Japan cheap travel

A complete guide to budget travel in Japan

 Wwoofing on Tokunoshima Island
 WWOOFing on Tokunoshima Island
Search student rate air fares to Japan
StudentUniverse.com - Travel More. Spend Less

WWOOFING - An excellent volunteering scheme

The WWOOFING volunteering scheme is one of the best ways to experience Japan and the Japanese way of life and culture. It also costs virtually no money.

WWOOFing stands for "Willing workers on organic farms". The Japan WWOOF Organisation who manage the scheme stipulate that the work must be of an environmentally friendly nature. In practice this definition has been applied in a variety of different ways and, as well as organic farms, WWOOF Hosts can be families, schools, and small businesses.

There really is no typical WWOOFing experience. It can vary as much as from planting trees to assisting with the organisation of a local music festival. WWOOFing can be an opportunity to learn new skills; for example, farming using permaculture, self-sufficient living, how to build a log house, how to build a solar-powered house or how to make charcoal.

How WWOOFING works

A typical WWOOFing arrangement is as follows: In return for a few hours work per day, typically 4-6 hours, your host will provide you with accommodation and meals. During this time, you will experience the daily life and routine of your WWOOF Host. In your spare time, many hosts may even plan local tours and activities for you. But, as each WWOOF host is different, you may equally find yourself at your own devices in your spare time. 

Join WWOOF Japan

In order to WWOOF you must become a member of the Japan WWOOF Organisation. The annual membership fee is 4,000 yen. After becoming a member you receive a Japan WWOOFer ID Card together with a list of host establishments. WWOOF Hosts are located around the country and as a WWOOF member, you receive a regular email newsletter every month detailing the newest hosts that have joined the scheme.

Getting in touch with your WWOOF hosts

When arranging your WWOOFing stays, it is up to you to contact your desired WWOOF Host directly and negotiate a time to visit. Buy a good Japanese phrase book to help you when you make contact initially. Even though many hosts speak some English, a little Japanese goes a long way. Be aware that some of the better and more interesting sounding WWOOFing establishments will be booked up well in advance so make sure you plan in good time.

A very small minority of WWOOF hosts may not be involved in the scheme for the right reasons and merely hope to gain workers for 'free'. These Hosts will eventually be flagged to the WWOOFing Organisation but it is worth bearing this in mind when choosing a host and proceed with caution.

Our WWOOFing experience

As we traveled around Japan in the summer of 2005, we met people who had WWOOFed for their entire stay, some for several months. Our own experiences WWOOFing were excellent. During our trip we volunteered in a 'Nature School' in the northern mountains of Japan and with a family on the subtropical island of Tokunoshima. At the natural school we help set up a music fesitval, building the stage out of recycled (scrap) wood. On Tokunoshima we help tend to a lovely family's vegetable garden and spent time with the local community in the schools and on other projects. Living the Japanese island lifestyle - very relaxed in comparison to the mainland - with a young family was one of the highlights of our trip.