I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at the Tokyo Ham Fair this year, by Yutaka JQ2GYU and Joe JA1LZR. Those with long memories may recall we operated as a team together with Martin G3ZAY as GJ6UW from Jersey in 2011, and became firm friends. Martin joined me on this trip and it was a pleasure to travel with him again. Along with Yutaka and Joe, we were both delighted to see Yutaka’s wife, Miho, JJ2VLY as well. Miho is one of very few JA YLs on the DXCC Honour Roll!
I took hundreds of pictures as this was my first visit to Japan, but it is quite fun to pick just a few out and I hope this will give you a flavour for our travels. We began our trip in Tokyo, where you are never more than a street away from a cold drink. We bought several bottles of the infamous Pocari “Sweat”, which, despite its distracting branding, is an excellent tonic for hot weather. The conditions were very hot and humid, and “Sweat” did the trick!
After an excellent visit to the Edo museum (where you can find out about Japan’s history in one, all-encompassing museum experience) we headed to Akihabara, Tokyo’s incredible electronics district. The streets were full of people playing Pokemon as well as some extremely colourful and noisy advertising.
We found one of the two remaining ham radio stores in Tokyo, and Martin checked out the latest and greatest radios from all of the mainstream manufacturers in Japan.
We visited the Tsukiji fish market, which is the largest covered fish market in the world. It is shortly to be relocated to a new venue, but what you can see today is an incredible jumble of fish, all absolutely fresh and well cared-for. In fact, the market is so clean there is really no detectable smell of seafood, which astonished me.
Of course, we saw some of the excellent knives that are used for preparing fish in Japan. Sadly, you cannot hope to bring one of these into the UK any more due to security restrictions on knives, but it was great to see them here.
In the afternoon, Martin and I both made presentations to the Tokyo Top Band Meeting. My presentation was a specially prepared talk containing 160M visualisations to explore propagation between Zone 14 (Western Europe) and Japan on top band. I was generously helped by Joe, JJR3PRT who was my interpreter and expertly translated my talk in real time for the audience. Thanks, Joe!
Martin’s presentation was on ZD7, ZD8, ZD9 and VP8 and contained a fascinating journal of Martin’s photos from these islands. He only needs to visit ZD9 now, and I am sure the boat will eventually take him there.
We made our way to the Tokyo Ham Fair at “Big Sight” on the Saturday.
Almost as soon as I stepped through the door, I met my DX hero, Nao-san JA1HGY. I was thrilled to shake his hand on the DXCC desk. I believe I have worked Nao from every DX location I’ve visited. We all know to expect his loud and perfectly-timed calls in the pileups.
I am quite a keen collector of unique CW paddles, and found these very small machined stainless steel ones made by JR1ZQY. I decided I’d better get one rather than miss my chance, as they are all hand-made and it would be uneconomical to make any significant quantity of them (even less to export them). I am delighted with the way it handles.
There was also one, unique dual key (but this wasn’t for sale!).
The GHD stand had some fantastic wooden paddles which were very attractive, too.
I had lunch with Yutaka to put some final touches to my slides for the Japan International DX Meeting (JIDXM) talk in the afternoon. This superb Japanese translation of my talk was prepared by Shin, JR1NHD, and he did a fantastic job explaining my talk as I went through each slide.
During the presentation itself, I used two laptops so I could see my English slides and Japanese slides at the same time – it works well!
After the talk, I was delighted to meet Zorro, JH1AJT. He is a famous DXer who recently brought Myanmar and Eritrea onto the bands. Zorro is full of smiles and an incredibly generous guy who leaves a glowing impression when you meet him. When you have a chance, please check out the amazing work he has done through SEISA (FGC) http://www.fgc.or.jp/english/. The world needs people like Zorro!
I also met fellow DX Hall Of Famer, David K3LP, who delighted the audience with his talk about the VP8STI and VP8SGI expeditions. David has seen it all when it comes to expeditions, and shared a great deal of his wisdom about how to be successful on the bands (and how to raise funds). He is one of the most interesting and fun people you’ll meet in amateur radio, and I was so glad to finally meet him.
