Interested in volunteering in Japan? While international travel has its own costs, you might be surprised to learn that sometimes even volunteer programs ask for more than just your time. However, there is a wide range of opportunities available to fit your budget, making it easy to find the perfect assignment.
As someone who has volunteered in Japan, I know firsthand the importance of finding a program that matches my passion. Also, as someone with a limited budget for travel, I understand the importance of choosing one that allows me to maximize my efforts and time while making that best experience financially possible. I’ve researched many opportunities and feel confident in saying that just as there are many paths to get you to the top of Mount Fuji if you are willing to go, there are many paths that can get you to Japan as a volunteer.
To help you get started, it helps to divide up volunteer programs in Japan into three main categories:
- No-Cost ($0)
- Budget (< $500)
- Average ($500-$1000)
In each category, I'll give you an idea of what is included in that cost and the kind of work you might expect to do. I've also included some sample programs at each level.
Keep in mind that the following breakdown addresses program costs only -- passport fees, flights (if not included), and other expenses will be variables to consider when planning your volunteer time.
No-Cost ($0) Volunteer Programs in Japan
Yes, you read that right! There are no-cost opportunities for volunteer work in Japan.
The programs in this category fall into two main types. The majority of no-cost options are looking for part-time or short-term help. If you're interested in lending a hand to help with recovery efforts, assist monthly classes, or care for children and senior citizens, these programs are interested in you.
Because these programs have low time commitments, volunteers will need to provide most (if not all) of their own support, including accommodation, meals, and transportation. However, without the constraints of daily responsibilities, volunteers have more freedom to travel and make their own arrangements.
Example No-Cost Volunteer Programs:
The second type of no-cost volunteer option is a fully funded program. While these often mean longer commitments and daily responsibilities, they provide volunteers with room, board, and some transportation in exchange for the work being done. Many also offer stipends to offset any additional expenses. Absolutely no program fees mean these programs will pay you to volunteer with them! Placements include schools, non-governmental organizations, even businesses.
Example No-Cost (Fully Funded) Volunteer Programs:
Budget (<$500) Volunteer Programs in Japan
For less than $500, you can choose the volunteer experience that’s just right for you. Through these programs, you will have access to hundreds of placements all over Japan, including farms, construction crews, relief teams, childcare groups, language schools, restaurants, and everything in between. Whether you would like to harvest crops, repair roofs, or hang festival lanterns, there is a project that can use your expertise.
In addition to providing any tools or materials you might need, these programs include room and board as part of their costs. Full disclosure: accommodations are basic, so you might be asked to pack a sleeping bag. Most of the projects in the "budget" category involve a lot of hard, hands-on labor, but if you like to roll up your sleeves and get to work, these are the volunteer programs for you.
Time commitments vary from a few weeks to a few months, and volunteers have the option of signing up for multiple assignments. Placements frequently offer transportation to and from the worksite, but all other travel will be at the volunteer's expense.
Example Budget Price Volunteer Programs in Japan:
- WOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) -- starting from $55
- Service Civil International -- starting from $185 + membership fee
- NICE (Neverending International Workcamps Exchange) -- starting from $260
Average Cost ($500-$1000) Volunteer Programs in Japan
If you have a bigger budget, you may consider a program that offers the next level of volunteer support. Programs that fall into the “average” category range in price from $500 to $1000, and for this additional expense, more of your volunteer experience is covered. In addition to food and accommodation, you’ll typically find all in-country transportation included, plus pre-departure support, visa assistance, and training; some programs even offer full insurance and/or a monthly stipend for your time as a volunteer.
When it comes to the type of work you’ll do, the organizations in this category offer the same types of projects as with “budget” opportunities. It’s common to find volunteer placements in this category which allow you to work in farming and agriculture, education, kids' camps, guest services, food preparation, and reforestation/nature conservation.
Example Average Price Volunteer Programs in Japan:
Calling All Volunteers to Japan
The programs listed here are just a handful of the many volunteer organizations looking for willing and enthusiastic workers to join them in Japan. As you can see, there are several options available to fit your time and budget.
Placements continually change and update due to need, urgency, and host availability, so it’s a good idea to frequently check program websites as you make plans. With any volunteer placement, be sure to contact the organization you’re interested in to discuss final costs so you know exactly what your total cost will be -- including any ‘hidden’ fees.