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Until High School
I was born in Zushi city Kanagawa prefecture, Japan as a second son of my
parents, Hisako & Sadaichiro Oguchi. In general, Japanese name
has a certain meanings. "Oguchi" stands for "small mouth".
Accordingly, I am NOT a big mouth.
My father was a Japanese Navy officer
during the World War II after he graduated commerce & management
school of Hitotsubashi university. He was 2 year senior of
former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
at Navy. As of the end of war, he has been promoted to a
lieutenant commander. My elder brother, Kouichi Oguchi, is an
officer of Ministry of Education who passed the highest honor class
of national government officer's examination after he graduated law
school of Waseda university, a most prestigious private university.
Oguchi family founded one of three
major silk manufacturers in Okaya city Nagano prefecture beside lake Suwa. The
silk weaving products substantially contributed Japanese economy
earning foreign currency through export to Western countries.
However, it was immediately declined by synthetic fibers such as
nylon and rayon newly developed. We have still a big house
with a large lot at Okaya city although the family settled the
permanent residency at Setagaya Tokyo, long time ago.
My father worked at Mitsubishi Coal
Mining Incorporation (Mitsubishi Kogyo. Now, Mitsubishi
Materials) that was one of major key industries supplying coal.
He was a marketer. The company had five local branches in
Japan close to either major industrial or coal mining area.
There are four major industrial areas in Japan, Kanto
(Tokyo/Yokohama/Chiba), Chubu (Nagoya/Yokkaichi), Hanshin
(Osaka/Kobe), and Kitakyushu (Yahata/Kokura). I had to move
with father transferred between the branches until junior high
school age. Accordingly, I have lived in various cities such
as Zushi city Kanagawa prefecture, Kitakyushu city Fukuoka prefecture,
Nagoya city Aichi prefecture, Ashiya city Hyogo prefecture, and finally Setagaya Tokyo.
I have various kind of friends at
various places who speak various dialects. Because I lived in
various places in Japan, I insist on saying that I am speaking
a standard Japanese (?). I have a bunch of diversity.
Due to the frequent move, I have experienced things that only very few people can experience.
Let me introduce them.
First, I was invited to a graduation trip twice in a same school year when I was a sixth grader of
elementary school. Of course, you should know that I did not
repeat the graduation year twice. When I lived in Nagoya city, we went to Kyoto &
Nara, traditional ancient cities in
central Japan, as a graduation trip before the summer vacation.
I must make sure if you know that the school year in Japan starts in
April and ends in March. When the summer vacation, we moved to
Ashiya city. The elementary school at
Ashiya city brought me to Ise & Shima Mie prefecture, as a graduation trip in Fall
at the same year. I was so lucky and enjoyed the graduation trip twice a year!
Second, I had to attend three different schools when I was a freshman of junior high school.
I studied at Ashiya city from April to July before the
summer vacation. Then, we moved to Tokyo in August and I attended the first
junior high school in Tokyo from September to December. From
January, I was assigned to go to the second school newly built. We are baby boomers.
I graduated Tokyo Metropolitan Aoyama
high school that is one of prestigious high schools in Tokyo and
studied at Tokyo Metropolitan university, Electrical Engineering at
The reason why I selected Tokyo
Metropolitan university was very simple but was unlike others'. In general, most high school
graduates who failed university entrance exam (one of hardest
entrance exams in the world) done in senior year (February to March:
the school year is from April to March in Japan.), had to study for
one or two more years and retry the exam a year later in order to
study at prestigious university and finally to get a work approval
by major company. They take aim at the stability, not a
challenge. The major to be selected does not matter for most
people. Only the fact that they graduate prestigious
university was the most important. Even though they don't
study hard at university, university allows them to graduate because
the facility is limited. It's much easier to get grade C (an
acceptable grade, "Ka") in Japan than in US.
