with nothing. When I joined the event, I exchanged business cards and Facebook friends with 2 or 30 people.

Utsunomiya: It’s getting thinner, isn’t it? It’s not just our information.

Nakajima:It’s like the sense of sadness fades away. A few months later, Mr. Miki asked me if I wanted to join a lunar exploration project. I was still unemployed at the time, so I said, “Oh, well, I can do that.

Miki: When he suddenly said “lunar exploration,” I was like, “What? (laughs).

Nakajima: He had nothing else to do.

Miki: That was the ispace of today, and at that time we didn’t even have the name HAKUTO.

Nakajima: White Label Space Japan.

Miki: That’s where I designed the wheels for the lunar rover we were planning to develop.

Nakajima: The chassis. All the mechanical parts.

Miki: So you were in charge of the entire chassis as well. After that, the project became very famous.

Nakajima:I started my own company when the time was right.

Utsunomiya:In 2012?

Nakajima:February 2012. The deadline for “Hello Work”(Public Occupational Safety and Health Center) came and I started my business.

Miki: That’s why you joined zenschool, isn’t it?

Nakajima:Yes, that’s right. The year before last (2017).

Utsunomiya:What happened to you?

Nakajima:Nothing happened.

Utsunomiya:You said, “It’s been about five years since you started your business. That’s something like that, isn’t it?

Nakashima: “Isn’t it about time? So I thought, “Yes, it’s about time.

Utsunomiya:I don’t know what he meant by “it’s about time”.

Nakajima:It’s about time, for sure.

●The origin of the company name “Daimon Co.

Miki: Please introduce Daimon.


Utsunomiya:Daimon/大門 is at Zenkoji, isn’t he?

Nakajima:Yes. The company name “Daimon” was chosen because Zenkoji did not have a daimon, the first gate, so I decided to make one myself. The daimon in the company name is the daimon of Zenkoji Temple. My parents’ house is located on the premises of Zenkoji Temple.

Miki: I’ll go there next time.

Nakajima: We originally ran a ryokan (Japanese inn) in that area, but we are the only one in the precincts of Zenkoji Temple that runs a regular business office.

Miki: How many are there? How many are there inside Zenkoji?

Nakajima: About 100.

Miki: So there are that many.

Nakajima: They are mostly lodging houses. There are also two large temples that are proper temples.

●Video of the conversation



Zen and Innovation : Kouji Miki

A school of innovation based on the Zen philosophy that overcame unemployment and depression through zazen. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikikouj