Subaru Staff -Part 21-

July 18, 2011

The Staff Interview Series is resuming after a long break. This article features Rieko Murai, the bilingual tour guide at Subaru Telescope. (current as of date).

The bilingual tour guide
at Subaru Telescope.

Rieko Murai

- Will you please introduce yourself?
My name is Rieko Murai, and I work as a bilingual tour guide at Subaru Telescope. I am originally from Tokyo, Japan, and I came to the Big Island of Hawaii in 1999. My hobby is sewing.

- What made you decide to work at Subaru Telescope?
In 2008, a friend of mine told me about a job advertisement at Subaru Telescope, and then I applied for it. I was living in Kona then, on the west side of the island of Hawaii, and I was working at a different job. I had worked as a volunteer guide at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, because I'm interested in the stars. Since I have never studied astronomy, I have learned the basics of astronomy and telescope operation while on the job.

- What exactly do you do at Subaru Telescope?
I give visitors, who come from all over the world, a tour of the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea or of its base facility in Hilo. The tour at the Subaru Telescope lasts approximately 45 minutes, and I give it either in Japanese or English. (See more information about visiting the Subaru telescope.) The high altitude of the summit area of Mauna Kea presents a substantial health hazard to visitors. When I conduct a tour, I always give priority to the safety and health of the guests.

Ms Murai explains
special features of the telescope.

- The visitors' safety and health are very important, aren't they?
Yes, they are. Safety first!! When visitors show signs of serious altitude sickness, I suspend or cancel the rest of the tour so that I can take care of them. It took me two months to adjust to the thin, dry, cold air in the environment of the summit. Although I have been giving tours for three years, I still get a headache from time to time.

- You give tours in a harsh environment.
Yes, I do. However, I really enjoy giving every tour. My motto is: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime special occasion." I cherish meeting each and every visitor. Although most visitors tour Subaru Telescope only once, some come more than two or three times, and I am really happy to see them again. Many visitors inquire about technical aspects of the telescope or the discoveries it makes, so I keep studying those things. Luckily, a variety of experts work at Subaru Telescope, and they are willing to share what they know.

- What a great job you have!! Your job includes many nice experiences.
Yes, it does. For example, a couple from the Netherlands visited the Subaru Telescope. During the tour, the lady asked her boyfriend to marry her. This took me by surprise, but it was really nice. It was the first time that I had witnessed someone making a marriage proposal during a tour. This kind of special encounter with guests, in this case being involved in such a nice, romantic event, is a good part of my job.

Ms Murai at the summit of Mauna Kea
with Subaru Telescope in the background.


- Thank you very much. Finally, do you have any message for our readers?
Subaru Telescope, located on Mauna Kea, is one of the biggest telescopes in the world. It took twenty years to construct the Subaru Telescope from its conception. Subaru Telescope is an amazing facility. Please come and see for yourself!!



Visiting the Subaru Telescope
・We offer tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and the tours begin at 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, and 1:30 PM.
・You may sign up for a tour on our web site three months in advance. Sign-up is on a first come, first serves basis.
・Children under 16, pregnant women, and those with serious cardiac or pulmonary conditions do not participate the tours.
・See more information about visiting the Subaru telescope.

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