Sunday, June 1, 2008

Villager In The Spotlight

Villager In The Spotlight will be a recurring blog post featuring the folks we see nearly every day here in the village and want to get to know better.

Nao Usui graciously granted me the following interview. He has been a good friend to us and is rightly the first to be in the spotlight.

Nao stands in front of a giant console of televisions in the Atomu where he works.

Nao Usui (now ooh-sue-ee) grew up in Tokachi on the island of Hokkaido. After high school he moved south to the island of Honshu where he worked in Osaka as a computer systems engineer. After thirteen years on Honshu, Nao quit his job, packed up his car, and spent two months road-tripping around Hokkaido, returning to his roots.

Nao and his wife Nagisa eventually settled in Nishiokoppe where he is the communications guru at the village's technological hub the Atomu. Atomu, he says is the name of a Japanese anime robot but also means 'information technology dreams'. His most important jobs at the Atomu are to make local television programs, and to coordinate the village telephone, cable TV systems, and high speed internet. I silently thank Nao every day for keeping my internet connection to the outside world running smoothly. At village events you can expect to see Nao wielding a TV camera or snapping shots with his digital camera, skillfully capturing the spirit of Nishiokoppe for the local TV channel.

Nao has a good eye for photography, especially landscape scenes, which is one of his pass-times. Nao also enjoys hiking, golf, and playing electric guitar. His favorite music genres are jazz and rock. He says Van Halen and The Eagles are two of his favorite American bands.

Nao is a regular at Shawn's Monday night English class which has moved from the classroom to the Rimu bar as of late. He told me that many years ago an English speaking tourist asked him for directions and he felt badly that he couldn't help. Since then he has learned English mostly through practice conversation with other foreigners. He enjoys the cultural exchange. I asked Nao his advice to people coming to Japan. He answered thoughtfully, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." I think Nao's grasp of English idioms is very good and will serve him well when he visits his favorite American cities, San Francisco, New York and Boston someday. Of course we'd love to see him make a pit-stop in Juneau where we could continue the cultural exchange over a few Alaskan Ambers.