November 27 - December 3, 2009

Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine

I was invited to give two papers at the Laser Tokyo 2009 meeting by Dr. Toshio Ohshiro, President of the meeting, whom I have know for many years. This was a joint meeting of three laser societies: 18th Congress of the International Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine, 2nd Congress of the World Federation of Societies for Laser Medicine and Surgery, and 30th Congress of the Japan Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine. People came from around the world. I met old friends, and made new friends.

Although there were some talks on high-powered CO2 lasers, which are used in surgery, most of the talks had to do with Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). I prefer the term, Low Level Light Therapy, since it is the light that is produced by the laser that is effective, not the laser itself. A laser is just an expensive flashlight. Well, enough of my lecture.

LLLT uses red light and near-infrared radiation to treat a number of conditions, including pain relief and wound healing. I first ran into LLLT at a meeting in the 1970's, where it was demonstrated that red light was very effective at healing leg wounds of diabetics whose wounds could NOT be cured by classical medicine. LLLT works by stimulating the metabolism of cells that are not functioning normally. It has little effect on cells that are functioning normally. LLLT is also very effective for carpal tunnel syndrome, which should be known to those of you (like me) who spend too much time on your computer, and have pain in your wrist.

The meeting was scheduled for November 29 - December 3, 2009. We stayed at the Hotel Grand Hill Ichigaya. It was a nice hotel with Internet connections in each room, but no WiFi. Since I was traveling with just my iPod Touch, which requires WiFi for the Internet, I was out of luck for e-mail and such. I had to borrow a friend's computer to send an important message home. Other people with iPhones and iPods went all over town looking for a WiFi hot spot, and found none, not even at Starbucks.

I arrived in Tokyo a day early. I had hired a professional bird guide over the Internet to take me birding. We went to Kasai Rinkai Koen (Kasai Seaside Park). It is along the coast, and just one subway stop before Disneyland, which we could see in the distance. My guide was Kaz Shinoda ( He was very good. We saw 40 species, of which 6 were life birds, i.e., I had not seen them before (see list below). I birded in Japan once before with Marion (my wife), many years ago. You see a lot birds in Japan that are common in the US (ducks, egrets, etc.), since they migrate the northern latitudes.

My main talk (40 min) was on the basics of photobiology as it relates to LLLT (i.e., what light does, and does NOT do to tissues). LLLT is currently not accepted in the main stream of science and medicine, because so many bad papers have been published on this subject (i.e., non-scientists trying to do science). I gave examples of some of these bad papers in the hope of getting authors and reviewers to do a better job so that LLLT can get into the main stream, because many patients who would benefit from this therapy are not receiving it now.

My second paper (10 minutes) was on the History of the American Society for Photobiology, which I founded in 1972 ( ). There was a whole day of 10-minute talks on the history of many laser and phototherapy societies.

The Japanese are wonderful hosts. There was an opening reception, and three banquets. Every time that I gave a talk or chaired a session, I received a gift (iPod Shuffle, USB stick, a painting), and a beautiful plaque (for my main talk), and four paper certificates. We were all treated like royalty.

Among the gifts were a pair of Okinawa lions, to protect our house, and to drive away evil spirits (see description in last row of photographs). I also have a pair of lions (different style) from the first meeting of the International Laser Therapy Association, Okinawa, 1990. They seem to work. They are mounted on the ends of our double fireplace, glued down of course to protect from California earthquakes. I have now put up the new lions (see picture at bottom) on the other side of our fireplace to give us even more protection.

Dr. Isaac Kaplan (Israel) was an honored guest. He was a pioneer in the development and use of CO2 lasers in surgery. He is 90, but very spry, and fun to talk to. He gave several talks, and they were all in poetry that rhymed, the way poetry should be.

Another honored guest was Alexander Alexandrov, one of the early Russian cosmonauts. He walked in space twice, and managed subsequent missions. He was a very friendly guy.

The day after the meeting I went, via the subways, to the Meiji Shrine, and to their beautiful garden to look for more birds. I found a few, but I did not have Kaz with me, so identifying the flitting birds was a challenge. I did identify one life bird (confirmed by Kaz by e-mail).

At noon I met an old friend of mine that I had not seen for 24 years. Takashi Ito was a Professor at the Tokyo University, and did the early work developing the synchrotron for use in radiation biology. It is for this work that he recently received an award as a Sacred Treasure from the Emperor. We had a nice stroll through the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, and had a great Japanese lunch at the University Club, a building downtown where the Tokyo University started.

In Japan they wrap the trunks of special trees with straw (probably including chemicals) to prevent bugs from climbing up, and infecting them. They also prop up the limbs of some trees to prevent breakage from heavy snow (see pictures below).

I was going to spend my final morning in one of the gardens nearby the hotel looking for more birds, but it rained heavily, so I just headed for the airport, and hung out in the JAL lounge, where they have WiFi.

JAL has what they call Premium Coach Class. It is sort of half way between Coach and Business Class. There are two seats together instead of three, and there is extra leg room, and you get to wait in the fancy lounge at the airport. It costs about twice as much as coach, but for me at 6 ft 8 in tall, it was well worth it. Anyway, the meeting organizers paid for my trip.

It was still a tough trip. I find it difficult/impossible to sleep on a plane. The hard part was the going (11 hours) and coming back (9 hours, i.e., due to a tail wind). Of course, this does not include the two hours from the Narita airport to downtown Tokyo, and one hour doing the same for the San Francisco airport, and the 2 hours that you have to check in before the flight. I think that I am getting too old for such stuff. There is a 15-hour time difference between Japan and California, not to mention an international date line to cross. Coming home, I left at 6 pm on Wednesday, and arrived at 10 am on Wednesday (same day).

All in all, it was great trip. I learned some science, renewed friendships, met people, saw some shrines, saw some birds, and learned how to use the Tokyo subways (look lost and ask for help).

        LIFE BIRDS
  Eastern Marsh-Harrier
  Black-tailed Gull
  Daurian Redstart
  Dusky Thrush
  Japanese Bush-Warbler
  Red-flanked Bluetail

  Little Grebe
  Eared Grebe
  Great Crested Grebe
  Great Cormorant
  Great Egret
  Little Egret
  Gray Heron
  Spot-billed Duck
  Eurasian Teal
  Eurasian Wigeon
  Northern Pintail
        NOT LIFE BIRDS (continued)
  Northern Shoveler
  Common Pochard
  Tufted Duck
  Greater Scaup
  Common Goldeneye
  Black Kite
  Northern Goshawk
  Eastern Buzzard
  Eurasian Coot
  Eurasian Oystercatcher
  Common Sandpiper
  Black-headed Gull
  Rufous Turtle Dove
  Rock Pigeon
  White Wagtail (Black-backed Wagtail)
  Brown-eared Bulbul
  Tree Sparrow
  Azure-winged Magpie
  Carrion Crow
  Large-billed Crow


Kaz Shinoda (bird guide)

Huge Scope on N. Goshawk

Huge Ferris Wheel

Huge Ginkgo Outside Hotel

Shrine Near Hotel

Shrine Near Hotel

Shrine From My Window

Water Wall Inside Hotel

Fancy Toilet Does Everything

Toilet Control Panel

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Garden

By Meijie Garden Gate

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens & Takashi Ito

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens Prepare For Winter

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens Prepare For Winter

Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens

Baseball & Takashi Ito

University Club

Laser Tokyo 2009

Gala Party

Geisha Performance

Geisha Performance

Geisha Performance

Geisha Performance)

David Sliney & Geisha

Tiina Karu
Kendric Smith

Tiina Karu, Kendric Smith
Alexander Alexandrov

Alexander Alexandrov
Kazuhiko Atsumi

Dr. and Mrs. Ohshiro

Toshio Ohshiro, ?
Isaac Kaplan

Ohshiro & Apple Guy

Toshio Ohshiro
Kendric Smith


Certificate 1

Certificate 2

Certificate 3

Certificate 4

Gifts (note lions)

Okinawa Lions (Seasir)

Top: Lions Okinawa 1990
Bottom: Lions Tokyo 2009

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