Japan joins SOTA
As mentioned before, work has been in progress to add Japan to SOTA. Overnight, that work went live! There are a total of 5,276 summits across 4 associations. The main team involved were myself doing the surveying, Guy N7UN helping out with surveying and doing the lion’s share of getting the ARMs up to scratch, and Toru Kawauchi JH0CJH, the local association manager, helping with the Japanese aspect of the association.
The most common comment on the news seems to be people expecting massive pileups now that Japan is involved; I certainly hope that will be the case, but for now, the ramp up is likely to be slow. I don’t anticipate there being a stampede of Japanese hams heading off into the hills with their 817s and some wire. However, there may start to be a big influx of chasers, and hopefully that builds activators. I have a theory that within every chaser is a frustrated activator just waiting to hit the hills, so it may just eventuate.
There already is a mountain radio program in Japan, called Yamaran. Yamaran’s criteria for inclusion is much simpler than SOTA’s – simply that the mountain appears in a particular book. Thus, it is expected that a reasonably large percentage of SOTA summits will also be Yamaran summits. We encourage Yamaran activators to also hand out SOTA references, and to also claim points for the SOTA scheme.
Getting a Japanese license is relatively easy, but requires up to 60 days notice, so get on it before you leave for Japan. The JARL has fairly detailed instructions (here). Apply for a 50W portable license across the bands. In Japan, 50W is the maximum permitted power for portable operations.
One of the reasons the SOTA Japan effort was completed quickly with minimal errors is the existence of the Cyber Portal at the GSI – Japan’s Governmental Survey Institute. The Cyber portal has topographic maps down to 1:2,500 available via the web, and can be printed onto A4 or A3 sizes with minimal effort. I tend to print A3 on the colour printers at work. The level of detail, down to walking tracks, is impressive, particularly given the price (free).
You can also join the SOTA_Japan Yahoo group, where discussions will hopefully start around Japan activations. There may be discussions in Japanese, of course!
But enough on that, I hear you all wanting to know what goodies await in the Japan associations.
I surveyed about 5,100 of the candidate summits myself, and along the way made a few notes. These are summits that appeal to me, or had some interesting quirk. I’ve climbed some, but the majority I have not, so I recommend taking my advice with a grain of salt.
Everyone who thinks of Japan thinks of Fujisan. 富士山 means is translated directly as Fujisan, or, if you are being particularly obtuse, Mt. Fuji. San means mountain, which is sometimes translated as “Yama”, hence the occasional name (thoroughly incorrect) of Mt Fujiyama. No, a true Japanese person calls it Fujisan.
There is a Japanese expression that says “It is a fool who never climbs Fujisan, but only a fool who climbs it twice.” This should set the scene. There are plenty of websites around that will tell you the best way to climb Fujisan. I would suggest, based on the summit location, taking one of the southern routes from Shizuoka prefecture. The climbing period is practically speaking, around late June to late August. Outside of that time, Fujisan is considered very dangerous.
The summit itself, for SOTA purposes is Fujisan Kengamine – or “Fujisan Main Summit”, located on the western side at an altitude of 3776m. You will earn your 10 points here.
Google Street View, perhaps surprisingly, has coverage up to the summit – so quit complaining about lugging the battery and FT-857 up the mountain when you consider the poor Google guy lugging a backpack with large camera sticking out of it. Street View shows that the area around the summit is actually quite narrow and usually quite busy. The old Fuji Radar System was up at this point, and there may be areas to set up out of the way, but expect that you will either be popular or unpopular, depending on whether you block the path or appeal to the interested folks on the mountain. A handheld and VHF might be a good option here, and be thankful for the 25m vertical activation zone!
Visitors to Tokyo will no doubt ask what is the closest summit that they can activate. That would probably be Oodakesan (大岳山) in Tokyo prefecture. It can be reached from the town of Mitake, and via the non-SOTA mountain Mitakesan (三岳山), location of a historic shrine reputedly stemming from 900 AD.
It would appear to be about an hour’s walk past the shrine to get to Odakesan, which should provide good views of Fujisan if the weather is clear, and good takeoff to the south. It is an 8 point mountain.
