When it comes to HF fax, sometimes also known as “weatherfax” due to its use in disseminating weather charts to mariners, the Japanese Kyodo News station JJC and its repeater 9VF are a living heritage. I’ve mentioned this before back in 2013, when I first posted some reception examples and signal information. I followed this up in 2014, as a reader was not able to catch JJC/9VF and had some doubts about whether it was on air, thus I derived a “rough” schedule for them and monitored their frequencies nearly continuously from home.
Despite making those postings, I don’t feel like I did Kyodo News any real justice, as the transmissions were unique and worthy of some preservation effort. They are the only HF fax station to still send news on a regular basis and the only to still operate 60LPM mode as far as I know. As a result, I have taken time since then to receive their transmissions. However, the effort needed to fix “chopped” images and choose noteworthy receptions required a lot of time. As a result, while I have been wanting to make this post for years, I kept putting it off and the number of faxes continued to pile up.
The main impetus for this posting, however, was because I went on holiday in 2017 which allowed me to visit Japan where I carried my Sony AN-LP1 and BladeRF with transverter to receive the signal directly. As a result, I felt I should probably do the necessary processing and post it online. While at home, reception was performed with my trusty Icom IC-R75 and Wellbrook ALA1530L active loop antenna.
What follows is a rather large selection of received faxes from Kyodo during the period of 27th August 2017 through to 4th January 2019. The faxes are reproduced for the purposes of documenting the characteristics of JJC/9VF (in case, one day it were to go off-air), the various types of faxed materials that may be received and as proof of radio propagation characteristics for the dates/locations covered. No copyright infringement or damage is intended – the latest faxes from the last week have not been posted and I will remove images if contacted with a legitimate request. Content within the faxes remains copyright of the original sender (likely Kyodo News), content is out of date and not to be used for navigation purposes.
Unfortunately, as I can’t read Japanese, I do not understand the content of most of the longer faxes, but I have included a significant number of examples of their English program for fellow English speakers. Note that the English faxes have been rotated 90 degrees to facilitate easier reading and faxes are presented in order of reception for the day. Small thumbnails are used to represent some of the longer faxes to conserve bandwidth – click to load the full size images.
Faxes Received in Japan (Aug 2017 – Sep 2017)
27/08/2017 (Location: Kyoto, Japan)
The first fax I received on my travels was the Kyodo Furusato News in the evening. I believe Furusato translates as “hometown”, with this being a relatively short fax in 60LPM of about half an hour. This has the JSC Kyodo News header, which differs from the normal header. I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect this is a feature sent on Sunday as this was received on a Sunday.
This fax has a significant slant along with “noise bands” due to QRM local to the hotel (likely the VFD of the elevator). This fax is at 120LPM and is a repeat of the previous day’s English edition, normally sent in the afternoon, note the date of August 28, 2017. The slant correction in Fldigi varies between the 60/120LPM modes, so this was not properly corrected. Despite being an English edition, header “flash-news” notices in Japanese are inserted.
This would have been received later in the afternoon at 60LPM. Again, banded noise pattern QRM is visible, but this issue is printed at 60LPM taking around 90 minutes to transmit. This includes the Evening edition of Kyodo News for the day of the broadcast consisting of four panels, making full use of the graphics to indicate where a North Korean missile overflew the Japanese territory. This is followed by the Kyodo Kaiun-Suisan News consisting of two panels. Finally an additional segment is included, which I can only seem to understand as either a “supplement to fax” or “fax of the day” or “special feature”.
Traditionally, Kyodo faxes feature a header box which has the round figure in the top left corner, a message imploring users who receive these faxes to pay a subscription fee to maintain the service. However, it seems that receiving the service on different frequencies or at different times results in a different header message. This one has a header of JSC. I wonder if this is an indication that each frequency is operated by a separate entity? Above is Issue 4794, the English edition for Tuesday Aug. 29, 2017 transmitted in 60LPM which includes news of the North Korean missile test. Notice the propagation faded towards the end of the fax, as was common during my stay in Japan.
