A Trip to Tokyo’s Electric Town Akihabara

I have always wanted to visit Japan and decided to visit Tokyo and Mount Fuji last year. The Akihabara district had always been a magical place (like the Dayton Hamfest) to me and I looked forward to visiting this area first hand. Naturally, scanning on vacations can be a fun and a worthwhile effort.

Akihabara Radio Center, ‘electric town’ or Akiba got its start after WWII. Many tiny retailers sold radio and electronic parts under the Sobu train line tracks and it is a business that is still vibrant today. It is also known for its Maid Cafes and Otaku (anime and manga characters) stores. Hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one man stalls specializing in particular electronic components to large electronics and camera retailers can be found in a few square blocks. These shops line the main Chuo Dori street and the crowded side streets around Akihabara. A few chain stores such as Sofmap and Laox each operate multiple specialized branches along the main roads, while small independent shops can be found in the side streets. The only mega sized camera store is the Yodobashi Camera complex on the east side of the train station. This area is very busy during lunch hours while salary men go shopping, students attracted to game and animation and weekends.

The radio sellers offer brands not found outside of Japan. Brands like Comet, Create, Radix, AOR Japan and independents. They also had the new Yaesu VR-160 scanning radio, JIM M-75 preamp, Alinco DJ- X81, Jupiter MVT-7500, 5500 and HR-500 scanners, Icom as well which are the R6 and R20 radios. There seems to be a R30 rumour which will include D-Star. There are some cost savings over the USA prices but there is no Uniden or Bearcat radios to be found. JARL, The Japan Amateur Radio League, Inc. has their ham fair the third weekend in August.

Yaesu VR-160  HR-500  AOR AR-8600 Mk2

AR-Mini  Yupiteru MVT-7500

$10000 yen Alinco radios

There are two popular ham radio stores and several not so well known stores to purchase your gear from. Inside the Radio Department Store you will find 4 or 5 resellers and it is here where I saved a few bucks in buying my Comet CSC-140J and Diamond SR789 antenna. I also got 30 feet of RG-174 for less than $10 and several connectors and adapters.

CSC-140J Suction cup antenna flexi mount with SMA connector

The Diamond SRH789 is an omnidirectional telescoping antenna for 95 MHz to 1100 MHz. It acts as 1/4 wave from 95-300 MHz and a 5/8 wave from 300 to 1100 MHz. It can be used for transmit up to 10 watts. This black, six section antenna is 7.9 inches retracted and 31.7 inches fully extended. Gain is 2.15 dBi from 95-300 MHz and 3.2 dBi from 300-1100 MHz $26 or 2600 yen

Many of the regular electronics stalls and stores have bins full of deals and one can just wander around and look to see what is of interest to you and I got some excellent headphones for the kids.

Japanese electronics uses 100v 50Hz but most electronics is compatible with our 120v 60Hz standard. Worst case is that the wall wart power supply can be replaced once home.

Rocket Radio

http://www.rocket-co.jp/ham/08_map2.html

This is considered the largest amateur radio store in Akihabara. They stock HF, VHF equipment, antennas, mounts, rotators, CB, telegraphs, and many types of free band walkie-talkies. They also offer CQ Ham Radio and Radio Life which the Japanese version of QST. They only have 1 floor.

Fuji-Musen

http://www.fujimusen.com/shop/akiba.html 

101-0021, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 1-11-2 Soto-Kanda Kitabayashi building

This is a two story store that is also well stocked and also has a used section on the second floor. They are located at street level and easily found as the retro gaming store called Super Potato is on the 3rd floor. Every Maid on the street handing out flyers knows where it is.

Akihabara Tokyo Radio Department store

http://www.tokyoradiodepart.co.jp/

How to get there:

I strongly recommend a small compass to figure out where North is to line up your map if you find the data plans for your smartphone to be too expensive. I found out the hard way how complicated their address system is and relied on paper maps and a compass to get around. My Garmin GPS does not have any street mapping information for Tokyo but a Tablet or Smartphone with Wi-Fi will suffice as you can get free Wi-Fi practically everywhere including Starbucks. Enjoy a coffee and sort out directions from there. I basically used the tall buildings as markers and asked the locals where the KFC is as its central to where we want to go. On the way there you will pass the Radio Center as well. The trick is to leave the station at the west side Electric Town exit and then it’s a short walk to our destination. I made the mistake of using the wrong exit and was on the wrong side of the station and ended up walking in circles until I found a Starbucks to get Wi-Fi to figure it out.

Akihabara Station is a busy station served by the JR Yamanote LineJR Keihin-Tohoku LineJR Sobu Line, the Tsukuba Express and the Hibiya Subway Line. Suehirocho Station on the Ginza Subway Line is located around the northern end of the district.

