[From July Issue 2015]
With its delightful old warehouse district, the Otaru canal in Otaru City, Hokkaido is a popular sightseeing destination even for Japanese. Here, New Zealander Brad McIVOR works as the captain of a cruise ship that allows visitors to enjoy the cityscape from the water. Many tourists are surprised when they discover that this non-Japanese person introduces the history of the landscape and the buildings in Japanese.
Brad was a high school student when he first encountered the Japanese language. “Maori was used only in New Zealand, and I disliked the French teacher.” So he chose Japanese by a process of elimination. “I thought that it was a good thing that it was a completely different language from English. I got quite good grades, too.”
After graduating from high school, he studied abroad at a high school in Chiba Prefecture for 11 months. “Although I studied Japanese and the Japanese culture for four years in high school, at first I could not follow what people were saying because of the speed of their speech.” He says that because his host family spoke slowly to him, he gradually became accustomed to Japanese. Because this family liked skiing, they took Brad along with them several times. This later had a huge influence on his decision to stay on in Japan.
After studying abroad, he majored in geology and Japanese at a university in New Zealand, and after graduating, was selected for the JET Programme. He landed a job at the City Hall in Koshigaya City, Saitama Prefecture where he was put in charge of work relating to international exchange, but at the same time enrolled in the city hall skiing club and came to enjoy skiing with friends. After working there for three years, he returned to his home country, but wanting to ski in Japan again, found work at Kiroro Resort in Hokkaido.
Kiroro Resort is known for its ski slopes and the resort is busier in winter than summer. After several years had passed since he began work there, he was asked if he was interested in working during the summer low season as a guide for a canal cruise company in neighboring Otaru City.
However, the work of a guide dealt mainly with history and not with the outdoors. “At first it was difficult to memorize information.” For about the first two months, he would conduct the tour as far as he could and then let the more experienced captains take over, but by repetition he gradually extended the time he could recount the script. Now in his fourth year, he’s got to a point where he can go off script and can introduce different information depending on the weather and amount of snow.
Although he’s a seasoned guide, Brad has a tendency to use English intonation when speaking Japanese and this is something he wants to remedy. However, on the other hand, “My English pronunciation may become strange if my Japanese becomes perfect. Since I have not spoken English recently, it sometimes feels strange when I speak it,” he laughs.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo