Japan – Wildlife Conservation and Cultural Immersion

Volunteer for wildlife and heritage conservation on one of Japan’s most beautiful Islands.


Program Highlights:

  • Begin your Japan adventure with 3 nights in Tokyo and explore this energetic city.
  • Go off the beaten track and immerse into traditional Japanese rural culture.
  • Live and work alongside Japanese and international volunteers.
  • Stay in a Buddhist temple set amid Japan’s most stunning landscapes
  • Help protect the critically endangered Crested Ibis.
  • Learn about habitat management and traditional Japanese farming skills


Your Schedule at a Glance (minimum one week commitment):

Friday, arrival in Tokyo: A coordinator will greet you at the airport and take you to the shared house in central Tokyo. You will settle in your new home for the next 3 days and meet other international volunteers and travelers.

Saturday – Sunday: You will have time to adjust to Japan and experience vibrant Tokyo. The shared house is in a convenient location, which makes it easy to explore many sites in Tokyo. The staff at the shared house office will give you local travel advice and instructions on getting from the city to Sado Island.

Monday: Independent travel via train, bus and ferry to Sado Island (around 7 hours). Upon arrival at the island port, a local team member will meet and escort you to the volunteer camp. Mondays are typically the weekly day off as it’s a travel day for volunteers coming and going from the program.

Tuesday – Sunday: The local team will give you a welcome orientation in the morning and create your volunteer schedule. Meaningful volunteer work organized in shifts between 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:30. Volunteers eat lunch around 12:00 and have dinner after 19:00.

Days off: Volunteers staying more than one week can relax or join community activities in the mornings. Optional excursions are available during the afternoons to explore the island. Departure day is on a Friday, according to the ferry schedule.


Location icon Location of the Project: Tokyo and Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, Japan

Project length Project length: Minimum 1 week, maximum recommended time is 2-4 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Haneda or Narita airports, Tokyo.

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work: The volunteers tasks are quite diverse, see below for more details

Age Age: Minimum age of 18 (minors aged 17 can apply with parental consent)

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Minimum 1 volunteer, maximum 52 volunteers


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Dorm room in Tokyo in a shared house. Shared furnished tents in the temple grounds. Option for private tents are available.

Food Food: 3 catered meals included while on Sado Island.

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Airport pickup and transfer via public transportation to the volunteer shared house in Tokyo. After receiving explicit instructions, you will travel independently from Tokyo to Sado Island on Monday.

Orientation Orientation: Welcome orientation to Sado Island and volunteer program on Tuesday morning.

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

  • Flights
  • Visa to Japan (if needed)
  • Travel health insurance
  • Tickets from Tokyo to Sado Island and return, around US$180 (one way, paid in cash upon arrival)
  • Meals during initial stay in Tokyo (around $20 +/- a day)

Sado Island is Japan’s 6th largest island and on the list to become a UNESCO heritage site. It has a dynamic landscape of dramatic ocean cliffs, dense forests, rice fields and crystal clear water. When they found gold on Sado Island in 1601, the island flourished and developed a unique cultural heritage. This includes performing arts, the world-famous Taiko drumming, puppet theater and folklore festivals. Sado has hundreds of preserved Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and several villages from the Edo Period (1603-1867)

This unique volunteer program works in partnership with the local government of Sado since 2019. The goals of the program are to:

  • Support environmental conservation activities (mainly the reintroduction of the Crested Ibis).
  • Promote sustainable living and farming practices.
  • Help in the preservation of cultural heritage
  • Learn about the culture and nature of Sado Island
  • Promote sustainable living and farming practices.


As a volunteer, you will work with Japanese participants on various activities in the community. Our coordinator will create a weekly schedule based on the following volunteer projects:


Conservation of the Crested Ibis
The Crested Ibis (“Nipponia nippon”) is a remarkable bird that was once common in Japan and China. Yet, their populations declined because of the loss of natural habitats and industrial agriculture. There were only 5 wild ibises left in Japan in 1981. The bird was declared “extinct in the wild”. They were captures to be bred in captivity. In 2008, the first Ibises of this program were released into the wild. They brought crested Ibises from China and bred them in captivity for release. They observed the first hatchings in the wild in 2012, and today there are around 500 ibises on Sado Island and mainland Japan.

Several environmental organizations, which often cooperate with Japanese universities, are active on Sado Island. You can regularly take part in various activities of these organizations. This includes monitoring Crested Ibises, finding nests and counting eggs, working on biotopes, as well as preparing and conducting environmental events and campaigns. In addition, we regularly visit sites of biological or geological interest in Sado, such as the public Crested Ibis Breeding and Research Center.


