The research programme at the KEK lab – which dates back to 1955 – focuses on particle physics, nuclear physics and materials science. Its chief experimental facility is the Belle B-factory, in which electrons and positrons are collided to establish the difference between matter and antimatter.

Another major project at KEK is the K2K experiment in which a neutrino beam is sent 250 km to the SuperKamiokande detector at the Kamioka Observatory. This enormous underground experiment can also detect solar and atmospheric neutrinos. Totsuka pledged last year to rebuild the detector following an accident that destroyed most of its photomultiplier tubes.

KEK is also competing with the DESY lab in Germany and Fermilab in the US to host the next big machine in particle physics – a 500-GeV linear collider. This experiment would collide electrons and positrons at higher energies than ever before in order to explore physics beyond the Standard Model.