In April 1954, Satoshi Omura entered University of Yamanashi, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Department of Natural Sciences. At that time there was a "Meister System" in University of Yamanashi. The Meister System is a system whereby students learn professional knowledge from college teachers as a "meister" would transmit techniques to his/her apprentice. Omura decided to learn under Professor Senjiro Maruta known in the field of organic chemistry theory.
Students were allowed to pass through the professor's room at any time of the day and learn from senior students and instructors residing there. Omura was engaged in various chemistry researches with help from his senior students. He studied fat chemistry and learned how to quantify fatty acids by chromatography. It was a very useful method which came in handy later on.
After his high school days, Omura was still keen on skiing. It was about 15 kilometers from his home in Nirasaki city to the university. During off-season he would commute by train, but as ski season approached after fall, he jogged from his home to the university to train himself.
Omura had taken up a part-time job as a tutor, but all of his wages from the job went into competitive skiing. The university did not have a ski team, so Omura went on to join the Nirasaki Ski Club to upgrade his skills. During the winter of his freshman year (1st year of university), Omura decided to seek professional training from the legendary skier, Ryusaku Yokoyama. He was known as the "emperor of ski."
Yokoyama built a mountain hut for skiing in Myoko.* While Yokoyama focused on his quest to improve skiers' skills, he gathered college students and instructed them. As an athlete, Yokoyama did not have any remarkable track records, but he had built great accomplishments as a coach. Two of his daughters and his son had won All-Japan tournaments. He held an amazing record of reaping over 20 national championship medals won by his children. *Highlands of Niigata Prefecture known as a ski resort.
Under Coach Yokoyama, Omura took part in rigorous training. Omura's skills were so outstanding that he won local championships and prefectural matches. In the Yamanashi Prefecture Tournament, he had won first place for five consecutive years since his senior year in high school. He had also participated in Japan National Sports Festival twice. He was in the Festival's Aomori Match during his sophomore year (2nd year of university) and the Hyogo Match during his junior year (3rd year of university).
But when it got to the national tournament, Omura did not get any break-throughs. Although he did participate in the national tournament, the results were close to the bottom of the charts. Going to the Olympics was a faraway dream. However, famous athletes stood out one after another among the apprentices of Ryusaku Yokoyama. Ten out of 35 skiers went to the Olympic Games. He was a great teacher after all.
There was one message from Yokoyama that Omura can never forget. When Omura wiped off his runny nose with his hand during a tough training session, Yokoyama's severe angry voice echoed in the snow.
"If you have the strength to lift your hand to your nose, why can't you step forward faster!"
In long distance cross country ski amidst snowy mountains, a runny nose is unavoidable in ice cold weather. However, wiping off his nose had triggered the coach to lash out austere words which flew right back at Omura. Even after entering his research life, Omura remembers these coach's words from time to time. It gave him courage when working towards important goals.
After training together with Japan's top athletes under Coach Yokoyama, Omura learned the importance of placing oneself in a high-level environment. He found out the necessity of strict training to deliver the next step during hard times. Such accumulated training would strengthen the skiers to turn them into top competitors. Omura had seen this process firsthand after involving himself in severe training.
Moreover, he also learned from Yokoyama that "mimicking someone would merely leave you at the level of an imitator." Yokoyama had taught his athletes that one must introspect his/her own skills to win. Practice based on what you are told would not lead to victory. By experiencing Yokoyama's coaching style, Omura learned that "Copying famed people would not work: what counts is originality." What he learned through skiing has had a great influence on his enthusiasm and approach to Omura 's subsequent research.
Omura had a close relationship with Professor Senjiro Maruta. Whenever Mrs. Maruta wanted to clean the house thoroughly, she would always ask Omura to help out. Omura was always well-prepared and he was always organized and efficient when he cleaned. That was because Omura was used to organized chores from his days on the farm. He knew that one had to be prepared and organized to do manual labor and simple chores.
Omura was also highly regarded by Professor Genoshin Tanaka who was the chairman of the Yamanashi Earth Sciences Association. Omura's research theme was chemistry and it was not related to earth science, but Professor Tanaka had taken Omura to the research sites as a substitute for his assistants when investigating the stratum and the nature of soil. During a field survey, Tanaka said to Omura:. "Omura-kun, you can't rely on what you study in university. The first five years of your career as a working person would determine who you are. If you work hard for the first five years, it will be the greatest learning experience, no matter how well you studied in your school days. "
Omura somehow felt that things learned in university would not be so useful in real life, but he was not convinced completely at that time.
Omura 's fulfilled university life quickly passed. Omura belonged to the department of Natural Sciences in the Faculty of Liberal Arts. It was an undergraduate department that trains science teachers, in physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. Ever since the entrance to this university the ultimate career goal of students in this program was to become a science teacher in junior high schools or high schools. Omura set his goals to become a physics teacher or a chemistry teacher, but he first had to pass the local government's teacher recruitment exam.
Omura's parents wanted their son to be a teacher somewhere in Yamanashi Prefecture. Omura, however, took the teaching exam for four prefectures in Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, and Tokyo. The reason for choosing Hokkaido was simply due to the snow and skiing. In the end he was rejected as a science teacher in Yamanashi Prefecture, which was his most-coveted teaching position. Ironically he was accepted from the metropolitan government of Tokyo. Tokyo was considered to be the most competitive and most difficult region to become a teacher.
The Tokyo government asked Omura whether he would become a science teacher at the Sumida Tech High School. The school had day classes and night classes. He was able to choose whichever he liked. Because there are less working hours in the nigh-class, Omura thought he would have more free time to himself and decides to be a night-class teacher. This choice changes the Omura's life. By becoming a teacher for nighttime classes, Omura was able to enjoy more free time to change his way of life.
After experiencing encounter with great people and professors at University of Yamanashi, Omura would graduate in March 1958 to start his life in the real world.