As a journalist who specializes in investigating water issues and potential solutions, Junji Hashimoto is accustomed to sharing facts about water. Over the years, however, he has discovered that the facts can’t tell the whole story—at least when it comes to helping people understand the complex world of water resources.
“In the past, I would just tell people about the problems,” Junji said. “I would explain, ‘Ethiopia has people who have to walk three hours every day to get water’ or ‘There are people in Bangladesh who have to drink groundwater that is contaminated with arsenic.’ The children I spoke to understood intellectually, but they didn’t really understand. I needed to help them figure it out for themselves.”
Project WET Japan, which is hosted by the River Foundation. River Foundation researcher and experienced Project WET educator Kazunari Sugawara calls Junji “one of Project WET Japan’s leading educators and facilitators.” Since becoming a Project WET educator in 2010, Junji has taught about 18,000 people about water using Project WET. He became a Project WET facilitator in 2014, and he has trained some 100 educators in the past five year, further extending his reach.That desire led Junji to
Junji said that when he started using Project WET with students, he immediately saw a difference in their level of understanding: “The children began to figure things out own their own and to think and act on their own.”
Over his years of using Project WET, Junji has combined and customized Project WET activities to best address the local context. To teach a group of children about the groundwater used in their small town, Junji presented several classic Project WET activities, including “The Incredible Journey” and “A Grave Mistake”, along with the newer “Storm Water” activity. For high schoolers near Mt. Fuji, he focused on active learning around the theme of water challenges. He directed teachers to use Project WET activities such as “Sum of the Parts” and “Get the Ground Water Picture” before starting a larger assignment around water, putting all the students on equal footing in their water knowledge. He also works with university students on the topic of “Sustainability in a catchment basin”, leading them in Project WET activities such as “Pass the Jug” and “Back to the Future” as a way of inspiring discussion and dialogue.
Junji’s water education efforts are all part of his larger work to help people think about what it will mean to be sustainable in the future. He established the Aqua Sphere Water Education Research Institute to promote water literacy in collaboration with local governments, schools, companies and NGOs. The Institute provides policy advice and support to national and local governments as well as educational outreach for children and citizens.
Looking to the future, Junji said that deep thinking and meaningful action will be necessary to create a sustainable society. His work centers on helping people consider fundamental questions about water, such as how we—the broad we, including animals, plants and Earth systems—can secure enough clean, fresh water to allow everyone to live.
“When thinking about the next 30 years, I predict that there will be significant changes in capitalism, economic growth, democracy, generational disparity and climate,” Junji said. “In order to build a sustainable society, it is necessary to fundamentally change the system that supports our world.”
As a journalist, author and educator, Junji is committed to water education. He wants to encourage people to think seriously—and independently—about water. “I want to help others consider society in the context of water and to help to create a sustainable society,” he concluded.
One of Project WET's most enduring international partners is the River Foundation, hosts for Project WET Japan since 2003. The River Foundation is dedicated to preserving Japan's bountiful river and watershed environment and to reconnecting the people of Japan with the nation's rivers. Since beginning its work with Project WET, the River Foundation has trained thousands of educators and reached hundreds of thousands of children with education around a wide range of water and river-related issues, such as flood control, water utilization and other environmental issues. We are grateful to the River Foundation for its longstanding support of Project WET and water education in Japan and around the world!