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A Japanese Hamfest
January 1933, QST

January 1933 QST

January 1933 QST  Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Hams are a lot like most other dedicated hobbyists in that when it comes to enthusiasm in their chosen pastimes, there are no international barriers. Such is evident by this 1933 article in QST magazine reporting on a Hamfest in Japan. The world was a much larger place back then with propeller-driven airplanes making multiple stops on their way around the globe, transcontinental telephone was a service reserved mostly for the wealthy, and postal mail could (and often did) took weeks or months to be delivered from Iowa to Tokyo. The first television broadcasts were only a few years old so other than visiting far off lands, movies and photos were the only exposure the vast majority of people had to foreign cultures. Amateur radio operators of all social and economic standings were more cosmopolitan than most corporate managers in 1933.

A Japanese Hamfest

By W.S. Upson, Ex-W6IP

A Japanese Hamfest, January 1933, QST - RFCafeIt's been a long time since I grabbed the old mill to shoot anything through to HQ, but this is so darned good it's about time something was done about it. So little has been said about foreign hamfests and so much about our own affairs that I hope this will even things up a little.

Just by way of explaining how I happen to know anything about Japanese hamfests, let it be known that KDNV, sometimes known by the uninitiated as the President Pierce, would have a hard time behaving herself if it weren't for the juice pumped into her 5-kw. pot and her l-kw. tube. I'm de guy wot does de pumpin'. Well, we hit Yokohama and Kobe twice each trip and get enough time there to make us want a little more. In good plain English, we like it a lot.

This time we arrived at Yokohama with twelve long hours ahead with nothing to do. We decided to call up Mr. Tsuto Ishii (J1EM), who is one of the engineers at the Yokohama telephone repeater station. We got a rickshaw boy to haul us to "California Frank's" where we hoisted a few. And then from there we sent the boy to Ishii-San with a note. Dunno what Ishii-San told him, but in nothing flat he was back running as if all the demons in China were riding his 'shaw. He herded us into his and another and took us to the telephone office. Oh yes, as part of the introduction, let me say the famous W6ASH, one time high-class ham traffic handler for the Eastbay Section, is now our gallant kid third op and, in case anyone should ask, tell 'em I'm ex-W6IP, but please don't spread it around the water-front.

Ishii-San was waiting for us, all smiles and bows and with three women (old ones), waiting for us with trays of tea and cakes. That's one good thing about Japan. If you're hungry, call on a friend. You're sure to get a cup of tea, and it sure hits the spot sometimes. For about a year, J1EO, Mr. Shima of Tokyo and myself have been trying to click. Either he has been QRL or I have. This time we got through to him on the phone from Ishii-San's office and, wonderful, he was home. He said he'd wait for us to get there and, although we were not dressed for any fancy calling, or high-class receptions, we had no time to change, so off we went. On the way to the Yokohama station, we picked up Mr. Seiichi Nozaki, also of Yoko, who has as yet no transmitting license but only a permit to receive. He expects to be on the air soon, however. We got on the train finally and, about forty minutes later, dropped off at Tokyo. Here Shima-San, J1EO, was waiting. Hot Dawg, you should have seen the bowing and scraping that went on. Poor "Ash" hadn't ever met any Japanese people before and didn't know how to bow or say anything. He is only a kid and blushes like a school girl. Of course I broke out my two words of Japanese greeting and then forgot the third. Oh well, we all have our little difficulties.