From Tokyo Station
Akihabara is two stations north of Tokyo Station by JR Yamanote or Keihin-Tohoku Line. The trip takes about three minutes and costs 140 yen. During weekday daytime, the Keihin-Tohoku Line skips the station between Tokyo and Akihabara, which shaves off a few more seconds from the travel time.

From Shinjuku Station
Take the JR Chuo Line (orange colored rapid service) from Shinjuku to Ochanomizu Station (10 minutes) and make a quick and easy transfer to the JR Sobu Line (yellow colored local service) for one more station to Akihabara (2 minutes). Alternatively, take a yellow colored train without transfer all the way from Shinjuku to Akihabara (17 minutes). The one way fare is 170 yen in either case.

Scanning Strategy

I brought my Icom R20 scanner with a length of 20 feet and a telescoping whip antenna. My Uniden with the Close Call function was forgotten and left behind and proved to be a critical error. This would have been extremely useful as it would have allowed me to find what frequency the local kaban (police department), traffic cop, or even taxi cab was using. I did get a copy of Radio Life which is the scanner publication but it was in Japanese with some English and it did have some frequency assignments for manual monitoring. I was able to receive many transmissions with no idea of what they were. The Taxi Cab dispatch made sense and of course the air band monitoring was in English. I also packed my ham radio license in case TSA or Japanese security had an issue with the scanner. The band assignments are different than ours. If I had more free time I would have also included some Optoelectronics equipment and band specific antennas.

I found out on the airplane ride home while reading Radio Life that there are two scanner frequency apps at

bit.ly/frq2013_appstore for IOS and bit.ly/frq-online that could prove to be very useful.

Public Safety in Tokyo

Close call would have been useful to try to find out what frequencies were in use. The band layouts are different and the 300Mhz range is popular so you will need a scanner to cover this range. It would be useful to have a search bank for that range as well. I really regret forgetting my Uniden scanner.

Band Plans decoded from Radio Life DX2 magazine

 

Helicopter Rescue

 

398.925, 382.925, 399.650, 383.650, 123.450, 129.750, 131.150, 131.875, 131.925, 131.975, 131.875, 131.925, 131.975, 135.950

Disaster

55.00-70.00 MHz band, 457.00 to 459.00 and 410-412 MHz are good search ranges

Media

 

70-75 MHz and 153.89 MHz

Marine

Regular marine band with CH16 156.800, 26.760 to 27.92 MHz, 39.144 MHz

Trains

414.550 and 414.4250 MHz, 148.09, 150.97, 151.61, 152.49, 153.39, 157.69, 157.97 and 158.07

Taxi

451.4125 and 459.4125 note the 8 MHz split

Sports

 

154.45 – 154.61 20 kHz step, 465.0375 to 465.150, 468.55 to 468.850 and 348.5625 to 348.8 12.5 kHz step

Narita Airport

A and B Runway                                                               ANA Pokemon Plane

APP: 124.4 MHz (TOKYO APP)

ATIS: 128.25 MHz

CLD: 121.9 MHz (CLNC DEL)

CLR: 121.65 MHz (CLNC DEL)

DEP: 124.2 MHz (TOKYO DEP)

GND: 121.85 MHz

GND: 121.95 MHz

RDR: 120.2 MHz (TOKYO RDR)

RMP: 121.6 MHz (RAMP)

RMP: 121.75 MHz (RAMP)

TCA: 119.45 MHz (TOKYO TCA)

TWR: 118.2 MHz

TWR: 118.35 MHz

Ham Radio Bandplan: 

http://www.jarl.or.jp/English/6_Band_Plan/JapaneseAmateurBandplans20090330.pdf

144-146 MHz 2m

430-440 MHz 70cm

1260 -1300 1.2 GHz

TIARA

The Tokyo International Amateur Radio Association (TIARA) holds monthly meetings in English and has many expat members.

JR1YPM                       1291.92- MHz (88.5Hz), Meguro-ku, Tokyo

IRLP                             Typically connected to Reflector 9202

WIRES                         Room 0522

Echolink                        Connect to 7J1YAA-L (811259) or 7J1AJH-L (979606)

JR1YPM                       1291.92- MHz (88.5Hz), Meguro-ku, Tokyo

JR1VI                             434.980in/439.980out and 1297.980in/1292.980out, 77Hz subaudible tone.

I actually chatted with a few hams on the IRLP link using my iPad ahead of time and was able to monitor some of their transmissions. Most activity is on weekends

CB Radio

They are limited to ½ watt

  • 26.968/ Ch1
  • 26.976/ Ch2
  • 27.040/ Ch3
  • 27.080/ Ch4
  • 27.088/ Ch5
  • 27.112/ Ch6
  • 27.120/ Ch7
  • 27.144/ Ch8

Personal Radio

There is a fair amount of personal radio use in the 903 to 904 MHz and 420-421 MHz bands with several manufacturers making radios.

