Foreigner juggles roles in radio, city hall

IWAMIZAWA, Hokkaido — When Keith Barton came to Japan in July, he had no idea he would be filling the unusual combination of roles that he does now.

Barton, 24, is the first coordinator of international relations at Iwamizawa City Hall. He applied for the job while at school in Idaho, where he was studying Japanese.

After only a few months as CIR, and just when he had adjusted to his new environment, his boss suggested that he publicize the international exchange section through the city’s new local radio station, FM Hamanasu, which started broadcasting to the city’s 85,806 people last April. Without a thought, he agreed.

In October, his 10-minute program, “Keith and His Friends,” debuted and now airs regularly Monday through Thursday at 5 p.m. The show covers such topics as studying abroad and cross-cultural differences — in Japanese. “It was scary and stressful at first,” he said, remembering that his Japanese did not come out smoothly and that he had to sit through numerous retakes of the program.

But after more than a month of sweating, he finally got a knack for his new role. “Now I enjoy deejaying, especially when a guest comes in,” he said.

Through his job, Barton said he learns many things, including new Japanese expressions and how to properly use “keigo,” the honorific way of speaking Japanese. “It’s like being paid to study,” he said.