Getting back on the horse

Bicycle leaning on railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi

Having recovered from saddle sores, given Kuroko a bath, and fixed both a broken spoke and a broken shifter cable, today finally marked the first time back on the bike since my ignominious return from England and Scotland.

The day dawned cloudy and dismal. The forecast chance of rain was low but not non-existent. I decided to give it a go, regardless. I’d already decided on a shorter ride and one that kept me within Tokyo in case there was any further mechanical trouble.

Grey skies behind line of gingko trees at Meiji Jingu
Threatening skies at Meiji Jingu

I’d gone a bit softer on the tires today as they’re designed for it, and until now I’ve been riding them at maximum pressure. From the moment I started I thought I had another flat in the rear. But I stopped and checked, and it was nice and firm. OK, so that’s how it feels when it’s run soft: a bit squirrelly, as if it’s running flat. I decided to continue on, giving the lower pressure a try to see if I adapted to it.

The next thing I noticed was some vibration in the front when I was breaking. I determined that the wheel was in securely, but then found the fork had a bit of play. When I got to my first stop at Meiji Jingu, I tightened it up. It was fine after that.

Meanwhile, the rear derailleur, which had given me so much trouble recently, was fine. All shifts were immediate and sure, there was no extra noise from the drivetrain, and there was no double-shifting required. I was very pleased with the result.

Tokyo Tower under rainy skies
Tokyo Tower under rainy skies

Meanwhile it had begun to sprinkle a bit. Nana had checked in, warning me that the forecast had changed to rain. It wasn’t bad and so I decided to continue. In fact it just sprinkled for a few minutes and then let up again. I don’t even think the pavement got wet. But with the sky so dismal and grey, I didn’t stop as often for photos as I usually do.

As I pressed on, I was still getting used to the tires feeling a bit spongy. Combined with the new, padded and more flexible saddle, occasionally the bike would start to pogo a bit, very gently, a bit like a car with soft springs and no shocks. At times I had to wonder if the rear wheel had gone out of round, but it was fine. I think for the next ride I’ll add back some of the pressure, try to find a happy medium.

Like the tires, my thighs felt a bit spongy. I don’t know how to account for this. Since abandoning in Carlisle, I’ve followed a strict training regimen for four weeks consisting of lots of beer and potato chips, and not a speck of exercise. Surely my legs should be fully recovered by now!

I’ve followed a strict training regimen for four weeks

Guy Jean

Anyway, it was not my goal to set any personal records today, and I’m happy to state I fully achieved that. I just wanted to get back on the bike, and discover if my recent repairs had worked and if there were any remaining gremlins.

Rainbow Bridge failing to live up to name

I stopped to rest and eat at Big Sight, and after that my thighs felt better. I knew I was still a bit off my usual pace, and didn’t know whether to blame that on the softer tires or something else.

Luck is more capricious bitch than Lady, in my experience.

Buck

In terms of mechanicals encountered en route today, Luck was neither a perfect lady nor a chrome-plated bitch. More of a lady who whispers a catty remark about the hostess in your ear, rather than saying it loud for all to hear and ruining the party. In addition to the loose fork, which was quickly remedied, I had the drivetrain lock up midway up one of the steeper climbs. I got the bike off the road and gave the pedal a few kicks, and it started turning again. I have no idea. A while later on I noticed the rear thru axle had loosened. It’s possible the chain had locked between the derailleur and sprocket when the wheel was loose. I’m not sure. I tightened the thru axle and didn’t experience any repeat of the lock-up.

Tokyo Skytree
Skytree in the mist

Finally on the way up the Arakawa towards Skytree in the second half of the ride, the crankset bearings started making some noise again. So I’ll need to tighten those up once again.

Apart from the one lock-up, I didn’t have any trouble with the climbs today. I usually don’t on this route. I took it nice and easy up Kudanzaka past Budokan and took a brief rest at Chidorigafuchi. I knew there were just a couple of more up-and-downs until I was home, and so I messaged Nana that I would be about 40 minutes more. After a few sips of water, I mounted up again for the final leg of the ride.

Bicycle leaning on railing overlooking Chidorigafuchi
Chidorigafuchi

No additional gremlins poked their heads out on the remainder of the ride. I arrived home without incident and parked the bike. In the shower and with the prospect of a cold beer waiting, I took stock of the saddle sore situation. I have some mild aching under the “sit bones,” but nothing like the swelling I’ve been experiencing recently. Furthermore, the ache was evenly distributed from right to left, while previously the swelling was concentrated on the left side. With just 60km today it’s too early to make conclusions about a 14-hour, 150km slog, but so far it seems the new saddle is working out better.

