“I want to drink Awamori over Antarctic ice!” University of the Ryukyus Staff Junji Kinjo selected to join Antarctic expedition

“I want to drink Awamori over Antarctic ice!”  University of the Ryukyus Staff Junji Kinjo selected to join Antarctic expedition

Junji Kinjo shares his hopes as his departure for Antarctica draws near. (October 30, The University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara)

November 6, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 20, Junji Kinjo will depart the Port of Yokosuka headed to Antarctica. Kinjo is a staff member at the University of the Ryukyus and was chosen to join the winter group of the 62nd Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE). The expedition will arrive at Showa Station by the end of the year and plans to spend approximately one year and four months in Antarctica. Kinjo is pure uchinanchu, having never lived outside of Okinawa. Furthermore, his degree is in the humanities. His life so far has not brought him in contact with the cold or with life sciences. With the day of departure nearing, Kinjo says, “I want to drink awamori over Antarctic ice!”

After graduating from Futenma High School, Kinjo enrolled in the Department of Comprehensive Social Systems Studies in the Faculty of Law and Letters at the University of the Ryukyus. After graduating, he was hired by the university and joined the Human Resources Department. Human Resources is primarily responsible for managing educational affairs, anti-harassment measures, and promoting gender equality, but also accepts applications to education and research opportunities with external organizations. While working, Kinjo came across a job description for JARE and thought, “This kind of job exists! It looks interesting.” He got a gut feeling and decided to go to Antarctica.

The first time he saw the job description, the application period had already ended. During the next application period, Kinjo spoke to his supervisor about the opportunity. The answer was no; his priority should be getting used to his current job. Applications are accepted every other year, so Kinjo gained an understanding of his workplace and applied two years later. He was not accepted, but he didn’t give up. Two years later, he applied yet again. This time, his long-held dream finally came to fruition.

Kinjo is currently undergoing training at the National Institute of Polar Research, which is the organization that sends the expeditions. He is responsible for general affairs and information communication for the group, so he is working to procure necessities such as office supplies and toilet paper. Everything must be purchased on this one occasion, so it is a big responsibility. Kinjo is gathering items with advice from his predecessors.

There are many natural phenomena in Antarctica that do not occur in Okinawa such as the midnight sun, when the sun never sets, and polar nights, when the sun never rises. Kinjo is uneasy about an environment that he won’t be able to leave, but has high hopes. “Antarctica has scenery that is completely alien to most people. You can see auroras too. I want to share information about it on blogs and social networking sites. I’m also planning YouTube Live Streams.”

(English translation by T&CT and Ellen Huntley)

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