Our ILC Relay series interviews people in Iwate who support the ILC project, so our readers can see what Iwate as a whole is doing to bring about the project. This time we’ve interviewed Ms. Yuriko Abe, who has long been involved with international exchange initiatives in Morioka City. (Interviewed by Issei Sugita of Morioka City’s ILC Promotion Office)


Yuriko Abe
What does she do?
Representative of the Hometown Ambassador Kids group, ESL teacher to young children, advisor to exchange students, and intercultural coordinator
Originally from: Kagano, Morioka
Family: Ms. Abe lives with her husband and daughter (4th grade)
Hobbies: Sansa odori dance, piano, tea ceremony, flower-arranging, classical ballet, flamenco

Last year, Ms. Abe joined a Morioka City advisory board to make the city a more international place, set up in preparation for projects like the International Linear Collider. There, she gave a number of very important suggestions on international exchange and multicultural society.

This time, we asked her about her international exchange work and what she likes about Morioka.

Q: What made you interested in working on international exchange initiatives?

“I used to work for a private company, and we once had a trainee come from Brazil. I really enjoyed getting to know them and wanted that kind of experience again. I realized I’d like to experience what it was like to live abroad and be surrounded with different perspectives than my own. I quit my job of 8 years, and went to study English for a half-year in Victoria, Canada.”

Q: That must have been challenging to quit your job and study abroad. What was the impetus behind that?

“I was actually very happy with my job at the time, but then my father passed away, and I started to reevaluate my life. I remembered how I had used to want to try a homestay in a foreign country. I wanted to learn how people abroad structure their time, because I wanted to be able to balance both work and my private life, living in a way that was most natural for me. I think I was searching for how I could be useful to the people around me and society as a whole. My English teacher recommended I go to Victoria, which is the sister city of Morioka. When I went to ask at the Morioka International Relations Association they handed me the business card of the principal of a language school in Victoria. I contacted them immediately, and made the decision to study abroad.”

With the principal in Victoria

QWhat else did you do in Victoria besides study English?

“The first time I went to Victoria, I volunteered at events and taught Japanese. The people in my class were from Victoria and other countries from around the world, so we would talk about all of our native food and cultures. We also planned exchange events. I also helped out as a volunteer interpreter when the Rotary Club of Morioka came to Victoria. Seeing these people I had known back in Morioka felt like a gift from my father.

After that, I got very involved with the exchange between Morioka and Victoria, and that has lasted until today. I went back to Victoria again after getting a job at that same language school helping out with student support, counseling, marketing, and being a program monitor. I also volunteered at a day care. As part of my sister city activities, I also attended the 15th and 20th anniversary events, set up a book exchange, showcased Morioka’s Sansa Odori dance, and also took part in flamenco.”

A book exchange in Victoria

The flamenco group

QNow that you’re back in Morioka, you’ve continued with international exchange and multiculturalism initiatives.

“I want to repay the kindness of all the people I’ve met in my life thus far, from the people that supported me in Victoria so I could study, to the people who cheered me on in Morioka. I want to use my experience living abroad to help create a society where people from different backgrounds and perspectives come together to shine. That’s why I continue.”

QDo you have any other countries you’re interested in?

“I’ve also been involved with an international volunteer group called Jalan Jalan for around twenty years. The group is focused on the world outside of English-speaking countries, so I’ve learned about the cultures of many different countries.

Also, Canada is a country made up of immigrants, with people of all different nationalities living together. In my life in Canada, I made so many friends of different nationalities. It made me aware of Japan’s place in the world, and let me be able to look at it from a more objective standpoint. I learned just how wonderful it is when we respect each other’s differences, help each other, and use our unique qualities to accomplish something that can’t be done alone.”

Q: After you were done studying in Victoria and came back to Japan, what did you do here?

“The language school in Victoria also had an office in Morioka, so I worked there to support others who wanted to go abroad like I did.

Like I said before, I was able to go myself because people helped me, so I ended up going back and forth from Japan to Canada.

Also, I also got to know foreign residents of Morioka who come from many different backgrounds, as I helped them by volunteering as an interpreter or teaching them Japanese culture.

I also worked at the prefectural international association, and volunteered with Jalan Jalan. I was involved with the foundation of the Morioka-Victoria Friendship Association, and helped with their exchange activities along with people who had been supporting the sister city relationship for many years.”

At the Victoria parade in 2005

QWhat are you working on right now? 

“I’ve long been working in international exchange in a number of different ways: sister city work, town development, career education, gender equality. I’m aiming for the creation of a society where we all respect each other, and where everyone can shine in their own way.

I have two periodic events that I’ve been working on a lot recently. One is something I’ve been doing with three friends since April 2017 called “Global Legacy Kids.” Our main projects are learning about Japanese holidays and history, through presentations in English. We hold these events for Japanese elementary students and their parents, and then we try to invite a foreign resident as a guest.

