Are you a tourist who wants to make your stay in Japan more special? Or are you a Japanese resident looking for fulfilling ways to spend your leisure time? Volunteering can be the right option for you. It is a gateway to opportunities to connect with others, make a positive impact, and add a unique layer to your Japanese experience.
Why should you try volunteering?
Volunteering as a foreigner in Japan can bring several personal and professional benefits, including culture immersion, language skills improvement, and networking opportunities.
Volunteering allows you to immerse yourself in the local community, fostering cultural understanding and integration. It's an excellent way to connect with people outside of the workplace and build meaningful relationships. By working closely with local communities, you will also gain a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and societal issues. This knowledge can be valuable in both personal and professional contexts.
Engaging in volunteer activities provides a practical environment to improve your language skills, especially if you're learning Japanese. It offers a chance to practice in real-life situations and enhance your communication abilities. If you choose to volunteer in rural areas, you can also learn local dialects.
Volunteering will improve your soft skills, such as teamwork, leadership, and adaptability, which are valuable in any work environment. It might also expose you to new skills and experiences that could be relevant to your career.
Volunteering connects you with a diverse group of people, including locals and fellow expatriates. This expanded network can open up new opportunities both personally and professionally.
Contributing to a cause you believe in or helping others in need can be personally fulfilling. It gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction that goes beyond the routine of daily work. It can also serve as a stress reliever. Engaging in activities outside of work that you are passionate about can help balance the challenges of professional life.
Who can volunteer in Japan?
Volunteering in Japan is generally open to a wide range of individuals, and the eligibility criteria can vary depending on the nature of the volunteer work and the organization involved.
Tourists visiting Japan can often engage in short-term volunteer activities. However, the nature of the activities and the duration may be limited by the type of visa they hold, typically less than 90 days. It's essential to clarify with Japanese immigration authorities whether the specific volunteer activities you intend to participate in are allowed on a tourist visa.
2. Expatriates and foreign residents
Foreign residents living in Japan, such as expatriates or individuals on work or study visas, are often eligible to volunteer. The availability of opportunities may depend on the individual's visa status and the organization's policies.
International students in Japan may have opportunities to volunteer, either through university-sponsored programs or community initiatives. Foreign professionals working in Japan may choose to volunteer in their free time. However, it's important to coordinate with employers to ensure that volunteering activities align with company policies and do not interfere with your work responsibilities.
3. Specialized volunteers
Specialized volunteers are individuals who offer their time and expertise in a specific field or profession to contribute to a cause, organization, or community. Unlike general volunteers who may assist with various tasks, specialized volunteers address specific needs. This form of volunteering often involves individuals with professional backgrounds in areas such as medicine, engineering, education, technology, or other specialized fields.
In general, anyone with a genuine willingness to contribute time and effort to a cause can explore volunteer opportunities in Japan. However, it's important to note that specific organizations or programs may have their own eligibility criteria based on the nature of the volunteer work. Before volunteering, you should check with the relevant organizations, clarify visa requirements, and ensure that they meet any specific criteria set by the organizers.
What types of volunteering activities are available for foreigners in Japan?
1. Culture and language exchange programs
This type of volunteering often involves interacting with locals and sharing your own culture while learning about theirs. You can be invited to schools and community centers to introduce your country, traditions, and language. There are also language exchange programs where you help someone with English, and they help you with Japanese.
2. Environmental initiatives
Japan places a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability. You might find opportunities to join beach clean-ups, tree-planting events, or other eco-friendly projects.
3. Disaster relief
Given Japan's susceptibility to natural disasters, there are often opportunities to volunteer for disaster relief efforts. This might involve training sessions, awareness campaigns, or direct assistance during emergencies.
4. Social welfare
There are numerous organizations in Japan dedicated to social welfare. You could explore volunteering at orphanages, homes for the elderly, or centers that support individuals with disabilities.
5. Animal welfare
Many animal shelters and rescue organizations welcome volunteers to help care for animals, assist with daily operations, and support various initiatives related to animal welfare. Volunteering in animal shelters can involve tasks such as feeding and grooming animals, cleaning enclosures, providing socialization and exercise, and assisting with adoption events.
Where to find volunteer activities?
To find volunteering programs, you can visit the nearest volunteer organization or search for them online. Here are some places you need to check out and some well-known volunteer organizations you might be interested in joining.
Many community centers in Japan organize events and activities that welcome volunteers. This could involve helping with cultural exchange programs, language classes, or community events. Don’t forget to check out your local ward office and community centers’ website.
This organization offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including activities related to education, social welfare, and community development. They often work with children and youth in need, people with special needs, and nursing homes. Go to their website and you can search for volunteering programs based on the category and calendar.
The Facebook group is a great hub, and if you're diving into volunteering in Japan, Foreign Volunteers Japan is an excellent starting point. It has 14.5 thousand members who share activities and programs every day.
ARK is an organization dedicated to rescuing and rehoming animals in need. They may have opportunities for volunteers to help with animal care, adoption events, and more.
This organization focuses on disaster relief and recovery efforts. They often recruit volunteers to assist in areas affected by natural disasters.
This group is based in Tokyo and aims to bring together locals and international residents for various activities, including language exchange and cultural events.
Run for the Cure Japan is a non-profit organization based in Japan that focuses on raising awareness and funds to support breast cancer education, outreach, and research. The organization is known for organizing charity runs and walks to involve the community in contributing to the fight against breast cancer.
Being a volunteer can be immensely rewarding. Remember, it's not just about the destination; it's about the meaningful connections you make along the way. So, dive into the world of volunteering, embrace the experiences, and let your contributions create positive change.