Join a volunteer abroad program in Japan with GoEco! Teach English or contribute to the community’s agricultural efforts, as you discover customs and cuisine that are unique to Japan. In a nutshell:
- Sustainable volunteer programs with measurable impacts
- GoEco’s ethical values are behind all volunteer projects
- Award-winning programs with excellent volunteer reviews
- Comfortable volunteer accommodation, most meals, airport transfers, and 24/7 support are all included in the program fees
- Travel deeper Japanese culture by living in a rural area
Why volunteer in Japan? Ancient traditions thrive alongside ultra-modern innovations in Japan; you can step off the high-speed bullet train and walk into a calm temple to be greeted by monks. Or, stroll streets lit by three-story high neon billboards one night, and sleep on a tatami mat in a traditional Japanese guesthouse the next. During your time in Japan, you’ll come to appreciate cherry blossoms and anime in equal measure. There are dozens of travel highlights in Japan. From seeing Kyoto’s elaborate temples to bathing in a Japanese onsen (hot spring bath), and eating sushi straight from the Tsukiji Market, Japan has an endless number of fascinating and sensory experiences to offer. Japan might have guarded its traditions carefully, but it is certainly a modern country and there is a strong demand for native English-speaking teachers. International volunteers can contribute to our English exchange program, which is an effective way to learn more about Japanese culture as you share your own. This country also has strong farming traditions and growing environmental concerns. If you love the outdoors, you can find agricultural projects where you can learn about culture and sustainability at the same time. What to know before you go Japan is a highly developed country with an excellent standard of living. Daily expenses are higher than in other volunteer destinations in Asia, but you will feel secure traveling in a country with a high degree of safety and excellent infrastructure. You don’t need to understand Japanese to volunteer in Japan, but knowing about cultural nuances can help you integrate more into local life. For example, Japanese society is hierarchical and particular respect is paid to people who are older than you or who hold a higher position. In a workplace setting, for instance, younger people defer to more superior or senior workers. That can mean using respectful language, being extra polite and not contradicting their opinion. Japanese people are also very careful not to cause offense to others and are very considerate with their actions. For example, pointing at people and things with your finger is considered rude by most people. Speaking loudly, and eating or drinking while walking down the street, is also generally considered disrespectful. While this is not a strict rule, it’s usually better to stop to snack or drink at a restaurant, instead of while on the go. Spend your time observing the Japanese and see if you can pick up on subtle cultural differences! Japanese culture includes customs around clothing. When visiting religious sites, you’ll need to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. Wear shoes you can slip on and off easily, as you’ll need to take your shoes off when entering many religious sites, traditional Japanese inns, or homes. Locations Japan’s big cities hum with excitement. Visiting Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto is an essential part of your Japanese travel experience. However, to immerse yourself in Japanese culture that is largely uninfluenced by the outside world, volunteering in Japan’s rural areas is ideal. GoEco’s volunteer programs take place in Otaki Village in the central Nagano Prefecture. Set at the base of Mount Ontake, the area is famous for its mountain landscapes. Away from the hustle of Japan’s major cities, life in Otaki is connected with nature and quietly spiritual – you’ll find plenty of moss-covered shrines in the area. Spending time here will give you a glimpse into a side of Japan only seen by Western visitors who venture away from the country’s main attractions. The Nagano area is a great place to visit at any time of year. In winter, you can dive into snow sports and zip down the nearby ski slopes. In summer, hike and kayak through the hills and discover sacred waterfalls. Bathe in onsen hot springs, visit the snow monkeys (that also like taking a dip in the hot springs!), or wander through Matsumoto Castle. Volunteer programs in Japan With GoEco, volunteers can choose from teaching or agriculture projects in Japan. Our programs give you a balance of practical volunteer experience, and the chance to take part in cultural activities. An English exchange program gives volunteers the chance to live in a traditional hillside village, helping locals to improve their language skills while you learn the rhythms of daily life. You’ll be welcomed into the heart of Otaki, as you help to open up more tourism opportunities for locals by giving them more confidence in speaking English. To take part in this program, you’ll need an advanced level of English. Volunteer in agriculture and experience Japanese culture as you help farmers in a small, hillside village. Assisting in the daily operations and maintenance of sustainable agriculture projects is a great way to learn more about traditional farming methods. This is also an opportunity to be immersed in the local culture and beautiful landscapes. You’ll also have the chance to go trekking in the area, visit natural hot springs, and learn how to make sushi. Take the leap! Enroll in one of GoEco’s Japan volunteer opportunities today, or browse more programs in Asia.