August 23rd, 2023 | In response to the frequent use of prohibited foreign-made transceivers by what appears to be foreign skiers in the Niseko area pre-pandemic, the Hokkaido Bureau of Telecommunications has installed a monitoring antenna for detecting illegal radio use in Kutchan Town. The bureau will begin surveillance this winter. While dozens of illegal radio communication monitoring devices have been installed in urban areas in Hokkaido, this is the first time such devices have been installed for detecting illegal radio use by foreign travellers. This strengthened monitoring measure is in anticipation of a post-pandemic increase in the number of travellers to the region.
According to the Bureau, most foreign-made transceivers do not meet the frequency standards stipulated by Japan’s Radio Law and cannot be used in Japan. In particular, the frequency of Australian-made transceivers is close to the digital terrestrial television frequency in the Niseko area, which may affect TV broadcasts.
Since around 2008, the Hokkaido Bureau of Telecommunications has distributed leaflets in four languages, including English and Chinese, to foreign visitors to warn them not to use unauthorized radios. However, the bureau conducted a survey of radiowaves in the Niseko area in the winter of 2006, and confirmed 167 illegal radio transmissions in English over a two-day period. This was 10 times more illegal radio transmissions than at other ski resorts surveyed, such as Furano, etc. The Bureau’s Surveillance and Investigation Division reports they believe that “foreign skiers and snowboarders in Niseko seem to be using those radios to communicate with their companions without knowing that they are violating the law.”
The Bureau, headquartered in Sapporo, has installed a monitoring antenna in the town of Kutchan. From their headquarters in Sapporo, they will remotely monitor the occurrence of illegal radio waves in the Niseko area 24 hours a day. If serious communications disruption is detected, the station will deploy agents to Niseko to home in on the signal. The Bureau states, “we will strengthen our surveillance because we expect that many foreign skiers will visit the area again this winter as the effects of the pandemic fade away”.
Reporter: Shuzo Tsuchida
Translator’s note: The Hokkaido Bureau of Telecommunications uses the DEURAS-D direction finder antenna to monitor radio wave use in Hokkaido. Find out more about the system on their website here. Nationwide, there are around 2000 reports of confirmed radio interference per year in Japan. Most of these appear to not be prosecuted; the majority of users are cautioned and/or given guidance (source), but don’t take our word for it. Do not use unlicensed, non-compliant radios in Japan.