Airport Layover Frequencies

Since I had some layover time I planned to monitor some local activity in between flights. Again a Close Call type scanner would have been super useful as well as having P25.

SFO Airport

BATFE

165.2875 MHz

TSA

162.2750, 131.8 PL

172.9000, 123.0 PL

172.9000, N001 – Wide area repeater serving San Francisco and Oakland airports

LAX Airport

128.5 MHz

Harbor sector. Covers everything north/northeast of Santa Monica Pier. All 24L/R arrivals are handled by this sector.

124.9 MHz

Downey sector. Covers everything east coming in on the arrival stream. All 25L/R frequencies are handled by this sector.

124.5: MHz

Covers arrivals from the west and this is a Feeder sector.

124.3 MHz

Handles those arrivals for smaller plans such as turboprops using 24L and 24R

119.800 LAX Heliport for Helicopters

DHS

169.550 MHz 100 PL Customs Inspectors

TSA

166.7875 MHz 131.8 PL Icom Low Power radios common

162.2750, N001 – Tom Bradley Int’l Terminal
166.2875, N001
166.7875, 123.0 PL – Terminal 3
166.7875, 131.8 PL – Terminal 2

168.0875, N001
168.8375, N003
168.9625, N001

168.9625, N002 – Scanner operators

169.1625, N001
169.2625, N001 – Terminal 7
169.3000, N001

172.1500, 131.8 PL – Terminal 7
172.1500, N001
172.9000, N001

FBI
163.8625, N167
163.9375, N167
167.2875, N167 – LA A-1
167.3125, N167 – LA B-7
167.3375, N167
167.3875, N358
167.4125, N167
167.4250, N167 – JOIP with CBP
167.4375, N167
167.4625, N167 – LA A-5
167.5125, N238
167.5375, N167 – LA D-5
167.5375, N293
167.5625, 167.9 – Yes, still heard being used in analog.
167.6375, N167
167.6625, N167 – LA F-7 Anaheim
167.7125, N356
167.7375, N167 – LA A-3
167.7625, N242
167.7875, N364
168.0000, N167
169.9500, N167
170.0250, N167
173.1250, N167
173.1750, N167
173.8125, N167
408.4000, N167 – Links to VHF channels
412.6500, N167 – Links to VHF channels

BATFE

165.2875 MHz

I was able to spot the Icom F50V radios that TSA now uses at LAX.  They are 136-174MHz (5W output RF) with vibration alert functionality and paging alerts or what they call “whisper quiet”. These are analog radios and also offer voice inversion capability.

Goodyear Blimp

I spotted the blimp overhead once in the rental car and ended up at Manhattan Beach near LAX. Not much comms except for some  location information as it made turns off the beach into the city and back. Last time I saw the blimp was over 15 years ago in Toronto (and last year in Torrance, Ca) so this was a nice surprise. The Coast Guard helo swept up and down the coast a few times and I didn’t have that frequency on my list.

456.8 M 151.4 PL was heard on my trip

Ch. 1 – 451.800    All channels are @ PL 151.4

Ch. 2 – 451.8125

Ch. 3 – 456.800

Ch. 4 – 456.8125

Ch. 5 – 464.500

Ch. 6 – 464.550

Ch. 7 – 469.500

Ch. 8 – 469.550

It is noted that they use an Icom F40LT handheld

CHECK OUT the local Scanner Clubs

http://socalscanner.com/ for listening ideas and their newsletter to read on your tablet

http://www.scansf.com/

Los Angeles Fire Department

860.93750       85.4 PL            LAFD 1  Operations Division 1 (Central/East/West) FM

859.93750       88.5 PL            LAFD 2  Operations Division 2 (South/Harbor) FM

858.93750       91.5 PL            LAFD 3  Operations Division 3 (San Fernando Valley) FM

857.93750       94.8 PL            LAFD 4  Dispatch – EMS (South of Mulholland) FM

856.93750       97.4 PL            LAFD 5  Alternate Control – Brush / River Rescue Incidents FM

858.23750       131.8 PL          LAFD 6  EMERGENCY/TRIGGER FM

859.43750       192.8 PL          LAF7      Dispatch – Fire (South of Mulholland) FM

858.43750       103.5 PL          LAFD8   Dispatch – Fire/EMS (North of Mulholland) FM

857.23750       107.2 PL          LAFD9   Alternate Control – Structure Fire Incidents FM

