Junko was born in 1964 in Hitachi city, Ibaraki, Japan. She went as an AFS student to Australia  in 1981-82. She graduated from Tsuda University, Tokyo in 1988. She joined AFS office in 1992. She was the Marketing Manager during 2000-2007 then took charge as the Program Director (2007-2017). Junko took over as the Partner Director, effective since July 2017.   

How do you feel that AFS as an organization can contribute to fostering intercultural competence around the world especially during these times of uncertainty?

I believe AFS is the one of the very few organizations that provides world-centric perspective.  During these time of uncertainty, people tend to think of their own interest first, but this will easily lead us to separation.  AFS connects people across various borders around the world.

Education has always been the key to expanding the vision of people. How do you feel intercultural learning incorporated within the educational framework to help in broadening the overall learning process for individuals?

Looking back to my own school experiences, almost all of what I learned was through the mouth of teachers.  Intercultural learning should not be categorized as one of the subjects like math, science and geography, but it should be a compulsory study in broader sense that requires certain skills to teach.  Therefore, involving teachers for this broader study program is a key to change our education.

What initiatives has AFS Japan undertaken to shape the international education worldwide? 

Many years of our approach to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education bore fruit in 2017.  We received partial funds for 70 students + teachers from 5 AFS Partners to interchange with high schools in Tokyo. The schools found host families and we trained teachers to become a contact person. This is only a 2-week program, but we believe this is a great start of our connection with education sector.  Our next approach is to MEXT, headquarter of our education. We hope to be able to share good news with Partners very soon.

Any suggestions as to how the intercultural learning can be given due importance/ awareness in lesser explored areas so as to reach out for more openness and awareness in obtaining intercultural learning.

Having volunteers with ICL knowledge in every local chapter is what we are trying to achieve.  It is important to localize our mission to ensure broader reach to our society.

Schools are important partners in growth of AFS programs. How has AFS involved schools in country to make them strong partners? What are some kinds of activities that AFS has been doing to improve school relationships, and can be an example for others in the field of Global Education? 

This is one of our biggest challenges for further growth. We have one specialized volunteer whom we call a school-visits coordinator. He is a retired salesman who is really good at approaching to the ordinary teachers at schools to get information and spread our mission. This works very well because his activity is well appreciated by a number of our local chapters that are usually very busy dealing with students’ support or organizing local events.  Since the area of his activity is limited, we are looking for more volunteers like him.

Volunteers are the pillars when it comes to the functioning of AFS. What more initiatives be brought forth to garner motivation amongst the volunteers?

Training (ICL, Support, chapter accounting), sharing of best practices, regional meetings and national volunteer assembly, memorial celebrations, etc.  The best motivation is to be shown appreciation by their hosted students during and after their experience in Japan.

How has the AFS experienced/helped you?

AFS has been my life for 35 years.  It helped me open my eyes to the world, it helped me grow, it helped me accept things as is, and it helped me overcome challenges, and I am still learning so many things from AFS.