Asia Pacific DX Convention
George Strother, KL7GS
An Alaska DXer in Japan — a different kind of DX adventure.
During a bus trip to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) site (a 4 GW ERP HF transmitter used to study the physical and electrical properties of the Earth’s ionosphere) that was part of the Alaska Hamfest in August 2008, there were handouts on each seat advertising the Asia Pacific DX Convention (APDXC) in Osaka, Japan being held from November 7-9. I had friends near there so I decided to use some airline miles and go for a visit.
I shared a hotel room with Wes, ZL3TE, whom I had talked to on the radio during the CQ SSB contest. He and I got to the conference hotel a day early and took a walking tour of the Osaka Castle. ZL3TE had just gotten a JA3 call sign and operated a low power rig from our hotel room with a loaded antenna just inside the window. He only made one contact, but that gave him the first entry in his Japanese log book.
About 70 hams attended the conference from Japan, USA, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brazil, Italy and Russia. One of the hams was Vivien, KL7YL, who got the “YL” suffix on her call in the normal rotation when she was in Anchorage. She now lives in Minnesota with her husband Glenn, W0GJ, who is quite active in DXpeditions.
Day 1 — a Tour of ICOM
The first day of the conference was a tour of the ICOM radio factory that was for non-Japanese only. It was a 1.5 hour bus ride from the conference hotel to the ICOM factory in Wakayama.
There are only 10 assembly lines where all of ICOM’s radios and electronics are built. They can shift an assembly line to a different type of radio is as little as 5 minutes. Everything from grain-of-sand size diodes to small integrated circuits are delivered on Mylar tape spool cartridges. The automated circuit board robots pick items off the tape, then places the items on the circuit board, which has been wiped with solder paste. The boards are placed in racks that are delivered by robot carts to the correct position on the assembly lines. We were given free access to the assembly line area and allowed to take all the photographs we wanted.
After the factory tour the bus drove back to the ICOM headquarters in Osaka where we met ICOM’s founder, Mr Tokuzo Inoue, JE3FA. He showed us the IC-7600 HF transceiver, which was just being introduced at that time. Also present were ICOM’s chief hardware and software engineers, and marketing staff. They had a lengthy and interesting Powerpoint presentation of the IC-7600 with detailed specifications.
Mr Inoue then asked for our comments and there was a 2 hour question and answer session, which was almost an interrogation as different hams asked about different details. Like many new ICOM radios, the IC-7600 is very voltage sensitive and transmission cuts out at 11.7 V. I asked why their new radios couldn’t be designed to run down to lower voltages, especially when we often operate them directly from batteries in emergency or portable situations where a generator, dc voltage booster or power supply is not available. The engineers took lots of notes on our requests but made no promises.
Mr Inoue then hosted a fancy reception for the conference at the Osaka International House. ZL3TE and I ate dinner prior to the reception, thinking there would only be a few hors d’oeuvres, but we were wrong — it was a tasty spread of Japanese delicacies, with more than enough food for all the hungry hams topped off by Naomi’s, JA3AUZ, beautiful voice serenading us throughout our meal. I thanked Mr Inoue for ICOM’s loan of equipment for the Alaska Hamfest’s Arctic Circle special event station, W1AW/KL7, and gave him one of the AK Hamfest patches. I told him that the Alaska Hamfest gave away an ICOM IC-756PROIII transceiver for the first prize in our raffle, which was won by Steve Floyd, W4YHD, who is the lead engineer of the HAARP.
Day 2 — Japanese History and DXpedition Tales
The next day of the conference was a bus trip to Nara, which was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. We visited the Todai-ji shrine complex and saw Daibutsuden the largest wooden building in the world. The conference organizer, Mac, JA3USA, lined up several excellent English speaking guides. Even though it rained, the enthusiasm was high and the guides’ knowledge helped all of us learn a bit of the history of these ancient buildings. Being able to walk inside the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines was very humbling, seeing the skilled wood and metal work of the centuries in comparison to the new towns of Alaska.
That evening we attended the conference banquet. This was my only meal during my 3 weeks in Japan where I had a fork, spoon and knife. I sat next to Mr Inoue and he told me about starting his company. He is not an electrical engineer but an industrial engineer. His factory originally made electric motor power distribution systems.
One client asked if Mr Inoue could make some circuit boards, so he modified an assembly line and began manufacturing electronics. He then hired radio designers and began producing ham radios and eventually marine, land mobile and aircraft radios, computers and LAN systems. His company was Inoue Communication Equipments Corporation, but he told me that one of his early American distributors changed the name they used to ICOM because many Americans were not remembering Inoue. He liked the name ICOM and changed the parent company’s name.
The conference presentations were very interesting as many of the speakers described their DXpeditions to remote lands. There was also a presentation about remote computer control of an Italian mountaintop HF station. They described the logistics, licensing, transportation, radios, power, antennas and many of the hardships they endured on some of the DXpeditions. Some of the DXpeditions were extremely expensive, while others were well within many people’s vacation budgets. Included in the evening’s lectures was a picture of the W1AW/KL7 group in front of the trailer at the Arctic Circle with the big Alaska Hamfest logo poster. It was described as an example of a good DXpedition at a location that was not too difficult to access.
In the Osaka International House conference center there is a ham radio club station, JI3ZAG. The control operator Tetsuo, JA3PYC, allowed me to use their station to call my spouse Fran, KL7EG, at home in Alaska. We could just barely hear each other, with the signals being too weak to carry on a conversation.
After the APDXC, ZL3TE and I bought Japan Rail passes and took the train to Hemiji and Kyoto. Afterwards I spent another 2 weeks in Japan visiting friends in Hamamatsu and seeing many more sights in this interesting land. I got home just before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving morning just before the guests arrived our water well quit. So I got to use the water jugs that are part of my go kit and emergency gear. Life stays interesting. APDXC 2010 will be held in Osaka on November 5-7, 2010.
All photos by George Strother, KL7GS.
George Strother, KL7GS (ex-KL7DV), an ARRL member, is a retired civil engineer, land surveyor and bush pilot in Alaska. He earned engineering degrees from Colorado School of Mines and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Just before KL7GS and his spouse KL7EG got married they both signed up for a three credit semester long Amateur Radio class at the local college. They both were licensed in early 1979 as Technicians and quickly upgraded to General class at the FCC office. KL7GS then earned his Advanced and Extra class licenses through the AARC VE system. KL7GS likes to ragchew, participate in local VHF nets and occasionally enters contests just for fun and to give the KL7 contact to the needy. He has volunteered for many dog sled races including flying his plane out for ham communications on the Iditarod. He can be reached at 5935 E Tex Al Dr, Wasilla, AK 99654-9722.