On this day, I managed to receive the repeat-broadcast of the English edition for the previous day at 120LPM, but with proper slant correction factor. Faxes received at 120LPM can be distinguished by looking at the spacing of the black-and-white start tone and stop-tone stripes. They also have slightly lower resolution with generally “blurrier” text. It did not prove possible to receive the English edition for this day due to QRM.
A 60LPM transmission of the English edition for this day received with weakening signal as is normal. Issue 4796 makes mention of Trump’s confused approach with North Korea at the time. This image includes the pre-start area showing a long period of white tuning tone, followed by inverted phasing “ticks” for several minutes before the long start tone. This makes it easy to determine whether you are able to receive a fax before the fax actually begins.
The above is a partial excerpt of a longer fax with the final panel including JSU News “Sailor Newspaper”. It’s not uncommon in JSU News segments to see foreign language snippets which have some rather general news – English is most common but not the only language featured.
In the evenings, Kyodo News Sports fax is sent. This consists of parts of the same fax as the morning edition, except rearranged so that Sports (panels 5 and 6) are transmitted first, followed by the morning edition news (panels 1 and 2). This is a shorter fax than the full morning edition sent at midnight JST which also usually features news panels 3 and 4 followed by NX and any additional notices.
The Sports fax can be rather interesting, featuring iconography for different sports, but different arrays of score tables. Not being able to read Japanese, it can be hard to understand what is going on especially with the noise in the image, but I suspect something about the World Cup soccer maybe in the top left.
The English edition received that night at 60LPM is Issue 4797 with the JSC header. Some days, the English edition is a little “light” on content with some white space but the headline “Spreading fake news now a crime” seems too good to be true. In this fax, the standard three-column layout is broken up by a horizontal line which happens quite rarely. Propagation, however, has become worse resulting in the loss of the tail end of the fax. Shortwave signals can “fade” away entirely like this, not being helped by the long (~40min) transmission time and noise from urban centres where the hotel was situated in. The Sony AN-LP1 did very well compared to in Sydney, but was not optimal.
A 120LPM repeat transmission of the previous day’s English edition (Issue 4799). The whole series of English faxes illustrate the increasing tension over North Korea’s actions at the time – while I was trying to have a holiday. Having the same equipment and being located at the same hotel, the reception does vary significantly as propagation and changing guest patterns take their toll on shortwave reception. It should be noted that English editions are sent on weekdays only.
16/09/2017 (Location: Osaka)
The 120LPM repeat of yesterday’s English edition (Issue 4807) again illustrating tensions over ballistic missiles. As usual, the 120LPM mode suffers strongly from noise but also multi-path/doppler causing the text to “wave” as the propagation path changes during transmission.
The afternoon issue of the Evening news shows another map in the top left, which is something rarely seen on a normal day. The “feature” that follows is half-empty, but appears to have some contact details – I wonder what it might be advertising or informing people about?
Depending on the season, it is possible to receive isolated Sumo Match reports as their own fax, but this fax is also trailed by a flash news of sorts.
For regular broadcasts, the flash news is inserted above the remainder of the fax. It seems that Sumo Matches are a big deal given this placement difference. While it is somewhat weak and noisy, the images seem to be slightly better as I get used to the new location and frequencies on offer.
One fax that is rarely received from home is the Ocean Current Forecastings chart in 60LPM. If anything, this is the only weather/climate related chart that Kyodo broadcasts to my knowledge. This is because Japan has JMH to fill in the weather requirements.
Again, as 17th is a Sunday, we receive Furusato news, but also JSU news and some fax highlights in a single transmission. Kyodo tends to transmit these panels in different mixtures to a schedule of some sort – but I’ve never seen them send a schedule document at all.
Depending on the season, it is possible to receive isolated Sumo Match reports as their own fax. At other times, this is not transmitted at all or is added to the end of an NX warnings transmission.
The same Furusato program was repeated later that same afternoon on its own. All Japanese faxes are sent at 60LPM owing to the delicate nature of the writing.
Kyodo News Sports fax follows the same formula as before, but now showing different sports results with “filled in” bubbles appearing.