Tokyo Landmarks cycle route
A familiar route

After I’d uploaded my results, I realized I should have made a couple of extra laps around our condo building to bring the total up to 60km.

Why?

We stopped in our favorite local sushi counter for a last meal of good Japanese food before I depart for England.

One nigiri serving
One nigiri serving

When Nana told the master I was off for two weeks of cycling in England and Scotland, he had only one question: Why?

Meanwhile, I noticed some familiar faces among the condiments.

Peanuts soy sauce
Peanuts soy sauce

And then a startling discovery!

Snoopy on soy sauce bottle, holding chopsticks in his left hand
Snoopy’s a lefty!

Back in the saddle

I had my first ride in nearly four weeks today as Kuroko and I commuted. There were no mechanicals and everything went smoothly as I got used to a new Garmin GPS. It felt so good to be back on the bike that when I got to the office I made a little extra loop with a small hill climb thrown in just to stretch my legs. And at that, I still reached the office in 45 minutes.

Morning and evening course data
First ride in almost four weeks

Knock on wood

It was wonderful to have a ride, however brief and utilitarian, free from mechanicals. I’ve had a few recently. But the newly tightened bottom bracket was silent, and the bike is shifting smoothly with the new crankset.

It took me the first half kilometer or so to figure out how to start tracking with the new Garmin. It was displaying a “start recording” icon and I was tapping on that to no avail. Finally I found the button on the edge of the unit with the matching icon, and with a single push on that I was off and running (and tracking). I later realized — when I was waiting a light near the goal — that it wasn’t pausing the timer while I was stopped. And for some reason it was set to mark splits (“laps”) at 8.05km (5 miles), rather than the 5km I’ve been using up to now. I’ve just now spent a few minutes with the online guide and made a few adjustments to the settings.

The next step in preparation for the big ride will be to mount the panniers and go for a trial spin.

Suboptimal conditions

Bicycle in front of the moat at Budokan

When I looked at the clock this morning, it was much later than I expected. I got up and checked for messages and there was the Halfakid, reminding me that I was supposed to meet him within 10 minutes. I told him I’d need another hour or more, and started getting ready for the ride.

The bike is ready
The bike is ready — but I’d forgotten the tire pump

As it turned out, I rolled into his apartment lot two hours late. The Halfakid answered the intercom after a wait of 30 seconds or so, and his voice was bleary. I waited patiently for some minutes, and when he appeared he confirmed he’d fallen asleep waiting for me.

And so off we set. I had a headache from last night’s party, and the Halfakid was complaining that his legs were sore from yesterday’s karate practice. There’s only one thing to do when the riders aren’t in the best condition: obey Rule #5!

Gingko trees at Meiji Jingu
Ginkgo trees at Meiji Jingu

Our first stop was at Meiji Jingu. We were a bit early to see the ginkgo trees in their brightest yellow, and we hadn’t counted on the crowds … we dismounted and walked even before we reached the park entrance. Fortunately, once we reached the end of the main boulevard, the crowds thinned out a bit.

Tokyo Tower from Shiba Koen
Tokyo Tower from Shiba Koen

From there it’s a lot of up and down through Akasaka Mitsuke and Nagatacho en route to the National Diet Building and various ministries. Ol’ Paint threw the chain when the Halfakid tried to shift to the smallest chainring, and he walked the bike up one of the steeper inclines as a result. Once past the ministries, we turned towards Azabu Juban and then turned again to Shiba Koen, where we stopped for water. I checked the time and it was just past noon, and so I realized we were more than an hour behind schedule as we planned to lunch at Tokyo Big Sight.

After a short break, we turned back towards Hibiya and thence the Imperial Palace. We exited the palace grounds and headed east past the Bank of Japan on our way to Mitsukoshimae. From there the route takes us over Nihonbashi and south towards Tsukiji and then Toyosu. We arrived at Tokyo Big Sight around 1:30 and immediately tucked into donburi.

Tokyo Skytree and the Sakura Bridge
Tokyo Skytree and the Sakura Bridge

After lunch we headed back north, paralleling the Arakawa. We finally emerged at Sakura Bridge and paused for a photo of Tokyo Skytree. When I sent the picture to Nana she messaged that there was rain in the forecast, and indeed the sky had turned darker.

