Answers to Karsten DL8YBK as for the ham radio activity in Japan

Karsten DL8YBK asked me how the amateur radio was doing as for the activity/number of operators. In his image, Japan has many more hams per certain general population. Since the number of hams in Germany is dropping now, it would be of interests to them how japanese ham radio is maintaining its activity.

I answered him that the numbers of ham radio operators is still rapidly decreasing in Japan as well. The reason could be multiple.

One is that there are less young people interested in this hobby. They are mainly doing with the internet. This should be the same as in Germany.

The 2nd point is that the licensing system is too complicated and too costly in Japan. As explained below, there are two kinds of licences necessary to operate radio here, the operator licence and the station licence. Oddly enough, we should apply for the guarantee of each equipment to a private company. The private company named TSS is believed to guarantee the legal validity of each equipment. This guarantee process is done only on a paper basis. They require certain cost for each guarantee. I believe such a rigid and bureaucratic licence process won't promote ham radio but suppress its activity. There must be a few more points to discuss about but should not be the major reasons. 

He has answered to me that there were still 3,000,000 hams in Japan. He wonders what they are doing in ham radio. In his opinion, such an activity holding that great number of hams in Japan could be a role model for Germany.

The following is my answer to him. I quoted the accurate number of each category. The conclusion is not very optimistic.

quote my answer to him;


You should be careful about the difference of the numbers between the operator licensee and the station licensee.

The operator licensees in 2011:
1st class  26683
2nd        75229
3rd       195122
4th      3002920
total    3299954

There should be those who hold multiple licenses. Actually, I have all the class licenses by myself. The operators licence is valid throughout our lives. So this number is only an accumulation of each class from the past.

The station licensee in 2011:

This license is only valid for 5 years. So this figure might mean how many hams have their set ups irrespective of their activities. This number is told to have been decreasing as well. It's almost half of the max numbers in 1990s at present.

The JARL members in 2013;

No classification according to the operator classes. Maybe, roughly proportional to the numbers of the operator licensees. There are the 3rd or the 4th class operators active on HF. But most of DXers must hold the higher classes. But again no definite data.

From next year, owing to the bad finance of JARL, it will impose the life members membership fee. It is against the contract. So there must be a portion of the current members dropping off from the roll.

I hope Germany won't follow us as for the activity/number of hams.



  1. Shin,
    That is very interesting information. I agree that the focus should be on station licenses. Gaming and the internet, in my opinion, are the reasons for fewer young people interested in ham radio. While the youth groups are important, the demographics point to an older group, especially those retiring with discretionary time and money.

    73, Dennis W0JX

  2. Dennis,

    You are right that the current activity of ham radio depends on the retiree generation. That may be why Kenwood trys to sell TS990 while Icom does with IC7800. Such marketting won't go on for long time.

    If we are concerned about the sustainability or even the development of ham radio, we should recruit young people. So far, it is not very successful as you know. I could emphasize that those young people should be interested in something essential and true, not anything just intriguing and for fun. We are asked about how we enjoy it.


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    1. Hi Steve,

      I have read your comment. I appreciated it. We sure belong to the same generation and share the same feeling to our hobby.

      I am starting a sked with a ham, newcomer in CW. Even though he is not very young, such activity might enhance CW activity.

      In the world where such as CW is a kind of our of fashion, why do we adhere to this hobby? A nostalgia for old days? Sometimes, I seriously wonder.

  4. Oh I shud have known u read it, pulled it thinking it mite have been silly.

    Like wise I have been working with a oldcomer in CW. We are the only ones left to help new or old comers that might enhance CW activity.

    Nostalgia of old days is certainly one reason I continue. But as time goes by it has become so difficult to find people of like interests which can discourage me at times. It seems to me even many of the old timers have lost interest as I hear fewer of them on these days.

    In my afternoons I often turn my antenna to Asia then Eastern US only to find silence on 10-20m. Seems so many are using keyboard and code readers which can never replace a finely tuned key that has character. Then so many contacts are 5NN TU.

    Lately because of the constant 5NN TU, I will call CQ QSO / QSK pse NO 5NN TU. Have I become old stubborn and senile.

    161, Steve N6TT QRV

  5. Hi Shin,
    do you have an update for me on the numbers? Thanks!
    73, Karsten