Treatment of raccoon dogs:
There is a significant population of raccoon dogs (“Tanuki”) on Sado Island, and a large portion of them suffer from mange, a skin disease caused by mites. Treatment is possible with a drug called Selamectin. Volunteers will prepare meatballs containing the medication and strategically place them where raccoon dogs are likely to consume them. Volunteers will not have direct contact with wild raccoon dogs, although they are easily found during the evening hours. The activity is conducted in collaboration with a veterinarian dedicated to supporting wild raccoon dogs.


Preservation of Ogura Rice Fields
They built and cultivated the Ogura rice fields on steep slopes during the 17th century. Today, the traditionally managed terraced rice fields are not only an attractive site for visitors to Sado, but they also prevent landslides and are feeding grounds to the Crested Ibis. You can join the farmers on most weekends. They plant rice in April and harvest it in October. During other months, volunteers help maintain an ancient irrigation system. This includes fortifying the rim of the paddy fields with soils to prevent the water from flowing.


Preservation of the Chokokuji temple
Chokokuji is one of the largest and culturally most significant temples on Sado Island. It is still actively run for religious services, even though the monk is over 80 years old. The temple is said to have been founded by the Buddhist saint Kukai in the year 807. It has many cultural assets, including three eleven-headed Kannon statues declared as Nationally Important Cultural Properties, created by the saint himself. Hundreds of rabbits live on the site to keep the grass short. Volunteer assignments include maintenance work, light gardening, and activities with visiting student groups. The monk will tell volunteers interesting stories about the history of the temple and Buddhism.

Volunteers assist the monk with maintenance, cleaning, and gardening work at the temple. They also make preparations for the activities with school classes visiting the temple and run the temple’s social media marketing. With the help of volunteers, to set up a small shop in the temple, selling devotionals of Chokokuji Temple, fair trade products, and locally produced natural goods, supporting the temple and other local organizations financially.


Collecting herbs in the forest
Volunteers can help a small company collect wild herbs and leaves from the forest. You will work with local experts and learn to process herbs and leaves into tea blends.


Bamboo workshops with school children
Assist a Brazilian carpenter and artist arrange creative bamboo workshops for local schoolchildren. The children create musical instruments, toys, or playground equipment from this material. Bamboo is a fast growing sustainable material that can replace plastic in many applications. As a volunteer, the artist will teach you how to build objects from bamboo and sometimes Japanese youth groups join the handcraft workshops. You will also be able to practice English conversation with them.


Traditional farming 
Local farmers in Sado Island plant and cultivate kakis, oranges, kiwis, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo. At various locations, you can help with these activities and learn about principles of agriculture and forestry in Japan.


Beach and nature cleanups
Every week, volunteers clean up a section of the beach or other natural environment. This is usually done as a competition between a few teams, and the one that collects the most trash or a certain type of trash wins a prize. During the summer, families who are camped out at Sobama Beach often take part in this.


Community Work and Cultural Immersion
Volunteers can take part in activities that benefit aging rural communities in Japan, such as restoring abandoned houses called akiyas. The countryside has seen a decrease in population, leading to many empty buildings, with some villages having up to 80-90% abandoned houses. In Matsugasaki, volunteers are helping to conserve the memory of the traditional handcraft of the last blacksmith by turning his workshop into an exhibition space. Volunteers also visit a countryside after-school club to do presentations on various topics, including their own country and environmental issues. The program regularly offers workshops and presentations on traditional local culture, such as playing the noh flute, taiko drumming, and kyogen theater play.

Internet icon Internet: Wi-Fi is available for no extra cost.

Laundry icon Laundry: Volunteers will do laundry at a local laundry saloon.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: During your first 3 days in Tokyo, you will stay in a shared dorm for up to 8 people. Shared House amenities include: shared bathrooms, AC, rooftop terrace, and a common area with a fully equipped kitchen. Within walking distance to any necessary stores, restaurants, a shopping mall with a food court, and easy access to attractions in Tokyo.
On Sado Island, the volunteer base is at the stunning Chokokuji Temple. You will stay in a large, fully furnished tent in the temple’s garden. The tents can be booked for single, twin, and 4-share occupancy. There are 2 showers with hot and cold water, exclusively for the use of our volunteers, and toilets at the temple. There are indoor and outdoor communal areas for sitting, taking meals, and as a workspace. For your convenience, we provide rechargeable flashlights/lanterns, sleeping bags and umbrellas in the tents. Japanese breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered in buffet-style, furthermore there are unlimited water, tea and coffee throughout the day.
*We aim to have the same gendered rooms (not always guaranteed).

Food icon Food: On Sado Island, volunteers receive freshly cooked and catered breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. The food is Japanese style and they can cater to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets.



  • Minimum age of 18 (minors ages 17 can be considered with parental consent)
  • GoEco interview after application
  • Police clearance
  • Good physical fitness
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Willing to work hard and get your hands dirty

On the weekends, the local team organizes group activities such as going to the beach, hiking, and sightseeing for a small extra cost. You can decide on-site if you want to join.

Volunteer Experiences

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