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Japan seamlessly blends traditionalism and modernism, offering a captivating juxtaposition of cultures. From the serene traditional villages where locals peacefully rest on tatami mats to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, the country encapsulates a rich tapestry of customs. The English exchange program unfolds in the enchanting village of Otaki, nestled in the mountainous Nagano Prefecture in central Japan. Otaki, with its small and charming nature, epitomizes the idyllic traditional Japanese village. Surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, this region boasts not only cultural richness but also a thriving natural environment.
As you explore Otaki, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world where the coexistence of tradition and nature is seamlessly intertwined. The village, situated amidst majestic mountains, is not only a testament to Japan’s cultural heritage but also a haven for wildlife, including bears. The locals, with a warm and welcoming spirit, embody the essence of traditional Japanese hospitality. However, it’s noteworthy that the community has a limited proficiency in English, making the English exchange program an invaluable opportunity for cultural exchange. This unique setting provides participants with the chance to not only enhance language skills but also to deeply connect with a community that lives harmoniously with both tradition and the untamed beauty of nature.
The core of the volunteer work in Otaki Village involves helping locals gain confidence and practice in speaking English, in the effort to support the community in boosting tourism and job opportunities. Volunteers facilitate conversation afternoons at the community house, creating a platform for villagers and local business owners to interact with foreigners comfortably. The aim is not only to improve language skills but also to break down barriers and encourage openness to foreign cultures. Volunteers spend approximately 4 hours per day engaging in conversations at the community house or other locations in/around Otaki.
Depending on the season, participants may also be invited to practice English pronunciation at the local primary school through activities like singing songs together. Besides language practice, volunteers join cultural and outdoor activities to explore local culture and surroundings.
This program is well-suited for mature travelers comfortable navigating areas of Japan with a significant language barrier. Volunteers should have some previous travel experience and be at ease working with local staff, utilizing translation apps to communicate and navigate during their stay in this charming village. A volunteer’s enthusiastic engagement will contribute significantly to the success of this enriching cultural exchange.
Some of your tasks may include:
Note: Schedule may be subject to changes based on weather conditions, local factors, and unforeseen circumstances.
Internet: WiFi is available in public areas.
Laundry: Volunteers should be prepared to wash their clothes by hand.
Accommodations: Volunteers will experience traditional Japanese living fully. Volunteers stay in shared, single-gender dorms with up to seven others per room in a local traditional Japanese homestay. Expect shared bathrooms and Japanese-style bedding with tatami mats on the floor. While hot showers and Western-style toilets are available, there’s no air conditioning, indoor heating, or fans. Bring warm clothes for cooler nights. Accommodations are approximately 10-25 minutes outside the village by car, ensuring an immersive local experience.
Food: Three meals per weekday are provided, and two meals on weekend days are provided. Meals will be local cuisine and typically include rice and vegetables.
Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:
There is endless fun awaiting you in Nagano! During winter, there are many ski resorts to visit, and in summer, travelers can easily find places to hike and kayak. During free weekends, and at their own expense, volunteers can visit: