In October of 2014, we held a meeting in Ebisu Garden Place to kick of Japan SOTA. That led to the formation of 4 Japanese SOTA Associations, and also coincided unfortunately with a shift in my work focus away from Japan. Thus, I surveyed around 5,500 summits for Japan, but had yet to have activated any of them! This situation could not remain for long, and with a work trip to Korea on the horizon, a cheaper routing through Tokyo was found that also enabled some SOTA activating.
My plan was to get as many of the JA SOTA associations as possible, but it soon became apparent that I was only practically going to get to 2 of them, and the decision came down to the *how* and careful avoidance of the *why*! I found two candidates in JA5 (Shikoku) and JA6 (Kyushu/Okinawa), and ended up settling on the JA6 summit, an unactivated 1 pointer near Fukuoka, listed as JA6/FO-042, named Oogusukuyama.
At a mere 410m, this was no Everest, but it had a few things going for it: it was about as close to a drive up as you can get in Japan (a few hundred metres walk), and only 15km from the airport. In addition, flights from Tokyo to Fukuoka left much earlier than to Shikoku, allowing time to fly to Fukuoka and back in a day, and still to get an opportunity to stroll around Tokyo and maybe catch up for dinner with Toru and the other SOTA folks. I booked flights and a car, and a hotel near Narita airport.
The flight into Narita was via a 787 Dreamliner, my first experience on such a craft. I must admit, I was impressed: the windows are massive, and if you aren’t paying attention can sometimes make it feel like you’re simply floating outside. We flew via Cairns and over the Reef, which is another thing I’ve never seen, usually being in darkness or my preferred Aisle seat (extra leg room, and I control access to the toilets…)
After arriving at the hotel via shuttle bus, I discovered that the shuttle bus wasn’t really that convenient for my schedule the next day, so I grabbed a taxi to the airport about 4:45 in the morning and checked in for the 6:05am flight to Fukuoka. The flight was uneventful, and I landed at Fukuoka around 8am, and grabbed my hire car.
That was a little more eventful: their English was about as good as my Japanese, but we worked it out in the end. Of note is that you must have an International Driving Permit to hire a car in Japan, unlike, for example, NZ or the US. They even kindly switched the GPS unit to English.
Oogusukuyama is about 15km away, or a 40 minute drive in weekday Fukuoka traffic, and I parked here.
The path up goes from the left over the road, and is marked with a sign that says センター (centre). The climb up is steepish, but not long. In total, it took me about 10 minutes from the car to reach the plateau tracks, and from there, it is a simple walk
Once you reach the top, you will see a red Torii (gate), and the summit is off to the right of that, past a shrine. There is a summit marker, trig point and ring of stones around the summit point.
I set up using the 4m squid pole, which seemed to have survived the trip in a slightly worse state than anticipated, attached to the summit marker. I used a linked dipole for 15m (and 20m), and the FT-857. Power out was set around 40W on 15m (due to slight SWR mismatch) and about 50W out on 20m.
I started on 15m, and called CQ. I was able to self spot, as there was some coverage at the top of the summit, although not always reliable. At no point was I picked up by the RBN network, however. This was due to two factors: one, not sending my callsign multiple times on CQ, and two, my callsign being basically unintelligible due to my hamfistedness.
First in the log was JA1VRY, but it took forever to get the callsign right. Rapid QSB would take the signal from 559 to nothing and back. I eventually was able to get the callsign right, and we exchanged reports, and with it, JA6 become an activated association for me – number 16. VRYさん, thank you for your efforts and persistence.
After getting no further response to my CQs on 15m, and seeing that the VKs listening to me were not hearing me, I switched to 20m, where JA1VRY was again first in the log, 599 both ways. Much easier copy! After a little bit longer calling CQ, I indicated I was going to QSY back to 15m, but Nobi JA1JCF jumped in quickly for the contact. Nobi has a big claim to the success of SOTA Japan, as he introduced me to Toru JH0CJH the JA association manager, and once Toru was on board, we were able to begin the process of bringing Japan into SOTA properly. It was great to make contact, and later that evening, share a beer and conversation.
Back on 15m, with three QSOs in the bag, I sat calling CQ for 15 minutes before JA6JYN made it into the log to allow me to claim the solitary point on offer. The day was rounded out by Rick VK4RF/VK4HA and John ZL1BYZ. I had to clarify for the JA SOTA folks later in the evening that Rick does actually have two callsigns. They were suspicious as VK4HA always calls in right after VK4RF 🙂
15 minutes of calling CQ to nothing allows you a chance to look around, and the amount of insect life on offer was astounding. I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes and other blood sucking insects, but my personal arachnophobia was triggered by a largish spider that was moving very quickly about the place. Sometimes going south, sometimes back into the ring of stones. Always scary.
I had set an alarm up to make sure I didn’t miss my exit time, and I packed up when it went off and headed back down the mountain, 5-7 minutes to the car, or thereabouts.
The drive back to the hire car place was punctuated only by the tension of whether I would make it back before the needle on the fuel gauge moved and I’d have to fill up. I just made it. I’d say around 2 litres of fuel used over 30 km in city driving for the most part, or aggressive mountain driving on the other hand.
I got into Fukuoka Airport, checked in, dropped my bags, and grabbed some ramen – breakfast being a tasty but unfortunate small tube of Pringles. My flight was then delayed by 40 minutes or so. The boarding process in Japan for these flights was interesting: seats A and F first (windows), then B and E (middles) and finally C and D for the aisles. Don’t try to board out of order: you will be denied! All to improve flow of passengers onto the aeroplane.
After arriving back in Tokyo, a taxi to the hotel meant I could drop my bag and head into Akihabara for my next adventure.