More amateur ham radio operators are reaching out across the airwaves in Japan, possibly due to past enthusiasts returning to the hobby amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While ham radios have practical uses like gathering information in times of disasters as witnessed in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, why are they getting attention as a pastime now?
The membership of the Japan Amateur Radio League had been falling steadily as mobile phones and the internet sapped ham radios’ appeal. But at the end of fiscal 2020 it saw a year-on-year rise of 574 members for a total of 65,788, the first increase in 27 years. The membership had grown further by the end of fiscal 2021. A league representative said of the trend, “One cause may be that the generation that was familiar with ham radios in their youth have retired and gone back to them.”
Sales at Ham Shop Friends, which sells amateur radio equipment in the suburban Tokyo city of Hamura, have also grown due to apparent demand from people stuck at home during the pandemic. Manager Katsuhisa Akiyoshi, 71, said it was “because ham radio enthusiasts can be connected even when they can’t go out.”