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Life as a Designated City CIR

Fukuoka City CIR

Designated Cities are cities with a population of over 500,000 that have been entrusted with administrative powers of prefectural governments.  I was lucky enough to be placed in the beautiful city of Fukuoka.  Located in the heart of Kyushu Island, it is a bustling cosmopolitan with a population of 1.4 million.  Not only was Fukuoka voted one of the 25 most liveable cities in the world by Monocle Magazine, it also took the crown as the best retail city.  I wholeheartedly agree on both points, as Fukuoka has the convenience and all the amenities of a big city, but possesses a friendly and open nature characteristic to Kyushu.

I work for the International Affairs Department in the city hall along with two CIR’s from non-English speaking countries.  There is also another English-speaking CIR at the International Association across the road from our building.  My duties include translating and proofreading translated documents, interpreting for visitors from abroad, acting as a liaison between Fukuoka and a few of our sister cities, conducting monthly lectures for volunteer interpreters, judging speech contests, and conducting job interviews in English.  The CIR at the International Association edits newsletters and the Association website, organises events, assists with projects of the Association, and also interprets for visitors from abroad.  We also plan an event once or twice a year with all the CIR’s in the prefecture.

Seeing as international relations programmes in Designated Cities tend to be well established, your job description will be well-defined and you will be expected to provide technical language support for existing programmes rather than execute new ones.  It is also true that Designated City CIR’s may have fewer opportunities to meet the locals and build strong ties with the community.  However, there will be a plethora of opportunities to meet people from all over the world, and it is satisfying to be involved in city-level international relations.

Most of my time is dedicated to translating or proofreading and if you find yourself in a similar position, it is advisable that you first channel your assignments through your supervisor.  This ensures that your supervisor knows what assignments you have, and refuse assignments for you if you have a heavy workload, as it can be difficult to refuse them yourself when you first start out as a CIR.  It is also a good idea to draw up a list of assignments and their due dates so that you can see them at a glance; this helps when negotiating due dates for new assignments.

If you tire of translating all day everyday in the confinement of your office and if time allows, you could suggest planning an event as some city facilities can be used free of charge.  Perhaps your supervisor will oblige if the event poses no burden on your coworkers.  My New Zealand cooking class allowed me to be involved in internationalisation quite different from the city level exchanges that are conducted within the walls of my office.  It is also a good idea to plan an event with other CIR’s so that you can share duties and responsibilities.

Of course, not all Designated City CIR’s are put in the same situation.  However, if you start your new post with an open mind and take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, be they work-related or otherwise, your time spent in Japan will definitely be worthwhile and precious.