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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.


Choosing University

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 Engineering college.

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.

Grade Description Point Grade Description Point
A + Exceptionally High Achievement 4.3 AU Audit NA
  4.0 CR Credit Awarded for AP or CLEP NA
- 3.7 F Failing in Pass/Fail Course NA
B + High Achievement 3.3 I Incomplete NA
  3.0 IP Satisfactory Work in Progress NA
- 2.7 P Passing in Pass/Fail Course NA
C + Average Achievement 2.3 S Satisfactory NA
  2.0 U Unsatisfactory NA
- 1.7 W Withdrawn NA
D + Minimum Passing Grade 1.3 *** No Grade Submitted NA
  1.0
- 0.7 GPA system in US
E   Failing 0.0

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.


University Life

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. (Nippon-no-jyosiki-ha-sekai-no-hijyosiki)

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 very limited.

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 bicycle.

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 emblem (Otoko-no-Monsyo)!"

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...>

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