Rudy Alforque
South Setauket, NY 11720, U.S.A
Tel: (631) 612-1206
e-mail: click here

[Memories] Memories of Japan


I arrived in Tokyo on a foggy spring day in May, 1973 with Jun Llarena, the other Teijin scholar from the Bicol region in the Philippines. We were the lucky ones to survive the national competition for two scholarship posts out of hundreds of applicants nationwide. Our sponsor, Teijin Company, gave us a nice welcome and a pleasant stay in Tokyo. The following day we were on the shinkansen(bullet train) headed for Osaka.

Teijin Co. had already arranged for us to stay at the dorm of the Japanese International School in Osaka. In the next few months, we were on a crash course in Japanese language -- written & spoken Niponggo -- at the Kansai Kokusai Gakuyukai; When the language course was over, we were to join a university for further academic technical studies. After six months, we completed the language course; Jun Llarena went to Tokyo, while I decided to stay in the Kansai region.

I moved to the International Students House in Misasagi, Yamashina in Kyoto Prefecture after I gained admission to Kyoto National University as a kenshuin (fellow) under the advisorship of Prof. Sakisaka, a nuclear physicist, who was then chairman of the Nuclear Physics & Engineering faculty. When I decided to work towards a graduate degree in Nuclear Engineering, Prof. Sakisaka assigned me to the nuclear engineering group under Prof. Michiyoshi; In this group, my main adviser was Prof. Hideaki Nishihara. The next few months were a gruelling struggle to prepare for the graduate entrance examination.

After six months at Kyodai (Kyoto University), I took the graduate entrance exam -- written & oral (in Nippongo, of course) -- to become a matriculated graduate student. After passing the exams, my quest for a graduate degree began under the tutelage of Prof. H. Nishihara.

During the spring break in 1975, however, I underwent an open heart surgery at the Kyoto University Medical Center to repair a congenital ventricular septal defect. I was primarily under the care of Dr. Michio Yokota, a young and brilliant surgeon, who had spent a few years of cardiac specialization in the United States; He actually trained under the same professor as the internationally known heart transplant specialist, Dr. Norman Shumway, of the Stanford University Medical Center.

The surgical team was under the direct supervision of Prof. Yorinori Hikasa, head of the cardiac surgery division. The other surgeons were: Dr. Muraoka, Dr. Yamada, and Dr. Yokota, himself. The anesthesiologists were: Dr. Urabe, Dr. Mitsunami, and Dr. Shingu. The procedure involved putting my body in extracorporeal circulation, otherwise known as cardiopulmonary bypass, employing the heart-lung machine, and then cutting a small incision through my right ventricle so that they could close off the septal hole by simply stitching it shut.

The surgery was a success, and after only a couple of months I was already back in school. A few months later, I started to learn how to play tennis at our dorm's backyard tennis courts. Now, thru the years, I learned not only to play better tennis but other sports as well. Thanks to Dr. Yokota, and his team, for repairing my heart! Thanks to all my international friends, from all over the world, who willingly donated their fresh blood on the night before my scheduled surgery! And, thanks to Japan, too, in general! Arigato gozaimashita!

In 1976, I completed all academic requirements, and was graduated from the Graduate Faculties with a Master's Degree in Engineering (Nuclear Engineering).