It seems, looking at accounts of hikes to Odakesan online, that most people will follow it through to Okutama and/or approach from that direction, doing a one way trip between Mitake and Okutama. The Japanese public transport system is fantastic and makes such a trip possible.
Tokyo – Izu Islands
For those with a bit more money, or looking for a more relaxing feel, a trip to the Izu Islands south of Tokyo is an option. Miharashinsan on Oshima, Miyatsukesan on Toshima and Miyatsukesan on Niijima are all accessible from Tokyo harbour within a short trip – either an hour or two on a jet foil, or overnight on a ferry. Ferry costs appear to be in the $100-200 range depending on where you go.
These islands are renowned for their beaches and relaxed atmosphere. Have a surf, do some SOTA. In addition, the islands are part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which also counts for WWFF purposes.
Japan has many golf courses – the prefecture of Hyogo is renowned for the sheer quantity they built in the mid-80s. Quite a few went out of business during the lost decade, but golf remains a popular pastime, even if it seems to be concentrated in the wealthier classes. The 150m prominence rule in SOTA doesn’t take into account things like “is it a named mountain?” and as a consequence, there’s a few summits that are actually located on golf courses.
In Chiba prefecture (near Tokyo), JA/CH-007 is a 1 pointer located in between two golf courses. In Hyogo, Yokawa Royal Golf Course is located near Kobe, has a number of courses, of which JA/HY-157 near the sixth hole of the Yokawa course is the high point. There are a few other examples.
Of course, golf courses are private land, so approval must be sought before activating, and remember that it is common courtesy to call players through for a lost ball and for an EU pileup. Final approach to the summits, in accordance with SOTA General Rules, must be via a 9 iron.
This particular mountain caught my eye because it has a cable car to the top. This is not unusual to find Ropeways and the like, but they don’t always go right to the top. For 8 points, this might be a worthwhile trip.
Located in the Biwako Valley Ski Resort, Houraisan looks like it will give tremendous views over Lake Biwa. It is about 40km from Kyoto, and worth 8 points.
A trip to Hiroshima will expose you to many SOTA summits, but one of the easiest to access, and part of the tourist route, is Misen on Miyajima. Miyajima is renowned for its large Torii – a gate that sits in the water during high tide. Behind the shrines, though, is a ropeway to about halfway up Misen, and then a shortish 30 minute walk to the summit proper.
I climbed this one myself on a day trip to Hiroshima – the Peace Park in the morning, have lunch, grab a speedboat out to the island and climb away. At the top there is a lookout tower and plenty of space to set up antennas. The views over the Seto Inland Sea are spectacular.
Although I’ve not been to them myself, there are two other summits behind Misen. They should be easy to get to with trails to the top.
For the masochistic, it is possible to “do” (but not with justice) Hiroshima in a day from Tokyo. I flew out at 6am from Haneda in Tokyo, bus from Hiroshima Airport to the city centre, 4 hours at the peace park and walking around the city centre, lunch, speedboat to Miyajima, ropeway, walk to the summit, followed by a rapid descent on foot down to the ferry terminal, ferry to Hiroshima, local train to centre, bus to airport, and then last flight out to Tokyo. For added modes of transport, take the monorail to Hamamatsucho and then dinner at a sushi restaurant in Shinagawa.
Shikoku 88 trail
Crossing into Shikoku, we have a new association (JA5) and the opportunity for a longer distance SOTA trek. There is a pilgrimage to 88 shrines across Shikoku, many of which count for SOTA purposes.
SOTA has simple prominence rules – 150m. That means that sometimes you get some quirks. One of those, for the JA6 association is JA6/OK-012. This summit is located at the high point of the disputed Senkaku Islands/Daioyu Islands. These islands are subject to a dispute between China, Taiwan and Japan. SOTA Japan (and the MT) take no position on the relative merits of each nation’s claim; the islands are under de facto Japanese control, and as such have been included in the Japanese association.
If by some strange reason you feel you have to activate this island, it is necessary for you to obtain permission from all interested parties before attempting to activate. It is highly unlikely that you will obtain this, therefore it is unlikely you could activate these islands for SOTA purposes. Generally not a good idea.
Enjoy Japan – it’s been fun getting them to the point of being able to be included in SOTA. I look forward to many Japanese chasers and activators taking SOTA by storm in the future.