Our next turn took us west, and we passed the Asakusa temple without pausing to look. There’s a long, straight ride in traffic until we reach a steep — but thankfully short — climb bringing us up to Ueno Park. This is followed by more “up-down” to reach Tokyo University, and the Halfakid was groaning behind me as we pressed on up the hill.

The sky continued to darken, so at a stoplight I took off my shades. A few stops later, I turned on my lights for good measure. It looked like we might get caught out in the rain, and I was beginning to believe I’d jinxed the trip by washing my bike first.

The course takes a long downhill at this point to Tokyo Dome, and then it’s level and south until we reach Budokan. It was getting quite dark by this point, and I kept trying to remove my sunglasses — having forgotten I’d already removed them! It was quite a bit darker and more grim than it seems in the picture, and we felt a growing certainty we’d be caught in the rain.

Bicycle in front of the moat at Budokan
Kuroko at Chidorigafuchi

In the end, though, we managed to beat the weather. We rode into a gloomy Shinjuku at just past 4 o’clock, passed the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings and cruised down the final downhill towards home. Final for me at any rate: the Halfakid had another 8km to go from there. He knew the way, so we said our goodbyes in Nishi Shinjuku and I wheeled home, glad to be out of the elements before the first raindrops fell.

Tokyo Landmarks route
Tokyo Landmarks route

Some disassembly required

The bicycle is in the bag but it doesn't fit

Nana informed me several weeks ago that Seino Kangaroo service was available to have my bike delivered for the Tour de Tohoku. It sounded a lot better than humping the bike up and back on the shinkansen (which I’ve done before — to Kyoto).

Unfortunately, I was really busy with other things at the time she brought it to my attention, and then I put it off a bit too long before getting back to it. Nana and I finally had a look at the site on Sunday. It seemed pretty straightforward, and we could even rent a box for the delivery. When we tried to place the order, though, we hit a snag. It looked like we were being told we couldn’t have the bike delivered until after the Tour de Tohoku was finished. After some poking around with the various options, though, we finally figured it out: I was too late to get a rental box. As soon as we selected the option of packing the bike ourselves, the rest of the order fell in line.

The delivery charge turned out to be nearly three times what I had first thought. And the kicker: They’re going to pick it up on Sept. 5 for a Sept. 15 event! I assume the early pick-up is necessary because it’s a very big event and Seino is at its capacity limit. But the important thing is that only left me two days to get everything ready!

Ostrich OS-500 bike bag
Ostrich OS-500

The immediate issue was my current bike bag: it’s a very light bag that can be rolled up into a small package, but it’s not padded at all. Seino requires a padded bag to protect the cycle. So I got on Amazon and found a bag that could be delivered in one day.

I got started on the packing this morning. I brought the bike up from the parking garage nice and early, when the elevator’s not in high demand, and I soon had the wheels off and made a stab at getting the bike into the bag. But it was immediately apparent it wasn’t going to fit as is.

The bicycle is in the bag but it doesn't fit
For starters, I should have taken the pedals off first

Taking the pedals off was a no-brainer, and I should have thought to do it before taking the wheels off the bike. With the help of a long-handled pedal wrench, though, I was able to get them off without reassembling the bike first. Then the question was how much else I’d have to disassemble before the bike would fit in the bag. I wanted to avoid taking everything off because I only have to put it all back on again for the tour, and then have it all off once the tour’s over and I need to put the bike back in the bag.

The first thing was to lower the saddle. It’s a rather narrow saddle and so I don’t have to remove it completely, but I did have to remove the dry bag from under the saddle first. Another trial fit in the bag and still … not quite. And so in the end it was the step I’d been trying to avoid: removing the handlebars. Fortunately it all came apart quite easily with the multitool, and I didn’t even lose any parts!

Me in my den, struggling to get the bike in the bag
Yes the handlebars really do have to come off

The good news is I feel I’ve had my exercise for the day, without having to put on my helmet and cleats!

Bike in a Bag

Solo Hamura Ride

Tama River runs high

I set out hopefully early Sunday morning with a saddlebag full of onigiri freshly made by Nana and a date with the Halfakid to ride up the Tamagawa to the end of the cycle course — notwithstanding the forecast for a high of 36C.

