Sunday, June 28, 2015

Getting an amateur radio operator license in Japan (4th level)

About one year ago, I went to see the Japan Ham fair in Tokyo. Despite having studied about radio communications at University, the amateur radio (ham) world was still unknown to me.

Near the entrance there was a stage with talks about the ham world. Many of them were introductory so I listened to a few. I wanted to learn what's so fun about amateur radio that you can't do with the Internet. These are a few ways to enjoy amateur radio that I learned of at the ham fair:
  • Talking to your neighbours: a good way to make new friends.
  • Hiking a mountain and trying to get far-away signals from the top.
  • Talking to people from all around the world: I was pointed out by someone that amateur radio operators are usually well-educated people and allow for good conversation.
  • Enjoying it from a technical point of view: improve your equipment with better antennas or transceivers.

The ham fair wasn't just about introductory talks though. There were many booths organized by amateur radio fans and radio equipment sellers. In a way, it reminded me of a Makerfaire exhibition. In fact, this fair can be very convenient if you need to buy oscilloscopes, function generators or frequency counters at a low price tag.

With all the excitement, I decided that this was cool and elitist (kidding!), and that it might be worth giving it a try. I bought a book for the 4-th level (easiest) of the Japanese amateur radio operator license test, which is all you need to get started. On the spur of the moment I also bought an entry-level walkie talkie valid for the 144MHz and 430MHz bands (see other frequency bands here).

I took the test the Japanese way. That means I had to learn many Japanese technical words. In retrospective, I'm glad I went the hard way because now it's easier for me to talk about amateur radio with other Japanese fans. Note however that you can also take the exam in another country and have it validated by JARL (Japanese Amateur Radio). The test is held in several Japanese cities. If you live near Tokyo, then you are lucky because you can just show up on the test day without previous registration. Check the dates here. You just need to go to 日本無線協会 (map link) bringing with you a copy of your 住民票 (get it at your ward office), 2 photos, a pencil and the money for the exam (~5070 yen) and the operator license (~2270 yen). The test is divided in two parts: engineering and law. As I went through the book I tried to summarize most of the knowledge required in the two diagrams above. I have also prepared a cleaned-up text version here in English for you. I hope it's useful to someone. After passing the exam, on the same day, I applied for the operator license. A couple of weeks later, I got my license card by post and next I applied for the radio station license (you need two licenses: operator and station). Ok, I guess that's all for this post. Hope to see you at Japan ham fair 2015!!

1 comment:

LinhTramN said...

Awesome!!!!! I am watching the Professionals as a young lad thinking wow I would love one of those walkie talkies. I think I may have one in the junk box somewhere that was going to be used for parts reclamation............