K3WWP's Ham Radio Activities
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Joe - JJ1BDX/3

My name is Kenji Rikitake, JJ1BDX/3 (/3 means operating from Kansai region, where Osaka belongs; I still keep my license location in Tokyo, the #1 district). My CW handle is Joe, derived from the name of the starring of a popular sci-fi story series in Japan called Cyborg 009, because he shares the same dilemma of mine being torn between two different identities; in my case, that's the languages of Japanese and English.

I've been reading K3WWP's pages since when I restarted ham radio activities on June 25, 2002. The year 2002 is a very productive year for my ham radio activities, mostly ongoing in the CW world.

I met Amateur Radio in a science magazine for kids in 1974 when I was 9, living in Boulder, Colorado, USA. After I came back to Tokyo I firmly decided to take an amateur radio license, hopefully to talk with people in the USA. Remember in 1974 there was no trans-pacific Internet.

I got my Japanese Phone Class (now 4th Class) Amateur Radio Operator license on November 1975, by attending to a JARL seminar course and passed the wrap-up exam. Mr. Sugimoto, JA1CNE, the lecturer of the seminar, told me how Morse code was interesting thing there. I started to listen to Morse code soon after I've got my station license and the callsign JJ1BDX on March 1976, using my Sony ICF-5900 shortwave radio with the BFO inside; in Japan there was a ham radio trend among youngsters during 1970s to 1980s.

After I failed listening to the 5WPM code on the national exam of Japanese Telegraph Class (now 3rd Class) Operator on October 1976, I had to concentrate on studying for passing the entrance exam of a junior-high school until 1978. After getting it through, I started operating on the school club station JA1ZSS (now unallocated since the club station was closed during 1990s), mainly on HF, and soon hooked onto the CW again. This time I had enough confidence to get through the 5WPM code exam. I decided to take another JARL course for obtaining the Telegraph Class license, and made it and got the license on March 1979.

My main interests during my teenage were microcomputers and electronic music, as well as ham radio. I was living in an apartment complex (as I do now) so I wasn't able to put up a big antenna. I could only use the apartment balcony. There was no automatic antenna tuner device available, so my ham radio interests were focused onto 6m and higher bands, though I've only learned so many nasty people were there, especially abusive to teenagers. Fortunately on CW QSOs I only remember good people, who helped me working 200-kilometer ground-wave DX on 6m using a whip and CW. I even operated a 6m CW station from a skyscraper building in Shinjuku.

After started studying in University of Tokyo in 1984, I met two great contesters, namely Kinshou-san, JH7PKU and Matsumoto-san, JG1ILF. I was amazed when I heard them on CQ WW CW 2002 Contest and saw the callsigns on K3WWP's web pages! BTW many other people of Univ. of Tokyo ham radio club, JA1YWX and JA1ZLO, taught me what a serious contesting is. I was a bit nerdy then (and now maybe) so I wasn't able to follow their high-profile style of activities. My interest shifted into packet radio and Internet; the two things were my main interests until 1992, when I decided to move out of Tokyo for a new life with my wife Kyoko.

My interests towards ham radio was eroding until the year 2002 for many reasons; the population was decreasing, aging, and unfortunately most of JA OTs revealed themselves technically incompetent than they were supposed to be, especially on Internet technology and the usage. I also vigorously pursued my career as Internet engineer, so I couldn't waste my time. My packet radio friends all became Internet activists.

On January 2002, I decided to buy a Sony ICF-SW7600GR shortwave receiver, and an external antenna of AOR SA7000, for satisfying my desire to setting up a broadcast monitoring environment. Of course I listened to 40m and many other CW ham bands with the internal BFO; and I realized I could copy quite a lot of callsigns without difficulties. And I realize I still remember CW. So I decided to buy another receiver AOR AR7030Plus, with a CW filter, for the first time in my life, and started listening to ham bands. Why not transceivers first? Remember what old timers said: "listen first before you transmit!" Listening to CW activities was very intriguing, as well as learning digital modes of PSK31 and RTTY. I was surprised I could hear a lot of DX stations; I secretly planned to QRV on sometimes during this year.

On May 2002, I fell ill and was hospitalized because of chronic fatigue and nearly-lethal infection caused by skin allergy. I was hospitalized for three weeks. I brought in the ICF-SW7600GR because Internet access was prohibited (to prevent further techno-stress mental and physical injuries). I could listen to many CW callsigns on the air, especially on the 40m band. When I was released from the hospital, I immediately ordered ICOM IC-706mkIIGM (50W output, maximum allowed for my license) with a 350Hz CW/RTTY filter, Palm Radio's Mini-Paddle, and AH-4 antenna tuner for matching the glass-fiber Tsurizao (a Japanese word stands for a fishing rod) wire antenna putting up on the balcony.