The first hitch of the day came when I pulled up outside the Halfakid’s apartment and messaged him I was ready. “Let me call a rain check on today I’m super hung over,” was his reply.

Another rest spot in the shade
Another rest spot in the shade

OK, so … soldiering onwards without Wimpy McWimperson, I decided this would be a good chance to put Kuroko through her paces, and perhaps set a new 40km record (my current personal best 40km having been set last year on the same course with Ol’ Paint). My enthusiasm was curbed only by the heat and knowing that I’d be better off pacing myself than pushing. As soon as I hit the river trail I settled into a sustainable pace. I was pleased to see (and feel) that my typical 25km/h pace — pushing my limit on Ol’ Paint — was an easy, loping cruise on Kuroko. Better still, when I stopped for a break it was to eat a rice ball and take on water, and not because I needed to get feeling back into numb fingers. In other words, my new bike was working out to expectation.

At a small shrine in the shadow of the Keio Oval cycle track, I had a break and filled my water bottles. I wasn’t in a hurry, and easily spent more than 10 minutes where I’d typically only take three. Some retired gents were gassing among themselves on a nearby bench, and I was just about to mount up when one of them addressed me.

Old Guy:
Hot, ain’t it?
Guy Jean:
Sure is hot!
OG:
How far you going today?
GJ:
Up to Fussa.
OG:
In this heat? Far, ain’t it?
GJ:
I’m good for it. I’m drinking a lot of water and taking it easy.
Second Old Guy (pointing to Kuroko):
Is that one o’ them there electric bikes?
GJ (pointing to thighs):
No, the engine is here!

I’d also been curious how the lower-pressure, larger tires would feel over some particularly nasty speed bumps on the Tamagawa course. I was pleased with the results: the teeth-rattling, helmet-loosening bumps (meant to draw riders’ attention to pedestrian crossings) were reduced to mere bothersome inconveniences (unfortunately not entirely soaked up in marshmallow-like pillowing). It’s a testament to this wheel-and-tire combination that it offers this level of comfort while at the same time delivering superior rolling resistance.

The dreaded bonk

The bonk
The bonk

Things continued in this fashion, with me posting 12-13 minute 5km splits one after the other, until I was just 5km short of the goal. Suddenly my “engine” failed. Just turning the crank around, and around again, felt like climbing a literal wall. I knew there was a downhill section leading into a park ahead and so I pressed on to that, coasted down into the shade of a tree, and nearly fell off the bike. It was all I could do to drag myself up against the trunk of the tree, fetch a couple of rice balls out of the saddlebag, and gulp down some water. This happened to me before, not long ago, when I was making a circle of the Tokyo landmarks and on a similarly hot day. Had I jinxed myself bragging to the retired gents?

After a couple of rice balls and half a liter of water, and rest of 10 minutes or so, I felt a bit better. I put my shoes back on, mounted up, and decided to see if I was still good for the goal. The next bit was a flat, gravel path through the remainder of the park where I’d stopped, and I rode it at a pace I’ve never dared in the past. Kuroko really is something at handling uneven pavement and gravel! After that there are a few ups and downs, and some uneven pavement, but it’s mostly flat until the end. I steamed into Hamura with a 5km split of just over 15 minutes, meaning only slightly off a 20km/h pace.

She'll do the Hamura run in 12 parsecs
She’ll do the Hamura run in 12 parsecs

And now I knew that I needed rest. I parked Kuroko in the shade and found a shaded bench for myself. Ate all of the remaining rice balls except for one. Drained my water bottles, filled them, and drained them again. Catnapped. In all, I spent an hour recuperating in Hamura, where I usually spend 20 minutes.

But at the end of the hour, I knew it was time to get on my way home. I felt good right off the bat, but not at my peak. I started picturing how long I could go before needing a break, and then revising that estimate as each kilometer rolled by. I was making good time, but my endurance was shattered. I still needed frequent stops just to drink water and recover, even if the water was ambient temperature and not cold. But I was sure of one thing: I was going to stop at the cycle-friendly café and have a damn soft cream!

A damn soft cream at the cycle café
A damn soft cream at the cycle café

And that turned out to be what the doctor ordered. From the café it’s about 6km to little shrine where I’d had the conversation with the retired gents. When I returned, possibly five or six hours later, the fellows had all smoked up and gone home, and in their place was a university track and field team fresh from some practice miles on the river. The young men were washing themselves up in the public water fountain, making groups plans for the evening — very noisily — and wishing each other well.

