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Trip to Sendai

by Dr. Junji Yoshida

It has been fairly dry in Kanto (in and around Tokyo) this fall. Tokyo had the lowest amount of rain in October in the past 100 years. It still is dry in November. Wednesday, November 5th, also dawned fine. No rain was predicted en route to Sendai, the largest city in the north-eastern part (Taw-Ho-ku area; Taw = east, Ho-ku = north) of mainland, Honshu, Japan, where the 38th annual meeting of the Japan Lung Cancer Society was held.

I commuted on my RS to the hospital at 7 in the morning and returned home at 10 after a weekly journal conference and a round in the wards. After a brief soap blowing session in the garden with Ai, I packed the saddlebags, put the ‘Stich on and was on the road. This was the first long ride for me in Japan with the ‘Stich on. Ooooops! I left my radar detector behind at the hospital. Back to the hospital, put the detector on, and left for Sendai at 11 AM.

I took the Jaw-Ban (Never mind, just phonetic.;-)) expressway towards Tokyo, and changed to the Guy-Kan expressway, which is a semicircular beltway surrounding the metropolitan Tokyo area. It connects the Jaw-Ban, Taw-Ho-ku and Kan-Etsu expressways on the outskirts of Tokyo. I changed to the Taw-Ho-ku expressway, where the traffic was rather sparse. I rode at a leisurely pace of around 120-140 km/h (75-87.5 mph), enjoying the pleasant weather and the beautiful mountains far away in the Nikko area.

Soon after crossing the River Tone, I got off the expressway at Sano and rode Route 50 westbound to Ki-ryu (“u” is pronounced long) city. The city was one of the major silk industry cities in Japan. Route 50 bypassed city areas along the way and was well maintained. I could ride around 100 km/h (62.5 mph), although the posted speed limit was 60 km/h (37.5 mph). Fortunately, there was no detector alert or law enforcement along the way.;-)

In Ki-ryu, I changed to Route 122 for Nikko. This is a wonderful twisty two-laner which runs through the A-shi-o mountainous area. A-shi-o used to be the largest copper mine in the Meiji era and was notorious for its mine pollution. A citizen in the area was sentenced to death for lodging a direct complaint with the Meiji Emperor against the mine.

Although it was nice to ride leisurely enjoying the beautiful autumn leaves along the route, Diesel smoke from the slow cars ahead annoyed me. I violated the double yellow (although it is a single yellow line in Japan) several times to get clean air.

A problem for me on such a long ride is where and when to have a meal. I tend to not stop until I get really hungry. Fortunately, I didn’t get a severe pain in the back of my left thigh for quite a while. I kept riding to Nikko and changed to Route 121, which is known as a backroad to Nikko from the Taw-Ho-ku area. Soon after I changed routes, I found a small restaurant and stopped for lunch at 2 PM. It was a pork-cutlet place, but, as is often the case, they served deep-fried oysters, which I enjoyed greatly. This trip turned out to be kind of an oyster trip.;-)

Leaving the restaurant at 2:30 PM, I headed north. Route 121 became more and more twisty and narrow, but the mountains along the way were really beautiful with autumn leaves. I had planned not to go straight along Route 121, but to detour on Routes 352, 401, 289 to Tadami, which is a famous dam site, then Route 252 to A-i-zu-wa-ka-ma-tsu to end up again with Route 121. But it started to RAIN just before the intersection with Route 352 and it was already getting dark. Oh well, I had the ‘Stich on and Riderwarehouse overgloves, I could have taken the planned route. But it seemed not at all enjoyable, so I kept riding down Route 121.

The traffic got slower and my core temp was falling. I was getting sleepy and the left thigh pain was getting severe. When I filled the RS up just before entering Aizuwakamatsu (Oh, so long a name!) around 4 PM, it was dark already. The guy at the gas station told me that it had been fine in the morning.:-( After raising my energy with some hot tea, I headed into Aizuwakamatsu city, where the rain stopped. I picked up the Ban-Etsu expressway, which runs across the Taw-Ho-ku area from the Pacific coast to the Sea of Japan. Note the “Ban” is the same as “Jaw-Ban” expressway, while the “Etsu” is the same as “Kan-Etsu” expressway. “Ban” refers to the ending area of the Jaw-Ban expressway, which is the one end of the Ban-Etsu expressway. “Etsu” refers to the ending area of the Kan-Etsu expressway, which is the other end of the Ban-Etsu expressway. Now you see the picture?