I first put up a V-shape coil-loaded dipole but that didn't work well, and the final transistors of the IC-706 was burnt because of mismatching. So I decided to buy some Tsurizaos and made a spider-web-like counterpoise, while waiting for the transceiver coming back from the repairment center. Now I use a 7.2-meter-length Tsurizao, with 7-meter length copper wire, which works pretty well from 80m to 6m bands.

I use 50W of output power for most of my QSOs, to cut through under small or even large pileups. So far I have confirmed 85 DXCC (mixed) entities as of December 21st, 2002, mostly by CW. As of December 24th, 2255 of total 2731 QSOs are made in CW. While I'm not a serious QRP enthusiast as John, K3WWP is, I occasionally test QRPs to JA stations. I could made some contacts with 8N1OGA in Ogasawara Islands using 1.5W output, on 80m/40m/17m/15m/12m bands. I don't want to QRO, however, at home, even if I'm allowed to and I could eliminate possible intereferences, because I think I don't need much more power. Though my radio system is not configured as minimal-QRP, it is minimal indeed, and I can confirm what John has achieved. What he says is quite right and true.

After worked with many stations, I found an interesting cover story of JARL A1 Club on the CQ Ham Radio Magazine September 2002 issue. The club is a loosely-coupled organization of CW enthusiasts in Japan, and is open from beginners to the experienced operators. Their Web site (Japanese only, though) is full of CW tips and resources. I also found about FISTS. So I immediately joined the two CW clubs, as well as ARRL as a new member and JARL (I abandoned the JARL membership during 1992 to 2002). Eventually I realized some good-old warm-hearted people are the driving forces of those CW clubs, and I was impressed by their open-mindedness, because I have seen a lot of JA DXers and OTs who were actually mere nasty people. After 23 years of having the CW ticket, I could finally conclude that ham radio is a good social, if not technical, tradition, especially among CW enthusiasts.

Since I was (and am yet) a 3rd Class Operator, I needed to take an upper-class exam, namely of JA 1st Class Operator license, for operating with a full privilege of the amateur radio. While the 3rd Class is restricted to 50W output maximum and prohibited to QRV on 30m/20m, the 1st Class is unrestricted within the legal limit of 1kW output for a fixed station and no band restriction.

I had the 1st Class exam on December 1; while the questions of radio technology and the law were not too difficult, full-copying and writing down the 12WPM English Morse code for three minutes onto a paper was a torture for my 37-year-old brain; I missed a few words. When I returned home I fell asleep and was completely shattered, because of the disappointment of being unable to full-copy the exam sentences. To pass the Morse code exam, you need to keep 80 points, while you lose 3 points for every miscopied or non-existent letter, and 1 point for a letter which is not copied at all.

Yesterday, on December 23rd, the result of exam was sent to my postbox: passed! I was very much delighted. And I also realized having passed the exam did not change anything on my actual CW proficiency. I need to learn more, and develop a strong fist, mentally and physically.

Well, it's obvious that being able to QRV on 30m/20m bands is surely a nice thing, especially during the ionospheric condition downfall after the peak of the Solar Cycle 23. Being able to operate all amateur radio stations in Japan will also help for supporting special event stations. But at home, I will stick on my current system, of 50W, and Tsurizao long wire antenna. I know it doesn't work well on SSB, but on CW, it works marvelously. My past QSOs for such a short period of six months and the paper and electronic QSL cards coming in prove what I have achieved.

BTW my wife Kyoko, who is not a ham, got very surprised when I revealed my personality as a ham radio operator, which I concealed for the 10 years of our marriage. She always jokes me as an alien talking to another outer-space alien (well ham radio operators are always alienated from non-ham people, aren't they?), but when I let her hear the CW tone during a QSO, she eventually understood what I was really hooked onto, because she plays the piano and she knows how a series of tone forms a language. When she hears my shouts to the microphone when calling DX stations on phone, she blames me as an idiot and she claims the shouting stupid. But when I quietly sending CW using the paddle, she would not complain, though when I'm getting carried away with chasing DX, she would get furious :-)

My long-term goal is to be able to communicate above 30WPM in English (now 10 to 15 WPM for a solid copy, and 20WPM for a casual conversation), and 20WPM in Japanese Morse code which I haven't learned anything yet (though my primary language is Japanese). The requirement for Japanese code is not only because for ham radio but when I need to exchange info with Japan Self Defense Force telegraphers in case of emergency, I need to use the Japanese codes. I want to try setting up a QRP but mobile HF station, for portable vacation and emergency use, probably by making an Elecraft K1.

I think Morse code is the final and the first way of digital communication and a long-life ancestor of Internet. While I do not force others to learn Morse code, eliminating it from ham radio is a real tragedy.

OK, way too long for a short story. 73, and see you on the air.

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