From that point it’s 24-25km to home, and I was feeling almost like new. I’m sure the combined energy of the onigiri and the soft cream was seeping into my bloodstream. I didn’t have a lot of extra oomph to put into the climbs, but I was averaging my usual pace and I was, indeed, making the climbs and not dismounting to push the bike up them.

Battery dies just before the good part
Battery dies just before the good part

My last rest stop is at the top of a 4% grade that lasts half a kilometer. The water from the fountain was tepid rather than cold, but I filled one bottle. I messaged Nana that I would be about an hour, and with an audible “ヨシッ!” I was on my way. By this time it was late afternoon and I figured I no longer needed the face mask to protect me from the sun, but I also could feel in my thighs that I didn’t have the oomph on tap that I might want. With that in mind, I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself rolling into the home bike park in just 40 minutes — not a record time from that last pit stop but damn near. Pity that the battery on the Garmin had crapped out just before I had left the cycling course for that 4% climb up to the final rest stop!

Aftermath

Possibly not related to the day’s effort, but I am an old man. As I was putting Kuroko into her stable for the night, I twisted my knee. It wasn’t really bad or painful, but I could feel it was just a bit out of place and I took some care in hobbling from the parking space to the elevator. And then, once back home and showered up, I somehow managed to cross my big toe under its neighbor as I was drying off and getting on the scale. (I’d lost more than 1kg on the day, but that was mostly sweating it out.) I know some people can cross their toes at will, but I’ve never been able to do this, and it was a painful and somewhat frightening 30 seconds or so until the big toe realized it was sitting in the wrong seat at the big dinner table and got itself sorted out without any further help from me.

More directly connected to the day’s ride, I had some lasting finger numbness — ring finger, both hands. Overall, as noted above, Kuroko is much better about the finger numbness, and I don’t have to stop every 15-20 minutes just to work the feeling back into my hands. But I think that the time I spent with my hands on the “tops” in order to take the stress off my neck — where my wrists are bent and elbows turned out — is the cause of this. When I’m riding on the brake hoods I do get some soreness after a time in the palms of my hands, but no numbness in the fingers.

So how about that Vuelta, eh?

It’s now two days since I completed the ride (105km with a total elapsed time of 9 1/2 hours — the usual is under 7 hours). There’s some technical issue that’s preventing me watching video of La Vuelta a España via the website I’m paying monthly for … It took me some time to figure out I can get the minute-by-minute from the official site as well as from Cycling News. Let’s hope that my delay in realizing this is more due to the fact I’m really, totally busy this month than to the birth generation I belong to.

Who is the goutcho, amigo?

Restaurant sign featuring charcter for luck
“Luck”

It’s not fair that actions should have consequences.

Less than two months after my first episode of gout, here I am again. I awoke yesterday morning with an all-too-familiar feeling in the joint of the big toe. I hadn’t done anything in particular to bring this on, apart from four consecutive evenings of drinking without a rest day.

Getting out of bed, I could feel it wasn’t as bad this time around. But still, having it come again meant I would really have to do something about it. The weather’s not looking good for the weekend, but I do want to get some time in on the bike whenever the opportunity arises. I discussed the situation with my partner (once she got out of bed), and we agreed I’d see the doctor on Saturday. I had things to do at the office, and we were meeting friends for dinner.

This morning, Saturday, I awoke feeling somewhat better. But I knew it was best to see the doc. We’d spoken about gout with our friends over dinner, and the other fellow said he’s taking medication which keeps him in check. We’ve discovered as a result of this that a lot of our friends were on the medication. So I got dressed and headed out for breakfast and the doctor’s office, not really limping so much.

“I can see from the concentration in your face that you’re being careful how you walk,” the doctor said when I entered his office. He quickly agreed this is another flare-up, and asked about my drinking.

I sheepishly told him about the four nights in a row. “You don’t have to worry, I’m not a policeman,” he joked. “Now, last night, after this flared up again, were you drinking?”

“Yes.”

“What were you drinking?”

“Wine.”

“OK, wine,” he said in a tone of voice that suggested, “At least that’s better than beer!” “And how much did you drink? Half a bottle?”

“Um … a full bottle.” In fact, between the four of us we’d done three whites and a red.

The doctor ordered an X-ray of my foot, to make sure there was nothing else contributing to the swelling, and a urine sample. The radiologist was a bit impatient with me for having to repeat a couple of the instructions as he guided me into position, but he got the job done.

