National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Yuka Isozaki

Life in Chile has turned me into a positive person.

Administration Department, General Affairs Group, General Affairs Staff

Yuka Isozaki

Just like my senior colleagues have done for me

I joined NAOJ in August 2014, first as a member of the Personnel Unit under the Administration Department. About a month after my arrival, job interviews were held for potential Administrative Experts, and I was assigned to usher and guide the candidates. I remember how happy I was when I, just a newcomer, was entrusted with one job. Some of the candidates I guided on such occasions are now working in the same workplace as me. One day, one of them said that she felt relaxed when I guided and spoke to her before her interview. I was so pleased to know that I was able to leave a lasting impression on her.

After that, in 2018, I was transferred to Chile, where I served as a general affairs clerk. And then I returned to Japan in 2021 and was appointed to the General Affairs Unit, my current workplace. The Administration Department is a relatively small department where all the members know each other well, and that helps our jobs go smoothly. For example, when I am asked to do a task by someone else in the same department, the close-knit environment makes it easy to come up with an ingenious method that will be most beneficial to that person. So, I always try to be attentive while thinking about what is expected of me, just like my senior colleagues have done for me.

Yuka Isozaki during the interview

I’m ashamed to say that until that moment, I hadn’t heard of NAOJ.

I majored in Spanish at university. After some miserably unsuccessful job hunting, I was thinking about finding employment at my alma mater, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and took the recruitment test of the National University Corporation. After I passed the first-stage exam, a kind of job fair took place, where I first attended an info session hosted by my university. Following that, I was thinking about attending other sessions, when I found one delivered by NAOJ. I’m ashamed to say that until that moment, I hadn’t heard of NAOJ. In that session I learned that NAOJ has overseas branches in Hawaiʻi and Chile, where I might have opportunities to work. I was not courageous enough to go abroad of my own accord except on vacation. But what if my employer could provide me with such opportunities…? At least for me, taking a job at NAOJ was a bold step.

Originally, I was not good at expressing myself, but since joining NAOJ and working in Chile, my introvert personality has changed dramatically. I became aware that I may not be able to keep my job going without articulating my opinions and grew confident enough to enjoy trying something new.

Friends who made life in Chile delightful

My job in Chile mainly involved supporting employees living there. That included all forms of assistance to help researchers and other members live comfortably in Chile, such as opening bank accounts, arranging accommodations, and providing Spanish language assistance. Off the clock, I looked for restaurants serving Japanese cuisine and other dishes palatable to Japanese tastes. Because Santiago had only about a thousand Japanese people, including employees of private businesses, there were naturally occurring Japanese communities, where we shared information such as about a newly opened Japanese restaurant. On one such occasion, I met and befriended a group of Japanese people with whom I still keep in touch. It is no exaggeration to say that those friends made my life in Chile much more delightful.

One funny thing about Chile was that buildings, offices, and houses were poorly constructed, with their floors inclined and their ceilings peeling and falling off. Once, I even had a mishap where the kitchen sink in my house fell off. Even though I asked to have it repaired, I received a laid-back response. Gradually, however, I got the feeling that I do not need to hurry so much. The laid-back, or relaxed, atmosphere prevailing in Chile was so suitable for me that I soon became accustomed to it.

Yuka Isozaki with an ALMA Project staff member at a Japanese restaurant in Chile.
Yuka Isozaki during the interview.

I want to see and learn more by going outside NAOJ.

The Administration Department offers its members regular opportunities to speak with the manager about their future careers, providing an environment where they feel free to share their intentions, such as whether they hope to be transferred.

I feel that staying in one place will limit my perspective, so I would like to relocate again before too long. I want to work in Chile again and also want to be transferred to Hawaiʻi. Thankfully, NAOJ participates in a personnel exchange program with national universities, allowing employees to work at some of the member universities for a few years. So, it would also be wonderful to go outside NAOJ and work in other entities. I would like to see and learn more about things, like how NAOJ looks from the outside. Sometimes I find myself asking, “When did I become such a positive person?” But my positive outlook is all thanks to the change wrought on me by my experience in Chile.

Yuka Isozaki at the Administration Department.

Interview Date: September 6, 2022 / Published: Decemmber 15, 2022
Interview & Article: Masami Usuda / Translation: Ryo Sato and Ramsey Lundock / Photo: Shogo Nagayama
The contents of this article are as of the interview date.