As mentioned earlier, Sumo match results can be tacked to the end of an NX warnings transmission, the above being an example of this. Signal conditions for this day were surprisingly good all around, showing that my new location in Osaka was much more suited to reception. I was in Tokyo prior, but unfortunately, the noise levels were completely swamping out all of the signal.
With that in mind, I attempted to receive the morning edition news as I had a day to rest at the hotel. The signal propagation wasn’t the best, but this fax illustrates a number of key points – namely how long JJC faxes can be, with this one taking about 2h20m to transmit. Further variety in the presentation format for the sports scores can be seen, along with NX warnings. The incorporation of the Kaiun-Suisan News and JSU news, however, seems to be a special feature that added to the length of the fax.
Was that worth getting my BladeRF crushed? Kind of – I’ve always wanted to receive their signals “up close” and while it wasn’t that clean of a reception, it was confirmation that I wasn’t really missing anything from their line-up. I think I know better than to do this again …
Faxes Received at Chester Hill (Nov 2017 – Dec 2017)
Back home and I’m back to the somewhat “dark” and noisy decode, but it still results in somewhat readable results. ICBM in large bold capitals shows that even after my holiday was over, the tensions were still a concern for both parties. There is a special notice on the top of this fax and I believe it to be scheduling related – it may be telling us times for certain programs, but I can’t understand it.
The 60LPM English service for the evening, issue 4859 documents North Korea’s claim of a successful ICBM launch amongst the other limited headlines. While the English service always looks like this, I can’t help but think they could get more from the page just by reducing the margins slightly – the Japanese services all use up the full width of the printing area!
English edition 4862 issued Monday Dec 4 around the time of Bali volcanic eruption. Fuzzy as usual but readable.
English edition 4863 issued Tuesday Dec 5 with headline “N. Korean crew admits to stealing appliances from uninhabited isle” … a rather interesting one. Marginally better than yesterday, but it seems the signals were rather consistent for summer.
Managed to receive the early-afternoon repeat transmission of issue 4863 in 120LPM mode. The text is notably less clear, with a “halo” effect around the text possibly due to ringing in the filters of the IC-R75 (which had been set tightly to avoid adjacent QRM).
Evening sports edition was received with the header message much clearer – if anyone knows what they are advising (e.g. feature will be broadcast on xth day of the month at y times?), a translation would be quite helpful. The top left seems to have a list of names regarding some team and a baseball logo can be seen in the first sports panel.
The English edition for the day is issue 4864, slightly less readable than previous days, but occasionally one of the headlines is made a little larger than the rest as shown in the above fax – “Duerte declares NPA terrorist entity”.
As much as I would have liked propagation to improve, the propagation seems to have degraded for the English edition 4866 with notably more image noise, but still readable. The location within the metropolitan area of Sydney does make for high noise floors despite using a magnetic loop antenna.
An issue of JSU News was received from home. Of interest is that the length of JSU News does not appear to be fixed – there are shorter and longer versions.
Kyodo News Evening edition including Kaiun-Suisan and a feature at the end – the last time I posted this was 29/08/17 and both were Tuesdays, so this must be a Tuesday thing?
It seems that the seasons may be working against us, as the propagation for English service has failed even more to the point of unreadability. Issue 4868 with only one out of the three panels readable.
The evening Sports fax as usual, but the difference is that this has two important notices stacked before it. The latter one seems to be a recurring schedule change announcement, but the top one is regarding the launch of the JAXA H2A launch of satellites.
As mentioned earlier, JSU News does not seem to take a fixed length, so an excerpt from a fax shows this JSU News is twice as long as usual. Not knowing whether they had any special observance for Christmas, I thought I’d tune in and just see.
Unfortunately, I was rewarded with some rather poor propagation without much easily readable at all. If this persists, I don’t feel any good reason to continue attempting to receive JJC/9VF until conditions improve.
Faxes Received at Quakers Hill (Mar 2018 – Jan 2019)
It took a while after my house move for me to regain the use of my radio equipment due to the need to set-up antennas and computers. But this was first achieved in March 2018 when I resumed reception of JJC/9VF.
