The Beginning of a Tradition

By Staff
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Bill Young and wife Tamiko.
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Bringing one engine out of the junior high school. Young and next door neighbor, Akasuka-San.
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Young 1-724 Otaka, Tako-Machi Katori-Gun, Chiba-Ken, Japan

I returned to the states in January 1993 to attend the annual
installation of officers of my engine club, Western Antique Power
Associates, located in the San Gabriel area of southern California.
At that time, several members showed me the copies of a Gas Engine
Magazine article written by Chris Madeley, a citizen of U.K. who
also lives in Japan.

Madeley wrote about and had pictures of a Japanese engine club
located on the island of Shikoku where he had previously lived. I
contacted him in Tokyo when I returned to my home in Chiba, an hour
or so east of there. Eventually he and two other old engine
enthusiasts visited my place and succeeded in getting one of my
Japanese finds in running order while I was inside teaching.

Having learned that at least one old engine can be located for
every fifty Japanese farmers queried, I now ask all new
acquaintances, even non-farmers. One rural friend suggested that I
bring my engines to the nearby annual Imo Matsury (Fall Sweet
Potato Festival held in November), so the local populace could have
a look. I did. Many old gents were attracted, some with interesting
stories to tell. All were surprised that the cranking handles had
been removed, that the engines were started by pulling through on
the flywheels. Several did mention cranking mishaps they had

Sure enough, before the event was finished, several clues were
given as to the whereabouts of engines. A junior high school
teacher said there were two in storage at his school that were
unwanted and the principal would be happy to have them hauled away.
Needless to say, he was quickly obliged. They were complete and in
fairly good condition, having been stored inside the school for
many years.

I will follow up on another lead in an adjacent prefecture

My wife made some signs for our display. One invited the people
to take a picture of an inoperative engine this year in its present
condition and then again next year after it has been (hopefully)
restored. Another put out the word that we are looking for a 15 HP,
or larger, engine. We have located one but the owner doesn’t
want to part with it, saying he has been offered the equivalent of
U.S. $10,000 for it by a company in Tokyo.

It is relatively easy to find one-lungers here in Japan at very
nominal, if any, cost. Also, there seem to be very few Japanese
collectors, although several forages by foreigners have occurred.
Shipping costs are reasonable. Last year I sent four to California
for U. S. $250 (that’s the good news), but to have the
necessary paperwork done to export them, plus the handling fees,
cost another $650. More bad news is that Japan is not the country
for restoration. Parts are just not available. Gasket material,
bearings, bearing metal, sandblasting and welding services are
almost non-existent for old machines, and the engines themselves
are all post-war vintage. We did find one old machinist in a nearby
town who had the remains of a small inventory of magneto parts. Now
that supply has been depleted.

I had to take one 60 lb. head back to the states to have it
repaired. Very interesting experience getting it through two sets
of customs officials, security guards, and airline personnel. If
any of you saw a passenger with a 15 degree starboard list boarding
a 747, it was probably me.

After the day-long festivities ended, the townsmen who were in
charge invited me to attend again next year. They in turn will seek
participation by some of the local farmers who may still have an
old engine or two tucked away somewhere.

Some of you may note a surprising similarity in these various
makes of  Japanese engines to the American Fairbanks-Morse.
Further, all dimensions are inch size, all threads S.A.E., which
provides another obstacle to the restorer in Japan.

Post Script: One of the above mentioned school engines had its
debut yesterday. The initial evaluation regarding its completeness
was erroneous. Many carburetor parts were missing, magneto was not
the one specified and it had the wrong gear. All oilers were gone.
Perhaps this was to be expected of any item subjected to high
school storage.

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