Although Japan doesn't have quite as many volunteer opportunities as elsewhere in Asia, like Thailand, there are definitely still ways for volunteers to come to the nation and make a difference, all while learning about Japanese culture, customs, and traditions.
Spend a week to several months volunteering with English language education, environmental conservation, disaster relief, or tourism in Japan.
Though the demand for volunteers isn't incredibly high in Japan, there are still opportunities in several sectors for international volunteers. Some will require a certain level of Japanese, but if you're going through a volunteer project placement provider, then the requirements may be a little more relaxed. From environmental and agricultural issues to community and social issues, you're likely to find the same variety of projects as you might back home.
Japan has homes for the physically disabled and there is a need for volunteers to help out. As a volunteer, you will work one on one with the residents and help doctors take care of them.
In general, disaster relief -- especially in the immediate aftermath of a disaster -- should only be performed by professionals in the field. Those with no experience in disaster relief are better off contributing donations.
Being particularly susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis (from the aftermath), Japan has (unfortunately) volunteer opportunities for disaster relief from time to time.
Peace Winds America and Peace Winds Japan often work closely with disaster relief in Japan. All Hands Volunteers also works closely with disaster relief, and should any disaster occur, they're a great resource to check for information on getting involved.
Do I need to speak Japanese to volunteer in Japan?
This really depends on the program. For some, like with English language education volunteers, you won't be required to speak Japanese. For others, you'll be required to have anywhere from a basic understanding to total fluency in Japanese. Be sure to check the specific program requirements before applying.
If you volunteer in Japan through a professional volunteer organization, they should have a support system in place where you can turn to for help and advice. Your home country’s embassy or consulate can also be reached in Tokyo for further information and support.
Japan is home to many nonprofit organizations. They are mostly located in large cities like Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Osaka.
How to save money while volunteering
Japan is known for being one of the pricier nations in Asia, and it can especially get pricey if you’re volunteering in a large city like Tokyo. In that case, try to stick to your budget by not eating at expensive restaurants and shopping at extravagant stores; the local options are great too!
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Japan:
As a volunteer in Japan, you aren’t required to get any special immunizations. However, if you’re traveling from November to April, you are highly recommended to be vaccinated for the Flu. For more information, visit MD Travel Health.