A Japanese Hamfest, January 1933, QST (2) - RFCafeUp the hill we started toward Shima-San's home, and, believe me, you've only lived half your life until the time you walk up a narrow little lane in some Japanese town, lined on both sides with hedges or fences just high enough so one can get tantalizing glimpses of what's going on inside. And every home has its garden, and the odors of the flowers - aw well, come and see it yourself. Just pick up any magazine and learn to be a first-class commercial operator in twelve easy lessons. We reached his home after walking half a mile or so and, after being greeted in the Japanese manner by a pretty little Japanese maid and removing our shoes, we entered. His home is beautiful to say the least, but this ain't a discussion on arch - well, homes, then, so we went upstairs to the shack. The gang was there, boy, and how! J1CP, J1DI, JIED and others whose calls I've forgotten. Greetings? Mister, that ain't the half of it, and what was even better, a nice ice cold drink of strawberry juice (unfermented). Of course the set was the first thing we wanted to see. Thirty watts output, crystal control and he's R5 to 6 QSA 4, any morning in the States on a haywire receiver, worked all continents and darned near all countries. But when you see the workmanship in that, and all other Japanese ham sets, you begin to realize how they can do it. The walls of Shima-San's shack are lined on all sides with charts, graphs, and prints. He is a student of the University of Tokyo, already holds one degree, has invented a new "mic" that's a wow, and designed and installed the public address system used in conjunction with the Far East Olympic Games held in Japan a year or so ago. He's not the only one, either. J3CT of Osaka uses a single 210 and gets across to the States as one of the four loudest "J" stations, and it is seldom his input exceeds forty watts. Poor "Ash," he was sure up in the air. He had expected to see power, and lots of it, and that little aluminum can was a sad disappointment. He was trying to juggle a cup of tea, eat a tea cake and take in receiver and transmitter at the same time. It nearly proved too much for my sense of dignity and decorum, but I managed to hang on.

A Japanese Hamfest, January 1933, QST (3) - RFCafeAfter we'd seen all the sets and equipment, Shima-San invited us to chow, the universally understood word in the ham language and the most appreciated. We went to another room where the table was set just one foot above the floor level, where the chairs were cushions, and the plates lacquered wooden dishes. The chow was strictly Japanese, served by two very pretty little Japanese maids. (Too darn much QRM in Nippon to make eating altogether a pleasure.) Rice and fish, cooked in the little lacquered dish, seaweed soup and a sauce. Believe me, if you want good chow, come to Japan - but take those twenty easy lessons first. After finishing up everything in sight, Shima-San invited us to take a look at the view from the window of this room. He is way up on a hillside and, looking out, one sees Fuji, Japan's sacred mountain, in the distance, beautiful Tokyo and its environs in the foreground and, immediately below, Shima-San's own garden with his little brother and sister playing.

In a few moments we were asked to seat ourselves again and finish our meal with strawberry juice and Japanese watermelon. During the meal a very learned discussion on the relative merits of Japanese and American YL's was held, which only goes to prove that hams are hams the world over and, anyway, you should see some of these Japanese YL's. Finally it was all over and, with a sigh of pure contentment, we arose; that is, all but "Ash." He was so cramped from sitting cross-legged on a cushion that it took three men and the ship's cook to get his legs straightened out.

Well we only get twelve hours in Yokohama and I had a heavy date in Kobe, so we had to leave. Say, you want to take a ride in a Japanese train if you want a real thrill. I've been in China coast typhoons, in Tahantapec gales and Hatteras blows, but never have been seasick except on a Japanese train. Wham!! go, say, the only thing that makes 'em slow down is a red signal, and they only show them on the first day of May and next week at two o'clock. We hung on to straps, stanchions, bags, hats and the ladies' hair and finally reached Yoko right side up and undamaged. The whole gang was with us. I lost count after a while, but I think there were ten of them all wanting to see the ship's s.w. set and to bid these two great hulking noisy foreigners bon voyage. The Quartermaster at the gangway thought it was an invasion and I had to promise him beaucoup trinkets before he'd let us aboard. The gang thought the ship's layout hot stuff and sure had a swell time looking over the ship, my room, including many photos on the bulkheads and the shack. We left Yoko finally to a chorus of banzais and sayonaras from this great gang of chaps on the dock.

The whole thing took me back to the old days when a feller walking down the street of a strange town and seeing an antenna, especially if it had four wires and a white pole, immediately went up and punched the front doorbell and asked to see the op. Them days is gone forever in the States, but you still are sure of a welcome if you pull it over here. Talk about friendship; say, I'm going to need a third op one of these days, and you want to come over. I'll guarantee you all a heck of a good time and a copy of the JARL Mag.

Posted  3/27/2013

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