Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Famous Zoro is Silent Key

I am saddened to read of the sad demise of Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan. May he rest in peace - I offer my condolences to his family and pray that they have the strength to bear the loss of a man who was a trailblazer in the strictest sense of the word.

The following KUELSEL report presents only one part of his engagement with Bhutan. What few Bhutanese are unaware of is the other side of him – that which binds him to Bhutan forever.
Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan, Mr. Jim Smith of Australia and Dr. Glenn Johnson of the US have their places in the modern history of Bhutan – particularly in the wireless communications area. Three of them helped Bhutan get back on the amateur radio airwaves – after being silent for decades as of early 70’s.

After close to 30 years of being inactive, Mr. Jim Smith of Australia convinced late Dasho Thuji Yonten, erstwhile Director of Wireless, to come back on the ham radio airwaves – Dasho Yonten went live on 27th of April, 2000. It was a world event – reported by DX News Network, on 29th April, 2000, as follows:

“The second happy news is that Yonten, A51TY has been back on the air since 27 April at 12.01 UTC. He made his first CW (with RW0JR) and SSB (with VK9NL) QSOs on 20 metres”.

Dr. Glenn Johson, an American Orthopedic surgeon and my friend conducted the first ITU certified/designated Ham Radio training course for 7 Bhutanese operators – of which I was one. Upon passing the exams at the end of one-month course I was issued my CallSign A51AA. In recognition of his service to Bhutan, Dr. Glenn Johnson is one among two none-nationals to be issued a CallSign with a national prefix: A51B - for life.

Mr. Yasuo Miyazawa of Japan contributed close to US$100,000.00 in cash and equipment that helped restart ham radio activity in Bhutan. Four Bhutanese (I was one among them) were invited to visit Mr. Miyazawa at his home in Japan – to receive the donation.

Me posing in front of Tokyo Hyatt Regency when I went to Japan to receive the donations from Zoro

He is the other person who has the distinction of being issued a CallSign with national prefix – A51. He was issued the unique CallSign A51A that he was free to use for life – anytime he wished to operate from within Bhutan.

I am given to understand that Mr. Miyazawa maintained a Ham Shack at the Royal Thimphu College from where he operated whenever he was in Bhutan.

Mr. Miyazawa is famous around the world particularly in the global ham radio circle where he is affectionately known as “ZORO” - a fictional Japanese character in One Piece franchise created by Eiichiro Oda. Zoro is depicted as an expert of Santoryu (Three Sword Style).

I cannot be certain but I think Mr. Miyazawa was nicknamed “Zoro” for his dare-devilry.

I am not sure how far it is true – but rumor has it that Zoro had to go underground for close to ten years - after he was caught donating almost a shipload of merchandize – free to the North Korean regime. The reason for his donation to the “forbidden land”? – the permission to operate ham radio from that country where it was banned and not a single radio amateur in the world had a QSO from that country – until Zoro started to send out signals from that country, upon gaining permission to operate from North Korea, made possible by his massive donation.

Because he was underground I had a huge problem trying to locate him. But I finally did – through his Personal Secretary – whose contact details were provided to me by one of his staff working at his Research Center in the North Pole.

He was a generous man. A Japanese guest attending the dinner that Mr. Zoro had hosted in our honor, was shocked that he served bucketful of Matsutake Mushrooms (Sangey Shamu) during the dinner. The person informed me that the mushroom was so expensive that most Japanese could not afford to eat them. Should they received one as a New Year Gift – they passed it on to another family as their gift and it went on like that from family to family.

Talking of ham radio, I have been trying to promote its use in Bhutan. I tried with the Disaster Management people – no go. I tried with the DeSuung organization – the suggestion is still in a state of limbo. But ham radio is the only communications method that will be standing – when every other form of communications go down, including electricity. You can operate/broadcast it from atop the Mt. Everest or from the middle of the boundless ocean.

Supposedly this was the Ham Radio Shack - called a QTH in ham parlance - from where Bhutan started to broadcast ham radio signals - as early as 1955 - first by N. Chawna and then by S. Saja and by the American Gus Browning and finally by Dasho Thuji Yonten in 1972, including by a civil wireless operator by the name of H. N. Pradhan of Samtse. This wireless station was located at Wirelesspang - above Dechenchholing Palace - one cannot fail to notice the wireless antenna in front of the Shack.
For the first time Bhutan went on the ham radio airwaves in 1954 - from a place called Rida in Wangduephodrang. The wireless set was operated by N. Chawna, a wireless instructor, who accompanied His Majesty the Third King during his tour of the Eastern Bhutan.

NOTE: When a ham radio operator passes away, we say he has gone "Silent Key".

No comments:

Post a Comment