The results were all good. There’s no accumulation of deposits around my joints; my blood sugar is normal, and my kidneys aren’t hemorrhaging white or red blood cells.

The doctor explained to me that he can’t put me on the medication while I’m in the middle of a flare-up. “Drink more water. You can take the anti-inflammatories three times a day if that helps. Use ice to reduce the swelling. And then come back and see me again in a week or two.” All fine.

Then this parting shot, as I rose for the door: “And give the alcohol a rest.”

Another lap around Tokyo

Ol' Paint at Chidorigafuchi

Happy World Bicycle Day!

Following yesterday’s mechanical, I set out optimistically today on another 60km ride — but with a bit more climbing. My butt didn’t like the idea of a second consecutive day of riding, but once I applied a liberal dose of Lotion No. 5, everything went well.

Tokyo Landmarks Ride
Tokyo Landmarks Ride

It’s a 60km ride around Tokyo, hitting a number of landmarks. I’ve done it several times now. Today I was in no hurry and I was riding solo, so I tried to stop and photograph the major landmarks as I passed them.

(I just nabbed them with the smartphone from wherever I happened to be — including in a traffic island at one point — so they’re probably not the most brilliant photos. But they should give a good idea of the sights on this ride.)

The following descriptions crib freely from Wikipedia and other sources. (If there is no pronunciation guide following the Japanese characters, then the pronunciation is roughly the same as in English.)

Meiji Jingu Gaien

Meiji Jingu Gaien (明治神宮外苑), the outer precinct of Meiji Jingu (shrine) is entered via a long avenue flanked by gingko trees. (The best view is in the fall when the leaves turn a brilliant gold.) Gaien is home to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, Jingu Stadium (home of the Yakult Swallows) and the forthcoming Olympic Stadium (now under construction).

Meiji Jingu Gaien
Meiji Jingu Gaien

Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery
Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium

Akasaka Palace

Akasaka Palace (赤坂離宮 Akasaka rikyu), originally built for the crown prince in 1909, is now the State Guest House (迎賓館 Geihinkan). It is designated a National Treasure of Japan.

Akasaka Palace (State Guest House)
Akasaka Palace (State Guest House)

National Diet Building

The National Diet Building (国会議事堂 Kokkai-gijidō), home to Japan’s legislature, was built 1920-1926.

National Diet Building
National Diet Building

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower (東京タワー), at 333m tall, was built in 1958 and has long been emblematic of Tokyo. It was built as a communications and observation tower. It has recently been supplanted by the 634m Tokyo Skytree.

Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace (皇居 Kōkyo), home to the emperor, was rebuilt after World War II. The garden opened to the public in 1968, while the Imperial Residence is private. Pictured is part of the moat and some outbuildings.

Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace

Bank of Japan Main Building

The head office of the Bank of Japan (日本銀行 Nippon Ginkō), currently being restored, moved to its current location in 1896 and is an Important Cultural Property.

Bank of Japan Main Building
Bank of Japan Main Building

Tsukiji Hongan-ji

The present building of Tsukiji Hongan-ji (築地本願寺), not far from the Tsukiji fish market, was built in 1931-1934 and features architecture inspired by temples in South Asia.

Tsukiji Hongan-ji
Tsukiji Hongan-ji

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge (レインボーブリッジ) spans Tokyo Bay from Shibaura to Odaiba. The 798m bridge was built between 1987 and 1993 by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge

Tokyo Big Sight

Tokyo Big Sight (東京ビッグサイト) is the capital’s convention and exhibition center. It sits in Waterfront City and opened in 1996.

Tokyo Big Sight Conference Tower
Tokyo Big Sight Conference Tower

Toyosu Market

Toyosu Market (豊洲市場 Toyosu Shijō), the replacement to Tokyo’s revered Tsukiji Fish Market, is set to open in October 2018 following enormous cost in construction and delays caused by toxic waste in the land on which it was built.

Toyosu Market
Toyosu Market

Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー), a 634m broadcasting and communications tower, is the tallest tower and the second-tallest structure in the world, after Burj Khalifa. It was built for digital terrestrial broadcasting because Tokyo Tower is now surrounded by tall buildings, making it unfit for the purpose. Tokyo Skytree has been a popular tourist destination since its opening in May 2012.