Now that it was completely dark and past 5 PM, I didn’t have to be afraid of ambush law enforcement. I just watched out for secret police cars and kept my pace around 100 mph, after changing to the Taw-Ho-ku expressway at Kaw-ri-yama. Fortunately, I soon found a good rabbit Civic and arrived at the Sendai hotel at 18:20. 483 km (302 miles) in 7 hours and 20 minutes (66 km/h / 41 mph).

I enjoyed an oyster dish (actually pan) that night. Hmmmmm, let me explain a bit. In the winter, we enjoy various kinds of Na-be, which literally means pan. We put a cooking stove on the table and put a pan on it. Most of the time, the pan is earthenware (My dictionary tells me that such a pan is translated as an earthen pot). We boil various foods in the pan. It is mostly flavored with soy sauce or Miso (I hope you know what it is). Such a Na-be dish is often enjoyed in a small party and people pick up food from the same pan. Unfortunately, I had no companion, so I enjoyed my Ka-ki (oyster) Na-be alone, drinking a nice selection of Sake.

Unpacking my saddlebags, I noticed I had left behind my suit, white shirts and neckties at home. I somehow thought I had packed them in the saddlebags.:-( Geez, but I am an Idiot!;-) Erika didn’t notice I left them home until I phoned her.:-) It is common in Japan to dress rather formal when attending such an annual scientific meeting. But I had been thinking formal dress just to listen to presentations and to ask questions was rather ridiculous. Plus, I noticed while I was attending an international conference in Ireland last summer, the attendees were rather casually dressed except the presenters. Oh well, it would be a good chance to try casual dress…

Thursday morning, I went to the meeting venue with a white long sleeve T shirt and a woolen sweater on. I found some attendees without a necktie, but they had a jacket on and I met no one without a necktie and a jacket.

Although not conclusive, it seemed that there was a growing consensus on rational lymph node dissection and limited lung resection in cancer patients. A luncheon lecture was presented by a Belgian fellow, but it was not at all informative. Come on! We already know published data!! A plenary lecture was presented by Dr. Sugarbaker from Boston, MA, and his answer to an audience’s question was very interesting. He told us what trial they were currently carrying out. He had a very fine physique, which reminded me of Jon D and Larry F, BTW.;-)

That night, I joined my colleagues and visited an old oyster place. Various oyster dishes were served, including Ka-ki Na-be again.;-) We also enjoyed grilled cattle tongue, which is one of the things Sendai is famous for, at another restaurant later. Most residents got drunk, but, unlike in Kanazawa last May, they stayed rather calm.;-)

I happened to meet a college classmate, whom I had not seen for a long time, at the conference place Friday morning and had an oyster (again!;-)) lunch with him.

The meeting closed at 6 PM, but I found the remaining session boring and left the venue at 5:45 PM. It was completely dark and cold, probably a bit less than 10C (50F). But the ‘Stich kept me warm enough, and I rode the first 120 km (75 miles) to a parking area on the Taw-Ho-ku expressway in a little less than 1 hour, where I had dinner (not an oyster dish this time;-)). I bought some sweets for my family, fueled the bike and was on the road again. I changed to the Ban-Etsu expressway at Kaw-ri-yama and headed east to the Pacific coast. The expressway is partly two-laner and I illegally passed the traffic ahead of me several times…

It was definitely warmer on the Pacific coast and it got warmer as I headed south on the Jaw-Ban expressway. After about an hour’s ride, I had a quick stop to pee and was on the final section back home, sometimes exceeding 200 km/h (125 mph), watching out for secret police cars. I got home at 21:15; 366 km (229 miles), 3 hours and 30 minutes (105 km/h / 65 mph). Ai was already asleep. I immediately had a bath. Erika and I enjoyed the sweets and some tea before sleep. Next morning, as soon as Ai got up, she found the sweets boxes and asked me “Ko-re Na-ni?” (What’s this?).;-)

I need your fellow President’s advice: I had nothing in the jeans pocket, I tried to move around on the seat while riding, I had the handlebars set to accommodate my anatomy (the right arm 3 cm longer than the left). However, I had a pain in the back of my left thigh. What do you think I can do to prevent the pain? Gel pad or sheepskin? Where do you think I should get them? Or should I try Russel? TIA.


YOSHIDA, Junji, M.D.