The GPA (Grade Point Average) relationship between US and Japan is similar but is not exactly the
same. It seems like "A" = "Yuu" (Excellent) or "5", "B" =
"Ryou" (Good) or "4", "C" & "D" = "Ka" (Acceptable) or "3" & "2",
"E" = "Fuka" or "1" (Not acceptable). Entrance is hard
but graduation is easy in Japan although the situation in US is
absolutely opposite. This difference of screening system made
Japanese culture more conservative.
||Exceptionally High Achievement
||Credit Awarded for AP or CLEP
||Failing in Pass/Fail Course
||Satisfactory Work in Progress
||Passing in Pass/Fail Course
||Minimum Passing Grade
||No Grade Submitted
||GPA system in US
My case was so special. I was mad to concentrate on my hobby, amateur radio, when I was a high
school student. Because of that, the major had to be
Electrical Engineering. Further more, I did not want to study
hard one more year to pass the entrance exam of prestigious
university because the priority was to pursue amateur radio as soon
as possible. There was a timing constraint. Accordingly,
I had to pass the entrance exam at senior year without wasting one
more year like others.
Tokyo university, the most
prestigious university in Japan, accepted students by college (such
as Engineering and Science), not by major (such as Electrical
Engineering and Physics). The major is determined based upon
GPA obtained at freshman year in order. Students who have
better GPA even after passing the entrance exam are accepted to
Electrical Engineering because it's a popular major that excellent
students wish to study.
Tokyo Institute of Technology, the
next choice, was taking the same way. All other universities
including Tokyo Metropolitan university accepted students by major.
The passing probability for Tokyo Institute of Technology and Tokyo
Metropolitan university was high enough according to several
achievement test results. I had to choose one of them because
the entrance exam for these universities were done at the same date.
Due to the reasons combined, I chose Tokyo Metropolitan university
finally and passed. The yearly tuition fee was 12,000 yen
($100) that is somewhat cheaper than the tuition fee of high school
although both are under Metropolitan education organization.
The tuition fee of national and state universities was so less
expensive than the one of private universities. Under such
comfortable student financial aid situations, I was able to spend
entire one year for pursuing hobby described below.
Fortunately for me and unfortunately
for them, all of my close friends of high school failed entrance
exam and had to study one more year at a preparatory school while
only I was at university. Needless to consider, I had to match
the graduation year with them. This means that they must study
hard for one more year to pass the entrance exam and on the contrary
I can pursue my hobby in depth for the year. Then I did.
I focused on pursuing amateur radio just after taking the entrance
exam before getting the result. Because the result was obvious.
I passed the examination of second
class amateur radio operator and then the first class, a highest
class of amateur radio operator license. I made various types
of receivers, transmitters, antennas, and measurement equipments by
hand spending very little allowance given by parents and earned
income from work. I was not stingy but was frugal at that
time. I delivered seasonal presents at Takashimaya department
store in summer and winter by bicycle, tutored high school female
students, and supervised national qualification exam to earn money for hobby.
I became a member of JARL (Japan Amateur Radio League).
In USA, the equivalent organization is called ARRL (American
Radio Relay League). I also obtained amateur radio station
license and opened the radio station in Tokyo which call sign was
"JA1VJY". Radio wave transmitted from my amateur radio station
reached all over the world. We exchange
QSL cards (certificate of radio contact)
each other. I had a contact with 48 countries at 6 continents
and received awards.
See additional description concerning amateur radio.
I also obtained a driver's license as
other same age people did. In Japan, people who want to have a
driver's license must enter a driving school. They need to
study traffic law and automobile structure for 10 hours each at
class room. In parallel with the class room study, they
practice driving for at least 10 hours inside the driving school,
not on public road. Then, they must pass a paper test to have
a permit for driving practice on public road. At least further
10 hour driving practice was due at that time. Then, we can
graduate the driving school after passing a graduation driving test
done on behalf of DMV. Most Japanese must pay over $3,000 to
graduate the driving school. In CA, it's around $200.
Common knowledge in Japan is anti common knowledge in the world.
After the graduation, we must pass a
paper test at DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) to get a driver's
license at last stage. The driving test at DMV is exempted to
avoid crowdedness because the location and the capacity of DMV are
I may have a custom to take somewhat unbeaten track.