Learning about Japanese New Year with a Peruvian resident of Morioka

My whole goal is to get the students to learn more about Japanese culture along with foreign cultures. For example, recently we learned about the Japanese Tanabata holiday (a summer holiday that involves writing down wishes). The Thai language has a unique written form, so we wrote our wishes down on the Tanabata flags and we wrote our names in Thai. In that way, we try to add foreign aspects to Japanese culture.

Another thing I’ve been working on since March 2018 is the Hometown Ambassador Kids group. Through this we reevaluate Japanese culture through an international lens, and increase our understanding of foreign cultures. What makes it different from the Global Legacy Kids group is that foreign students and foreign families experience Japanese culture along with Japanese families. We also focus on introducing content that has to do with everyday life here in Iwate. I started this group for two reasons: I wanted the kids to feel a sense of pride in Morioka which will remain with them as future leaders of Japan, and to become cultural ambassadors of Japanese culture abroad. I also want them to come to the aid the foreign residents around them who need help managing life in Japan with language barriers and the like.

Scenes from the Hometown Ambassador Kids events

Some of the activities we’ve done thus far are making models of Mount Iwate with sushi, making dumplings and going to see the cherry blossoms, making rice balls and traditional Iwate food, and reading the classic story “Omusubi Kororin” in both Japanese and English.

The root goal of my activities is this: as the world becomes more and more globalized, we need as Japanese people to have pride in ourselves and wear that on our sleeves as we learn more about the world.”

QWhat do you think we need to do to make Morioka City more multicultural?

“Of course, we need to increase the amount of foreign language signs for foreign visitors, but the people actually living in Morioka are more worried about things like healthcare and how to ride the buses. The prefectural international association holds consultation sessions for people to ask about the law and other big issues, but I think they’re looking for a place where they can just easily ask about smaller, everyday worries.

In order to do that, we need more staff who can speak foreign languages in a number of different situations, and more people who can teach Japanese to foreigners. This means we need more support from the local government for these volunteer activities, and we need more volunteers.

Compared to the past, there are more opportunities to interact with foreign culture, but often it’s foreign people showcasing their own culture, and there’s not a lot of Japanese who communicate our culture to foreign people.

Showing off Morioka’s Sansa Odori drum parade at a 2007 workshop in Victoria

We need to create opportunities for long-term foreign residents to experience not just our language, culture, and history, but also day-to-day life, in order to make their lives in Iwate richer. If we hold enough of these events, a community will form between Japanese people and foreign people, and they’ll be able to easily talk about any worries if they have them. I would be very happy if I could support people in this way.”

QWhat do you hope for the ILC?

“From my position, I think that the ILC will make Iwate a place that can train and develop people who can act on an international stage. If we walk a mile in the shoes of the foreign researchers, and think about what they need for a good life in Iwate, it will be a good opportunity to reevaluate our hometowns and ourselves. Also, since we’ll get to interact with foreign researchers and local people so much more, won’t that be a good impetus to study English?”

Learning about Morioka’s Fall Festival

QWhat do you like about Morioka?

“There’s a lot I would recommend in Morioka, but I love how there’s two rivers running through town. The Nakatsu River has salmon that swim upstream in the fall, and you can boat downstream in the Shizukuishi river.

I love Mount Iwate too, because it strikes a grand figure that you can see from a number of places in town. Morioka is full of nature even in the middle of the city, and you can feel that richness in your everyday life.

I also love the people of Morioka. There are a lot of very warm and hospitable people here.

I feel invigorated when I look at Mount Iwate, and relaxed and peaceful when I gaze at the flow of the Nakatsu River. I learn from when I can interact with people. It’s only in Morioka where all of those things come together to help me grow as a person.

Our festivals are fabulous, and everyone can join in. A foreign person can arrive and immediately get involved with local cultural events like the Sansa Odori drum festival. Everyone can take part in the Wa dance (circle dance) that happens at the end.

There’s a strong emphasis on passing down our local culture. We have the Three Great Noodles (reimen, jajamen, and wanko soba) and other traditional food, and skilled craftsmen and artisans who make traditional goods. That’s what I love about Morioka.”

QIn conclusion, do you have any messages for the ILC researchers?

“Everyone, I know your main aim in coming to Iwate will be to do your research, but I hope you’ll have fun meeting people in your neighborhoods, and really get a true feel for what it is to be in Japan. And I’d like you to hold that feeling in your hearts and bring it back to your own country.”


安部 由利子さん(ふるさとアンバサダーキッズ代表)

ILCリレーでは,ILC実現のためのオール岩手の取り組みを発信するために、ILCを応援している岩手県民の方々にインタビューしています。今回は、盛岡市で長年国際交流活動に携わっている安部由利子さんにインタビューしました。(聞き手は,盛岡市国際リニアコライダー推進事務局 杉田一盛)

肩書 ふるさとアンバサダーキッズ代表,児童英語講師,留学アドバイザー,異文化コーディネーター
出身 盛岡市加賀野
家族 夫,小学4年生のお子様1人
趣味 さんさ踊り,ピアノ、茶道,華道,クラシックバレエやフラメンコなどの舞踊

















2005年 ビクトリアパレードにて