• Japan
    • Tokyo

Program Details



Price Details
VFP's placement fee in Japan is $500 ($650 for teens) and must be paid at the time of registration. (If we can’t place you we refund the full fee!). This is the only fee you will pay for your 2 week or 3 month stay. Your registration covers placement, food, accommodation and work materials for your program. Volunteers arrange and pay for their own transportation to and from the project.
Dec 03, 2019
Apr 01, 2013
37 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Volunteer in Japan with community-based organizations focused on environmental, agricultural and social issues as well as disaster relief and revival. Volunteer for 2 weeks or up to 3 months - for only $500! Community engagement with local non-profits and people as well as cultural exchange is a key component of these programs.

Volunteers For Peace is a non-profit organization, founded in 1982, that offers placement in over 3000 voluntary service projects in more than 100 countries. Each year we provide almost 1,000 volunteers with invaluable opportunities to strengthen their ability to communicate in diverse groups, explore grassroots leadership opportunities, and build cultural understanding and connections around the world.

Program Reviews

8 Rating
based on 2 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 0%
  • 7-8 rating 100%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
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  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Impact 8.5
  • Support 9
  • Fun 7
  • Value 8
  • Safety 7
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

How to turn a two week gap between jobs into a crash course in industrial forestry

I recently changed jobs and negotiated a two week gap before my start date. I began looking for volunteer projects with less than two weeks to go before the start date, so I was pleasantly surprised when VFP staff were able to place me in my second choice project.

VFP works with NICE, a Japanese organization which coordinates work camp programs throughout the country. There were a few rough patches in communication between the two organizations (especially around transportation to the camp), but it all worked out in the end.

The NICE work camp was in Kirikiri town, a small fishing village on the northeast coast which was ravaged by the 2011 tsunami. The project involved going into the forest each day to haul cut timber back to the camp and then chop it up for firewood. It sounds like hard work, and it absolutely was. That being said, I had the opportunity to learn about industrial forestry hands on in a way that I never could have experienced in the US. We used a combination of high-tech tools (chainsaws, high-tension cable winches, tractors) and traditional hand tools to move the logs.

Here's a sample of a day at the workcamp:
7am - Wake up, get dressed, cook breakfast, and eat.
8am - Get in the truck and drive to the forest.
8:30-12:30 - Haul wood out of the forest.
12:30-1:00p - Cook and eat lunch (this was a problem, not enough time!)
1:00p-5:30p - Either chop up the wood, or back to the forest for more hauling
5:30p-9:00 - Various chores including cooking, cleaning, tending the bath (wood water heater!), maintaining gear.
9:00p-midnight - Eat dinner and drink with staff and volunteers (this was always a blast).

As you can see, a lot of work, and a lot of cooking actually. Cooking was rather stressful because although the NICE volunteers brought the food, it was mostly traditional Japanese ingredients. Combined with the short amount of time available for preparing breakfast and lunch, it made meal times very stressful for me.

The best part of the experience was getting to work so closely with the Japanese staff and volunteers. There were about 12 volunteers at the camp, and only two of us were foreigners. Working hard together allowed us to form bonds very quickly, which has always been impossible for me to do on previous trips. The one criticism I would give here was that the language requirements listed on the VFP site did not match the reality at the camp. The site said that both English and Japanese were spoken at the work site. In reality, the staff and volunteers spoke barely any English. This was fine for me (I speak conversation Japanese), but it was a real problem for the other foreign volunteer who I ended up translating for most of the time. The language barrier actually posed a safety problem since the instructions were mostly given in Japanese. You wouldn't want someone to misunderstand instructions on how to use a chainsaw!

Another criticism would be that the equipment recommended on the site didn't match the requirements when I arrived at the work camp. For example, the website said that I should bring steel-toed work boots, but when I got there the Japanese staff actually bought me a pair of what looked like rain boots with a sticky sole (much more effective when leaping from log to log). The good news was that the staff and other volunteers were incredibly generous in getting me the stuff I needed, but I would have preferred to be better prepared.

What would you improve about this program?
Better communication between VFP and NICE (the Japanese work camp coordinator). This would lead to more accurate information on the website, leading to better prepared volunteers and less stress all around.
21 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Kirikiri Iwate Japan

We had a 6 day workweek. Actually this was 2 person (me and the coordinator from NICE) camp for most of the 2 weeks I spent at Kirikiri. On certain days we had other volunteers (from Japan) sleeping in out hut. During the day bus loads of Japanese volunteers from different organizations would arrive to help.
After having breakfast we would prepare the work area for the volunteers who would arrive at about 9 am. Work would vary from gathering wood from tsunami devastated buildings, chopping and packaging the wood for sale as "Revival Firewood", and end at 2:30 pm (this is to give the volunteers not connected with the work camp enough time to return to their home bases). Work for the work campers (all 2 of us) did not end at 2:30 pm. We still had to do stuff like secure the work area, stoke the wood furnace to heat the bath water, and scrub down the bath houses (I did the male bathhouse and the female coordinator did the female bath house) every other day.
On our day off we went fly fishing or gathered edible mushrooms (a professor from the prefectural university was there to insure that no poisonous mushrooms were taken).
I would encourage any VFPer to join this work camp, although he or she may be the only person in attendance from outside Japan.

What would you improve about this program?
Having people from more than 2 countries in attendance.
22 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

Sorry for the delay. The listing on our website (vfp.org) will indicate closest airport. To find a project, follow these 4 steps: 1. Enter your information and preferences on our search page at https://vfp.org/projects/ 2. Select “Search Projects” Any available projects will then appear. NOTE: If there is nothing available to your liking right now, check the website from time to time as new...

Thanks for your interest in volunteering! Sorry for the delay in answering. Accommodations are provided Volunteers for Peace is a Vermont based nonprofit that has placed volunteers around the world for 36 years. (vfp.org) If you are a US citizen or reside in the US, please visit our website at www.vfp.org and follow this 4 step process: 1. Enter your information and preferences on our search page...

It looks like you don't need to know beforehand, but have motivation to learn while there!

Motivation to learn and speak Japanese language, strong motivation for the host are needed. Skills of agriculture or construction can be useful and similar experiences are also welcome.