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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, July 19, 2009

Early Wireless Stations in Japan

The usage of wireless telegraphy came quite early to the Asian nation of Japan, and the earliest listings show two experimental stations were established by the navy in the year 1902; in Tokyo and in Yokohama. A subsequent listing shows that another experimental station was in usage in Nagasaki in the year 1906. This station is shown as active at that time, and apparently it was a forerunner for a larger and more permanent station at the same location.

These same listings of early Japanese wireless stations show that two stations were in active use with maritime communications during the year 1908, and these were located at Nagasaki and Choshi. The Choshi station was on the air with the still familiar callsign JCS. In an ambitious move, a total of a dozen more wireless stations were in the planning stages in that same year, 1908.

Our lists show a total of eight wireless stations in use in the year 1913. All of these stations were identified in Morse Code with familiar "J" callsigns, such as JOS at Osezaki and JTS at Tsunoshima, as well as the previously mentioned JCS at Choshi.

During the year 1914, radio interests in the United States established two very large wireless stations for communication across the Pacific. These twin stations were located near San Francisco in California and Kahuku in Hawaii, and it was the intent that they would subsequently hook up with a large new station still under construction near Yokohama in Japan.

Just a year later, on July 27, 1915, the new high powered wireless station located at Funabashi, near to both Yokohama and Tokyo, was officially opened with service to the United States via Kahuku in Hawaii. Two months later again, the transmission of wireless messages from Japan was extended to many additional countries via communication links with wireless stations located in eastern Siberia.

Formal government usage of the new wireless communication system linking the United States and Asia was recognized when official messages were exchanged between the Mikado in Japan and President Woodrow Wilson in the United States on November 5, 1916.

However, the usage of this new Trans-Pacific Wireless Service was interrupted for a couple of years due to international events in Europe, and it was re-opened again on December 19, 1918. As time went by, the Tokyo station, located at Shiba, was on the air under the callsign JSDA.

It was in the year 1922 that experimental telephony in Japan began, with the use of the newly developed radio valves or tubes. Initially, these experiments were carried out on high frequencies, that is shortwave, though coverage was achieved only over short distances.

During the following year, 1923, the Japanese company, Mussui, established a high powered wireless station near Peking, or Beijing, as we know it today. Communication was successfully achieved between Peking and another high powered wireless station located at Bordeaux in France.

At this stage, we could ask the question: What form of Morse Code was used by the operators of these early Japanese wireless stations? By the time wireless stations were established, Morse Code was three quarters of a century old. The original telegraph code was developed by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail sometime before 1840, and when wireless stations were established, the spark transmitters talked to each other in Morse Code. That is, if they were talking in English.

As the needs arose, various modifications were made to the standard Morse Code in different parts of the world to accommodate language variations, in for example, the German language, and also in Spanish and Russian. However, because the Japanese language is written very differently as a pictographic language, then it became necessary to develop a system of Morse Code that could be understood in the Japanese language. This has indeed become quite complicated.

For international communication between Japan and other countries, it is understood that Morse Code in the English language was in general use. Then for maritime communication with international shipping, much of the Morse Code communication was conducted using standard maritime codes.

However, at this stage, four major factors began to bring about significant changes in electronic communication in Japan. These events were:

1. The development and availability of radio tubes/valves

2. The usage of high frequencies, or shortwave, for international communication

3. The introduction of radio program broadcasting in many countries, including Japan

4. Valve transmitters permitted the transmission of speech

Because of these factors, many longwave wireless stations in Japan were either transferred into valve operation, or were eliminated as no longer necessary.

And thus ended the nearly twenty years of wireless telegraphic communication in Japan, using their form of the international Morse Code.