The 'Tradition' Continues!

Potato Festival

Only two foreigners for the '94 festival.

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1-724 Otaka, Tako-Machi, Katori-Gun, Chiba-Ken, Japan 289-23

Perhaps you may remember having read in GEM'S August '94 edition, the article titled 'The Beginning of a Tradition in Kurimoto, Chiba, Japan'. The story told of a single foreigner (this writer, an American) who, in 1993, took several old engines to a local sweet potato festival which is held every year in November. That saga is continued here.

In 1994 there was a 100% increase in participation: Chris Madeley (from England and a frequent contributor to engine magazines throughout the world) joined me with one of his Japanese restorations. Since he has lived in Japan a number of years and speaks the language fluently, there was considerable dialog with the local gentry. And again, there was an extraordinary interest in our display, particularly by the older farmers.

At this point in time, the only thing lacking was participation by local engine enthusiasts.

In 1995 that changed. Somehow, word had gotten out that the foreigner could revitalize the zap in tired magnetos and coax those old engines into song again. On several occasions, a complete stranger would show up at my place and want to know if I would help him get his engine running and how much would I charge to do so. The answer to the first question was a standard, 'Let's take a look.' The answer to the second was, 'I won't charge you anything, but you must help me locate and purchase an old engine or two.' The proposition was always eagerly accepted and I had found a way around my own language deficit. I now have between 30 and 40 engines.

These exchanges, plus Madeley's acquaintance with other Japanese collectors throughout Japan, brought about an explosive increase in participation during the '95 Imo Matsury.

In addition to the above two foreign participants, there were three hometown guys, all having several running engines. Three other men and their wives drove more than two hours from Saitama Prefecture, each with a truck-load of engines. Another man and wife flew up from the southern island of Kyushusans engines of course. There was a lively, day-long visitation between the participants and local gentry. Needless to say, all of us got leads on engines still 'out there.'

It was stated in my earlier article that engines were relatively easy to find and not expensive to buy. In fact, just a few years ago the owner of an old engine frequently HAD TO PAY to get rid of it. That situation is rapidly changing. Junk and scrap iron dealers have learned that there are collectors willing to pay handsomely for any old one-lunger. The going price asked by them for a common make is now in the $100-$200 range, rarer ones around $400 and the big ones (15 HP or more) $10,000!

One final episode before closing this chapter: recently, a neighbor asked for assistance with a newly acquired engine. It was a very dirty, sorry looking machine when we dismantled it. I told him to clean all the parts, then let me know and I would help him with the reassembly.

A week or so later he called and asked if I could come over; he had put it together, but it wouldn't run. After a quick examination, I had to explain to him that the intake valve should open when the piston was moving back, not forward, and that the magneto should be doing its thing up near TDC and not down at the other end of the stroke. He was an apt student and now pays attention to such minor details. Further, he was so delighted with my assistance that he has helped me get several more engines! Sayonara!