Plenty of other “DX” (outside Japan) visitors made it to the JIDXM dinner, and a photo call was quickly and expertly done before the meal.
After the dinner, Zorro introduced this drumming band. I wish I had taken some more notes as I cannot recall what the style is called, but it was great fun and the way the players compete with each other during the performance raised plenty of smiles. I made a slow-motion video and was amazed to see the precision of the drumming – each drummer was synchronised down to the millisecond.
After dinner, I was astonished to be presented with an FT-991 transceiver by Yaesu. Sometimes words fail you! This radio has great features, a full IF DSP receiver and roofing filters, and covers HF/VHF/UHF in one small unit. What a generous gift! The presentation was made by Tachio Yonemura, JA1BRK (Chairman of the Japan International DX Meeting).
I also received this marble plaque which contains an inscription to the Club Log team:
Club Log Team
You have provided a new way of enjoying DX, by using ICT and made great changes with influence to DXers in the world. Presented by Japan International DX Association and CQ Ham Radio”.
This award is truly beautiful (and probably weighs at least 1kg!). It will be kept by Alan 5B4AHJ in Cyprus.
Later in the evening, festivities carried on. You will not be surprised to see a bottle of Saki. We drank plenty that night with the members of the Tokyo Top Gun club, which is a vibrant group of DXers who made us very welcome.
The following day I did a short interview arranged by Kei, JA1WTO for “Ham’s Radio”, a slot on FM radio in Tokyo. JG1ITH asked me about Club Log and of course, I appealed for more JAs to participate by uploading their logs. You can see my interview here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/G8cGw6dKnYQ
A walk around the fair always leads to something new. These CW touch paddles are made in Korea by a friendly and talented team. You will recall their famous 6M6M callsign, a 50MHz special expedition. The paddles work on capacitance and have no moving parts. The photos below show how popular they are – almost entirely sold out!
Other construction projects caught my attention. This was an immaculate antenna switch box with particular emphasis on grounding using copper strapping, for example.
The Tokyo 610 group had a fun dinner in the evening, where we caught up with Jaques F6BEE, and his wife Brigitte.
Kanpai! Yutaka (left) leads the toast.
Bob, MD0CCE, is a celebrity in Japan due to his prominent DXing from the Isle of Man (especially on 160m) and delighted everyone with promises of more activity on the bands this winter.
Well-known big gun DXer, Toshi JA1ELY made a brief introduction, too, having recently been to PJ7 on a dxpedition.
After such a great ham radio experience in Tokyo, Martin and I headed to Kyoto to see some of the more historical sights. Kyoto is the old capital of Japan, and has many shinto temples which are mostly open to the public. We started at Nijo castle, which is an old shogun residence.
On the way in, I noticed this sign. Is nowhere safe from Pokemon?!
The beautiful gardens are just perfect.
Other temples in Kyoto are equally amazing, such as this Zen temple near our hotel.
Considering they are timber structures, they get pretty big and overwhelming!
Martin placed an incense stick in the traditional way. The ash “holder” is shaped from previous sticks that have burned away.
I was intrigued by the zen gardens. The stones are placed so that you cannot see all of them from any one location. It is a reminder that if you can see all of the stones, you are above the garden and will soon fall! I rather liked this, and the gardens are undoubtedly very peaceful and therapeutic. There is a lot of excellent information on these gardens on Wikipedia, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_rock_garden.
This photo shows a beautiful blossom which simply stole the show – it was utterly magnificent and I will be displaying this photo in a frame at home.
Kyoto’s many old structures could fill weeks of travel and study. This is an aqueduct, for example, which carries water into the city. It reminded me of ancient Italian works by the Romans.
My favourite photo of the trip is this one. I am a keen saxophonist myself and it was kind of strange to see one being played at the Tokyo ham fair. Normally, these two hobbies just don’t fit together!
I would like to express my gratitude to Yutaka JQ2GYU, Miho JJ2VLY and Joe JA1LZR for helping to arrange this excellent trip to Tokyo. I am looking forward to a dxpedition with them in the near future. We are hoping to activate Guernsey, GU with the same format as GJ6UW (emphasis on working Japan on the low bands).