The move to Quakers Hill along with the time seems to have done the signal some good. Receiving the repeat 120LPM broadcast of the English service (#4929) from the day before, we have some deep fading but still readable text.
Not being able to read Japanese, I’m not sure what this is but it seems like a highlight or diary feature and it was broadcast as its own independent fax along with contact details for an academic institution in Japan.
I was glad to have received this Evening edition which is in quite good condition for what I am normally used to. Two notices are stacked at the top – a rare occurrence, but also JSU News is carrying an English feature as well.
The English service for the day, issue 4930, was still deeply affected by fading towards the latter half of the transmission, but it was a sign of optimism, along with the headline “Trump to meet Kim Jong Un by May for 1st U.S.-N Korea summit”.
Propagation is, however, a fickle beast along with local QRM sources. The pattern is highly suggestive of electronic interference, affecting the reception of the English service #4932. It is, however, still readable but not comfortably so.
It must be Sumo season again, with independent Sumo Match bulletins being issued. This one decoded relatively cleanly.
In the early evenings, the sports editions can decode fairly well too, with strings of relatively fine numbers in the fax.
However, by late evening, the noise levels go up and the image quality degrades just in time for the English service, the above being issue #4934 including the Olympic rings in the third column.
An excerpt from the end of a longer fax showing the Kyodo News Sports panels with a lot of different sports scoring graphics – filled bubbles makes a return, but there is even the illustration of the whole bracket for a competition (it would seem).
The above shows a JSU bulletin on its own, making use of inverted text graphics and being of the “shorter” form.
This version of the Evening edition stood out despite the poor propagation because of the incorporation of the hashtag “#MeToo”.
While reception was possible, the conditions were not so great. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I became too busy to be able to continue decoding. That was, until the tail end of the year when I thought of my unsuccessful reception last year around Christmas time and wondered if it would be any better this year.
English edition #5126 at 60LPM received very well for December, easily readable. A good start to my return to HF fax decoding.
Despite my hiatus, it seems nothing much changed regarding the schedule, with decent contrast still received. This fax seems to suggest there are some program schedule changes with the header – if anyone can translate this information, it would be good.
English edition #5128 at 60LPM received almost equally well, which is a good sign. It has me optimistic that I might be able to receive a good quality Christmas and New Year fax.
Conditions degraded slightly for English edition #5129 with weakening signals towards the end of the fax. Not unreadable, however.
It seems Kyodo Kaiun-Suisan News is still on the air with an unpredictable schedule. The final panel seems to be related to the horse racing (?) standalone fax that was later seen on 23rd.
Surprisingly, a reversal of the trend for Tuesday Dec 18’s English edition, #5131 being almost as clear as it’s ever been. There is some warping of the image header as I struggle to restore my previous slant-correction values as I as also chasing some other stations around this time.
By Thursday (#5133), we’ve taken a step backwards and now it looks a little more like what I am used to – “dirty” faxes but still readable with a slight hint of signal fading towards the end.
I don’t what it is but the horizontal “rule” seems to have made more frequent appearances in the past few faxes. This one from Friday (#5134) seems to be cleaner at the beginning, but otherwise showing typical propagation as received at home.
I decided to continue monitoring on a Saturday to see what the faxes are like.
This appears to be a sporting-related fax, perhaps horse-racing. The first time I’ve really noticed it in such clarity.
The morning edition is sent around midnight Japan Standard Time, but propagation is normally problematic resulting in it fading into the noise.
The Ocean Current Forecast chart was also received, with a flash-news heading indicating some volcanic eruption had occurred.
Kyodo Furusato news is still issued and was received – this seems to be a weekend or maybe a particular time-of-month program. I still haven’t deduced the pattern.
Kyodo News Sports was also received, now with two flash news headings.
This was repeated for the NX information, but instead, trailing the NX warnings. Unfortunately, the English program I was hanging out for was so poorly received that it was nearly indistinguishable from the noise and was not worth uploading.
Christmas Eve saw the shortest NX warnings bulletin I’ve seen in recent years, with just one notice.