856.23750       123.0 PL          LAFD10 Operations – EMS (Citywide) FM

860.76250       127.3 PL          LAFD11 Command FM

860.43750       186.2 PL          LAFD 12 Tactical

857.43750       141.3 PL          LAFD 13 Tactical

856.43750       146.2 PL          LAFD 14 Tactical

859.76250       162.2 PL          LAFD 15 Tactical

858.76250       162.2 PL          LAFD 16 Tactical

857.76250       167.9 PL          LAFD 17 Tactical

856.76250       173.8 PL          LAFD 18 Tactical

769.05625       156.7 PL          LAFD 19TA Tactical

769.06875       156.7 PL          LAFD 20TA Tactical

774.99375       156.7 PL          LAFD 21TA Tactical

CHP – California Highway Patrol

Los Angeles Communications Center CHP

You will need a P25 capable scanner for best monitoring. Note the different NAC addresses

44.94000 KRB411 RM 186.2 PL BLK2 SOU BLACK 2 – Central Los Angeles (15) FM
769.44375 RM DB3 NAC BLK2 EXT P Extender – BLACK 2 – Primary P25
769.93125 RM DBA NAC BLK2 EXT A Extender – BLACK 2 – Alternate P25
44.74000 KJP457 RM 186.2 PL BRN2 SOU BROWN 2 – Altadena (98) FM
769.43125 RM DB2 NAC BRN2 EXT P Extender – BROWN 2 – Primary P25
769.91875 RM DB9 NAC BRN2 EXT A Extender – BROWN 2 – Alternate P25
39.40000 KTN273 RM 186.2 PL GLD2 SOU GOLD 2 – Santa Fe Springs (83) FM
769.68125 RM DB6 NAC GLD2 EXT P Extender – GOLD 2 – Primary P25
769.19375 RM DAF NAC GLD2 EXT A Extender – GOLD 2 – Alternate P25
45.02000 KCQ240 RM 192.8 PL ORG2 SOU ORANGE 2 – Baldwin Park (81) FM
769.66875 RM DB5 NAC ORG2 EXT P Extender – ORANGE 2 – Primary P25
769.94375 RM DBB NAC ORG2 EXT A Extender – ORANGE 2 – Alternate P25
44.62000 KMB443 RM 186.2 PL PNK2 SOU PINK 2 – West Los Angeles (79) FM
769.18125 RM DAE NAC PNK2 EXT P Extender – PINK 2 – Primary P25
769.69375 RM DB7 NAC PNK2 EXT A Extender – PINK 2 – Alternate P25
45.70000 KMH277 RM 136.5 PL TAN2 SOU TAN 2 – Newhall (78) / Antelope Valley (89) FM
769.16875 RM DAD NAC TAN2 EXT P Extender – TAN 2 – Primary P25
769.71875 RM DB8 NAC TAN2 EXT A Extender – TAN 2 – Alternate P25
45.52000 WPAE678 RM 186.2 PL TEA2 SOU TEAL 2 – West Valley (56) FM
769.19375 RM DAF NAC TEA2 EXT P Extender – TEAL 2 – Primary P25
769.68125 RM DB6 NAC TEA2 EXT A Extender – TEAL 2 – Alternate P25
39.22000 KMA801 RM 192.8 PL WHT2 SOU WHITE 2 – South Los Angeles (77) FM
769.41875 RM DB1 NAC WHT2 EXT P Extender – WHITE 2 – Primary P25
769.71875 RM DB8 NAC WHT2 EXT A Extender – WHITE 2 – Alternate P25
45.50000 WQA721 RM 192.8 PL YEL2 SOU YELLOW 2 – East Los Angeles (82) FM
769.46875 RM DB4 NAC YEL2 EXT P Extender – YELLOW 2 – Primary P25
769.96875 RM DBC NAC YEL2 EXT A Extender – YELLOW 2 – Alternate P25
 

I had an incredible time in Tokyo and the Hakone area and great fun scanning. I also enjoyed doing the research ahead of time (which due to the language issue was really hard) but the principles are the same: choose a city, research and set up scanners in advance, and enjoy while on your trip.

Cheers

John

Photos:

DSC_6233 DSC_6371 DSC_6372 DSC_6373 DSC_6374 DSC_6375 DSC_6376 DSC_6545

 

Hai Hai Diamond Hai    then you just point to what you want!DSC_6546 DSC_6547

She was looking for the Yaesu VR-160 scanning receiver   Yaki was her name

DSC_6548 DSC_6549 DSC_6550 DSC_6555 DSC_6556 DSC_6563

 

DSC_6566Free Wi-Fi at the Maid cafes

Super Potato  Gamers mecca

DSC_6573 DSC_6574 DSC_6668 DSC_6937 DSC_6941 DSC_7012 DSC_7062 DSC_7100DSC_7161

 

 

 

 

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