The ‘Tradition’ Continues!

By Staff
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Only two foreigners for the '94 festival.
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Some of the engines seen at the 1995 festival.

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!

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