The English service (#5135), however, was readable but interfered with by local electrical interference.
The Christmas day English fax, #5136, unfortunately was received even worse. It is readable, but very much affected by interference. There wasn’t anything too special, so I guess I didn’t miss out.
As if cursed, the Boxing Day English fax #5137 was much clearer, although fading towards the end.
With a little progress comes a small regression – a slightly less clear result for English fax #5138.
Approaching the new year, it seems the signal got slightly better again, issuing a long NX with special alert just prior to the English fax.
The fax #5139 was received slightly blurry but with good contrast.
The final English fax of the year was received, thankfully, as it was a weekday. The special characteristic of #5140 is an Editor’s Note in the bottom right corner – this is something I haven’t seen in all my history of receiving the English service. The note says “The staff members of Kyodo News with you a Happy New Year. Kyodo News will not be issued on Jan. 1 due to New year’s Day national holiday.”
To ring in the new year, I decided to decode the Japanese Kyodo News faxes. The faxes include a special banner at the top which roughly translates to “Sincerely wishing for everyone’s safety at sea” or something along those lines. There were occasional interruptions to reception which have been patched up with equivalent lines from another reception – this reception was done via BrisSDR’s KiwiSDR as audio as it was stronger there than at home. As noted in the prior fax, there is no fax in English for the new year. The final notice also seems to be a scheduling information notice, although I can’t understand it, so if anyone can read Japanese can translate that for me, that might give us a good hint as to the program schedule for the upcoming year.
Attempted to receive the English edition, but curiously it seems not to have been broadcasted on the expected time. The NX prior to that was received, with an alert of an earthquake measuring M5.0.
The first English edition of 2019 I was able to receive was on Friday 4th Jan, issue #5143. I’m sure judging from the issue number that I’ve missed the ones on the 2nd and 3rd, but again, propagation is weak towards the end of the fax. Kyodo has seen in the new year! Hurray!
Observed Current Weekday Schedule
Kyodo News seems to run a very unusual schedule which seems to vary subtly depending on the day of the week, whether it’s the first week, second week, etc. of the month or whether it’s a weekday or weekend.
However, in general, I find that the 12745.5kHz frequency propagates well compared to the others towards Australia and on weekdays, faxes can be heard at:
- 0200 to 0400 (UTC+11) – Kyodo News Morning Edition
- 1000 to 1200 (UTC+11) – Kyodo News Morning Edition (Repeat)
- 1300 (UTC+11) – 120LPM (?) or Ocean Current Forecasting
- 1345 (UTC+11) – Kyodo News Morning Edition (Repeat)
- 1810 (UTC+11) – 120LPM Kyodo News English Edition (Yesterday, Repeat)
- 1840 to 2020 (UTC+11) – Kyodo News Evening Edition
- 2120 (UTC+11) – Kyodo News Sports
- 2230 (UTC+11) – NX Warnings
- 2300 to 2340 (UTC+11) – Kyodo News English Edition
The schedule above was based on my monitoring and observations, but it’s probably not going to be accurate especially on weekends and for “surprise” once-a-month programs. It’s still fairly easy to monitor JJC/9VF especially through the various KiwiSDRs online – I find that receivers in Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia can see strong signals depending on the time of day.
When it comes to HF fax, Kyodo News is a one-of-a-kind living heritage. I’m glad to see it still operational as of 2019, wishing us a safe new year with its relatively strong signal. If you’re wondering whether it is still on the air – chances are it still is and you can check it for yourself with the “rough” schedule above.
I still monitor JJC from time to time when the time permits, but often this manifests as “blocks” of time where I do make an effort to consistently receive their transmissions and others where I’m tuned into something else entirely. It just is reassuring to come back to the HF spectrum and see their signals on the air …
I’m not sure how much longer it will persist, although noting the general state of HF fax, it is probably worth my time to more conscientiously catalog what other stations may have to offer before they go offline. After all, there is an elegant simplicity to the concept of HF fax, along with a slow analog feel to receiving it. Short of having expensive satellite equipment and subscriptions, HF still remains the “bread and butter” for many mariners at sea.