Looking for a part-time job someplace off the beaten track? How about this, asks Weekly Playboy (Aug 26). Twice a year, the small base operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on Iwo Japan flies over part-time kitchen help, who serve two-week stints.
The famous World War II battlefield, perhaps best known to Americans for AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's iconic photo of U.S. Marines raising the flag on the summit of Mt Suribachi, is located about 1,200 kilometers south of Tokyo. It reverted from U.S. to Japanese control in 1968, but for various reasons is not open to visitors without special permission.
The writer, however, says no special connections are required to apply to work there during the two opportunities offered, each May and August. In fact, the MSDF even advertises the jobs in the "Town Work" help wanted ad magazine. Applicants can opt for janitorial work or food preparation work. Remuneration is 9,000 yen per day, with room and board included.
The writer sent off his resume with photo attached and was summoned for an interview.
"The garrison needs additional help at that time because the U.S. Navy conducts landings and takeoffs during those times, and things get kind of busy there," he was told. "We're snowed under with applicants for janitor, but the positions for kitchen work are still vacant. Can you use a cleaver?"
He was told the working period would be for 16 days, with the possibility of extension depending on the U.S. naval flights. He was also handed a booklet titled, "Things to know about the island." "Iwo Jima, it explained, is not a resort." And furthermore, it warned "Wandering alone in the jungle is strictly prohibited."
The night before departure from Iruma Air Base in Saitama, the writer met the other workers, some 30 in number, who ranged in age from 20 to 60 years. A lot of them seemed to be miri-ota (military geeks).
Although non-military, the workers were issued dog tags and instructed to wear them around their necks. "So if the plane crashes we'll be able to identify your remains," the staff member said, half jokingly. Nobody laughed.
Upon landing, from the window of the C-2 the writer saw the island's Japanese name, IWOTO, posted on the base's control tower. Quarters, at two to a room, were comfortable enough. The mess hall where he worked operated round the clock in three shifts.
On the day following arrival, he was transported by passenger van to the Tenzan monument for consolation of the departed spirits, where he joined his colleagues in prayer and burning incense. He was informed that the island is honeycombed with some 3,000 tunnels, most of which still bear the scars of the battle, and that metal fragments, bullets, cartridges and so on are ubiquitous in interior areas.
The stay also accorded the writer with the opportunity to interact with people of another culture. To the envy of the Japanese military and workers alike, whose activities were rather restricted, the U.S. forces on the island appeared to enjoy their off-duty time, holding outdoor barbecues at which they loudly played R&B music. They also set out to tour parts of the island aboard mountain bikes or dune buggies.
Quite a few of the Americans, he found, could converse in Japanese.
While the Japanese were served a balanced diet, the Americans enjoyed steaks, with carbonated beverages and Haagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert.
Visitors to Iwo Jima should take pains to avoid encounters with poisonous giant African snails and scorpions. During his entire sojourn, the writer only saw one woman, an interpreter who was flown over during an orientation tour of F-18 fighters.
The writer also had a chance to visit the cave that served as the command post of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. The radio equipment used to transmit his final dispatch to Army Headquarters in Tokyo remains as it was in 1945.
While the island has no duty-free shop, the workers were allowed access to the American PX, and standing in line for admittance proved worthwhile as he was able to purchase a super-size energy drink and a bottle of American shampoo. "That gave it the atmosphere of an overseas trip," he wrote.
His fondest souvenir, however, was a chunk of andesine feldspar he found on the seashore. It's a rarity anywhere in the world, and in Japan found only on Iwo Jima.
Once back in Tokyo and riding the rush hour trains, he couldn't help but keep looking at females, the sight of which he'd been deprived for nearly three weeks.
"I worry my memories of Iwo Jima will fade all too soon -- and that makes me feel lonely," he wrote. "When that happens, I reach into my pocket and squeeze that piece of Andesine."© Japan Today