Tokyo Skytree, seen from Sumida River
Tokyo Skytree, seen from Sumida River

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館 Tōkyō Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan), established in 1872, is the largest museum in Japan and one of the largest art museums in the world. Among the treasures housed here are 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 Important Cultural Properties. The museum is located in Ueno Park.

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo National Museum

University of Tokyo (Todai)

The University of Tokyo (東京大学 Tōkyō daigaku) was originally established in 1877 as the first imperial university. It enjoys a high reputation in Japan, where it serves as the equivalent of Harvard, Wharton and Georgetown universities rolled into one.

Yasuda Auditorim (barely visible among the gingkos)
Yasuda Auditorim (barely visible among the gingkos)

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo Dome (東京ドーム), home to the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, opened in 1988. It seats 57,000 under its flexible, air-supported roof.

Tokyo Dome
Tokyo Dome

Budokan and Chidorigafuchi

Nippon Budokan (日本武道館) was built as the martial arts hall for the 1964 Olympics. It remains a popular venue for both martial arts competitions and rock concerts. Budokan sits among the Imperial Palace complex of moats, adjacent to Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵 — named for being shaped like a plover bird), which is a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing. Budokan is reached through Tayasumon gate (環境省), originally part of Edo castle and an Important Cultural Property.

Ol' Paint and Chidorigafuchi
Ol’ Paint and Chidorigafuchi

Budokan, seen through Tayasumon gate
Budokan, seen through Tayasumon gate

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building complex (都庁 Tochō), the seat of Tokyo government, stands tall in Nishi Shinjuku. The complex was designed by Kenzo Tange and completed in December 1990 at a cost of ¥157 billion.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No. 2
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No. 2

Walking stick came in very handy

Man walking with stick
Walking it Off, by stefanschlau

I went back to work today for the first time since my left big toe swelled up with gout, and I used a walking stick to take pressure off the foot. As a result, people were giving up their seats to me on the train. I may have to continue using this even after the foot heals.

My first day back was not too bad. I wore my lightest shoes, with no sock on the left and that foot only loosely in the shoe. I gave myself an extra 20 minutes to get to the office. It helped that it’s basically a national holiday, so the trains weren’t as crowded as usual.

At the office, I switched the shoes for some Nike sandals I keep there. I used the elevator sometimes, but sometimes the stairs were just more direct.

After lunch I got some cooling packs from the nurse. These worked well but only for about 10 minutes each. I mostly sat at the desk, often with my foot propped up.

Naturally, my coworkers were curious what happened. I told them that her husband came home early, so I had to jump out the window.

On the way home my foot got sore, mostly from the chafing of the shoe against the naked flesh. After dinner and a pill and an ice pack, I felt much better.

De pain of de feet

I was stirred out of my dreams at 2 this morning by a throbbing in the joint of my big toe. It wasn’t an enormous amount of pain, but it was sufficient to make it difficult to get back to sleep. And, as I tossed and turned, there were definitely positions in which it was more comfortable and those in which it was less.

I was first diagnosed with high uric acid levels almost 20 years ago. I remember that the doctor was having difficulty recalling the word in English. He said he could remember it in German, so I asked him what it was. “Gicht,” came the answer. “Ah, I know that one,” I replied.

Gout. In Japanese, 痛風 (tsufu). I’d never had an episode despite being consistently diagnosed with high uric acid over the intervening years. Last year, at the doctor’s urging, I’d even made some progress just by drinking more water. But the lack of any symptoms had led me to be careless. Until now.

I hobbled to the doctor this morning (it’s not far, although walking with shoes was more difficult than hobbling around the home in slippers). He confirmed what I’d guessed. We had a talk and he ordered some blood tests.

Doctor stop

That’s Janglish for “Doctor’s orders.” He said no more alcohol. Drink a lot more water. He even told me that my recent trips to the gym could contribute: I’m sweating a lot and not necessarily drinking enough water to compensate. Meanwhile, ice three times a day. Take my usual painkillers. And come back tomorrow for the results of the blood testing.

And this time I mean it!

I’ve been playing at cutting down on the drinking and losing weight. Now I’ve got to be serious about it. A flare-up would leave me helpless during a scheduled ride — the Tour de Tohoku or lejog, for example. And the only way to prevent that is to be good, and to be good consistently.

A variety of alcoholic beverage bottles
Not good for my feet

Why couldn’t he have told me to give up water and drink more Scotch?