I entered a driving school as regular people
usually did. I failed driving practice twice and had to repeat
the same practice again paying additional fee. Every time I
failed, I went to DMV directly to take a paper test and a driving
test. This is an alternative short-cut but special way to get
a driver's license that only a few (inexperienced or no-fear) people
challenge. Passing paper test had no problem but it was so
difficult to pass the driving test done at next stage. In US,
we can bring in our own car to take the driving test. However,
a car we must drive is a car prepared by DMV and is always a manual
shift (stick). Also, a nasty trick is buried on a clutch and
break pedals. The driving test was not only to screen bad
drivers but also not to give license to novice drivers who has
normal level of driving skills. It was good to choose superb
experienced drivers but not appropriate for a regular driving test.
Apparently, I was declared to go home
in the middle of the driving test every time I tried. I had to
restart the driving practice at the driving school. Finally, I
graduated the school and got a driver's license but it took 6 months
because I quit the driving school twice.
Although I got a driver's license, I
did not have enough money to purchase an automobile. Instead
of a car, bicycling was the most economic traffic means to go
somewhere for me. I bought a light stainless steel bicycle
with internal gear shift for $400, not for $40,000. Zushi,
Kanagawa prefecture was a city in where I was
born and grandparents were living. It's next to Kamakura, a
historical city where the Shogunate, a government of Shogun, was
located in 11th to 12th century. A lot of temples are at
Kamakura. I usually used my bicycle to visit such cities.
It took 3 to 4 hours to go one way, 50 Km (30 miles).
Akihabara is also a favorite place to go by bicycle for electronics
junk parts shopping. I watched various movies, both English
and Japanese, for 100 yen going to various movie theaters by
I quit pursuing amateur radio because
I recognized that I was too much absorbed in it maddeningly.
This means that I ultimately pursued the hobby and decided to
terminate it myself. I gradually disassembled everything one
by one by hand.
After that, I started enjoying audio
listening. It was more beautiful and comfortable and
easier than seeking very weak signals buried under lots of noise as
in amateur radio. Again, I made an FM stereo receiver with
stereo pre & main amplifier and two big capacity of speaker boxes
with a big woofer, a mid range speaker, and a small tweeter.
Also I remodeled an audio tape recorder with 7 inch open reel tape
upgrading to 3 heads such as erase/record/playback and its
oscillation frequency. I recorded stereo music broadcasting by
FM radio stations on magnetic tapes putting and setting a timer.
My music collection became a lot. Especially I preferred easy
listening like French Pops by Paul Mauriat and Japanese popular
songs rather than violin classics.
The level of subjects at high school
and university in Japan is much higher and harder than the one in US
as well as the hours are much longer. We, engineering school
students, must be at class room from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30
in the afternoon Monday through Friday because the class of
experiments and practices gives us only 1 unit for 3 hours work
throughout a year.
I considered to make a desk-top
calculator using junk electronics found at Akihabara. However,
I had to give up when I knew the size becomes a Tatami mat (3' x 6').
At that time, I did not know if I design actual
LSI (Large Scaled Integration) for desk-top calculator at NEC (Nippon Electric Company) later.
Finding job activity in Japan
normally started in April at senior year. The work place is
determined before summer in general. They start working at the
place on April, 1 next year after graduation.
Just before the date that counseling
for job search by university is done, I got traffic accident and
hospitalized. When I went home by bicycle after evening class
ended at 5:30 PM, a truck passed by, turned to the left immediately,
and hit my right shoulder by the edge of the carrier. I lost
consciousness for a while by the shock. When I recovered, an
ambulance was already there. I was hospitalized at nearest
private hospital and transferred to better hospital to have surgery
a few days later. I suffered a complex fracture of shoulder
blade. It took 3 months to completely recover. I got
total 42 stitches. A certain friend at NEC told me that "You have man's heraldic
Because of the accident, I asked NEC to postpone the paper
test and interview, and passed the entrance exam.
My brother passed the government officer exam and was a generalist of Ministry of Education. I decided to take the exam to try to
check my brain quality myself (Ude-Dameshi) and passed the examination in 1975.
<Continued further more in future...>