In January of 2010 I was asked about joining the local volunteer fire corps, and having been a POC (Paid on Call) firefighter in Canada for 5 years, I was excited to learn about Japanese firefighting techniques and fire corps SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). Plus I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet some neighbors and practice Japanese! Anyway- as the first day approached I grew nervous, wondering if my new firefighter friends would accept me, if I would be able to understand lectures and how to use the equipment, plus just nervousness about communicating in a second language.
I shouldn’t have worried- I was welcomed so warmly that I was put at ease within 20 minutes. My team leader, Mr Masuda was quick to sit me beside him and tho personally help me with anything I didn’t understand. Something I should mention here is that the Japanese fire corps has a long and proud tradition and as such is a very traditional organization. As such, all the texts, documents, etc are written in very traditional Japanese, containing NO katakana (foreign ‘borrowed’ words, which I can read and understand fairly easily). So Mr Masuda really had his job cut out for him! At the Otsu City Fire School, I sit through 4 hour lectures, read 20 page training manuals, and chat with other firefighters, all in very traditional Japanese! But I’m getting off track. My true point was simply to say how warmly welcomed I have been by this wonderful group. They take the extra effort to make me feel I am a member, they take time to explain things to me in English or in simplified Japanese terms, and they are always patient with me.
This extra care, extra effort truly makes my life better, and I am happy that I made the choice to join the department. More posts to come on my adventures with the Otsu City Volunteer Fire Corps!