My First Job After University

After I graduated from university I was not sure what I wanted to do, but I had a strong desire to travel overseas. A friend told me about an opportunity to work in Antarctica. It sounded exciting and different, so I applied for a job.

McMurdo Station is the main base for the United States Antarctic Program. From this station scientists plan and complete research about the earth, oceans, climate, and animals. The scientists need help so there are many workers supporting the research. There are cooks, drivers, pilots, carpenters, doctors, firefighters, and many other workers. During the Antarctic summer (October to February) there are almost 1000 people living at the station, so there is a lot of work to be done.

I was hired as a dishwasher and was later promoted to assistant baker. It was hard work, but I really enjoyed meeting and working with everyone. Living at McMurdo Station was like living in a very small town on a very isolated island in the countryside. Everything we ate was imported and all of our trash and waste had to be taken away. In October, when the surrounding sea was still frozen, military planes could use it as a runway to deliver supplies and people. Later an icebreaker ship opened a channel, so we could get supplies from ships.

Of course, the weather was cold but we were given special clothing and spent most of our time inside. The warmest it was when I was there was 4°C and the coldest was -30°C. Only once was there a blizzard when the snow was blowing very hard and it was unsafe to go outside. Most of the time it was very dry, and the sun was out 24 hours per day. It was never night time!

The best part of living in Antarctica was the beautiful nature. McMurdo Station is on the sea surrounded by very tall snowy mountains.

Although there are no trees, there are some animals including penguins, seals, and many seabirds. When it got a little warmer and the ice started to break-up we could see whales. My coworkers and the other people at the station were also very interesting. There were old and young people from all over the US. We also had a few international visitors.

After my six-month contract finished I spent some time traveling around the South Island of New Zealand, which is a wonderful place. If you have the chance to visit I highly recommend it! Of course, I will never forget my time at McMurdo Station and the frozen world of Antarctica.

Autumn Trip to Hokkaido

In September of 2014 I took a ferry from Niigata City to Tomakomai in Hokkaido. It was a quiet overnight journey. I always enjoy taking the long distance ferries in Japan.

I spent two nights at a ryokan, or Japanese inn, on Lake Shikaribetsu. The autumn weather was very pleasant and the leaves were just starting to change color. Next I traveled to Sapporo, where I visited the Sapporo Beer Museum and other sights in the city. I ate “Genghis Khan” and other Hokkaido specialties such as fresh ice cream and local vegetables.

From New Chitose Airport, I boarded a plane to Rishiri Island, off the northern coast of Hokkaido. It is very close to Russia. I took a bus tour of the island and met some local people. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. From Rishiri I rode a ferry to Rebun Island and walked along the steep seaside cliffs. There were many amazing views and interesting sights.

My next stop was Wakkanai, the northern most point of Japan. I rented a car and drove through central Hokkaido, stopping in Furano to enjoy the flower fields and fresh fruit. Along the way I stopped at a Reindeer farm and stayed overnight in a farmhouse. I also hiked up Mount Tarumae. It was my first time being so close to an active volcano.

Next was Otaru, it is a wonderful small town and I highly recommend you visit if you have the chance. I ate many wonderful seafood dishes, including fresh crab and squid ink ice cream. Finally, I returned to Sapporo where I went to a baseball game at the Sapporo Dome. It was my first baseball game in Japan and a lot of fun. Overall, my trip to Hokkaido was great and I hope to go back soon!

My First Summer in Japan

In 2014, I spent July to September teaching at the International University of Japan in Niigata Prefecture. The university is located in Minamiuonuma, a very small place with many farms and beautiful mountains. The students came from all around Japan, and many other countries in Asia, to study business English and economics. I had a great time that summer and have many good memories.

There are many rice and watermelon farms around the university. I was very surprised how expensive watermelon is in Japan. Luckily, the farmers would sell us the imperfect watermelons at a cheap price. The taste was delicious! The koshihikari rice grew very fast, from a bright green in July to a golden yellow in September. I would often ride a bicycle after class and enjoy the long summer evenings.

I also enjoyed many festivals that summer. There was a local festival with okonomiyaki and fireworks, and a snow festival at the top of one of the nearby mountains. I even visited the famous Fuji Rock Festival, where I saw many music groups and enjoyed the atmosphere. Niigata Prefecture is famous for Japanese rice wine, known as saké to English speakers. I took a tour of the Midorikawa Sake Company and learned how saké is made.

At the end of the summer I was sad to leave such a beautiful place. In Niigata city I boarded a ferry for Hokkaido. I will write about that trip next time!

Golden Week Trip to Wakayama

Hi Everyone!

I want to tell you about the short vacation I took during Golden Week 2022. This was the first time I have been able to do any extensive traveling since the pandemic began, so I was very excited. I first went to Nagoya by Shinkansen. I spent two days visiting friends and eating Miso Katsu and Tebasaki. It was so delicious!

Next, I took the Nanki (南紀) Limited Express train along the east side of the Kii Peninsula (紀伊半島). I love riding trains, and this was a great journey. The cars have large windows and the view was amazing as the train passed through forests and along the coast. My final stop was Kushimoto. I stayed there for two nights, enjoying sightseeing. Luckily, my hotel was across the road from the Hashiguiiwa Rocks (橋杭岩). I got up early to take photos of the beautiful sunrise. I spent that day visiting Cape Shionomisaki (潮岬) and the southern most point of Honshu. The view was stunning and the weather was perfect. I also learned about the interesting history of Kushimoto. In 1890, the Turkish ship ‘Ertuğrul’ was sunk by a typhoon and many sailors died. The people of Kushimoto helped to rescue 69 Turkish sailors, which led to a strong friendship between Japan and Turkey. Today there is a museum and memorial, and a movie was made about the event, “125 Years Memory” (海難1890). There is even a small Turkish cafe and shop, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Returning to Kobe I took the train from Kushimoto to Shin-Osaka. Again the views from the train were amazing. The trains went along the east side of the Kii Peninsula, passing through Shirahama and Wakayama. I arrived home tired from the long journey, but happy and relaxed. Please let me know if you have any questions!