The Land of the Rising Sun is made up of over 3000 islands of which Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku are the four largest. Japan is highly advanced technologically and in many ways has become westernised, yet simultaneously it retains a strong sense of traditional culture. It is full of history, wonderful temples and beautiful, mountainous countryside and volunteers find Japan an incredibly clean and organised country. There are many opportunities for volunteers to get involved in such as learning Japanese and traveling the country, making it an increasingly popular gap year destination.
Please note: a basic knowledge of the Japanese language (or a willingness to learn!) is required for these volunteering placements.
Japan Placement roles
Medical placements in Japan involve helping out at mainly Red Cross Hospitals in Iizuka, Ashikaga, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but you could also be placed at a non-affiliated hospital called Saiseikai Kumamoto. These placements provide an excellent experience for anyone hoping to work in medicine or health related fields. The work is varied as volunteers will work in a variety of wards helping with many different tasks. Japanese lessons will be provided at the hospitals and volunteers may be asked to teach English to the nursing staff. The more Japanese you know, the more responsible the tasks you may be given. The role of a medical volunteer in Japan is exciting and interesting and offers the volunteer a real insight into both medical care and Japanese culture.
Duties will include: transporting patients around the hospital; distributing and collecting patients’ meals; cleaning- patients’ rooms and nurses’ rooms; preparing bandages and dressings; taking medical charts and X-rays to the clinics; collecting used medical equipment for sterilisation; collecting prescriptions from the pharmacy and working in the pharmacy; preparing and helping volunteer activities; working with the nursing and medical teams; talking to patients; helping with hospital events and assistance with filing and documentation.
Community Activity Assistant placements
Community and caring placements will involve working in one of the following: Leonard Cheshire Care Homes, the Cocoromi-Gakuen home for the elderly and disabled or Kobokan, which is both a home for the elderly as well as a centre for young children. The work is demanding and challenging but also extremely rewarding. Volunteers form strong relationships with the people they help to care for and their help is greatly valued by both the staff and patients.
Volunteers who work in old peoples’ homes or homes for people with disabilities find it more interesting than those in the UK. This is because the Japanese emphasise the benefits of a stimulating, interesting environment and there are always activities to motivate the residents, including: day trips, cookery, gardening, farming, arts and crafts and drama. Our volunteers are always warmly welcomed and valued. There is also the option of working in a community care centre where volunteers will play with young children, talk to the elderly and make friends with adolescents at the centre.
What To Expect
Our Japanese work placements are very popular and offer a range of different experiences in various parts of the country. As a Medical Assistant you could be placed in a Japanese Red Cross hospital in the small southern city of Wakayama. With 865 beds and several different departments with different specialities, this placement would be well suited to those who want to gain an insight into a wide spectrum of medical areas. Your duties in this placement will include talking to patients, working with the nurse and medical teams, transporting patients around the hospital, distributing and collecting patients’ meals, preparing bandages and dressings and preparing food.
As a Caring Assistant, you could be placed in a home for the mentally and physically disabled in Takarazuka, a small city situated between Kobe and Osaka. Here you would help permanent staff and patients with activities such as cooking, painting and music. You would also help organise and lead outings and excursions and could also be called upon to help with feeding and dressing residents. This voluntary placement can be challenging but is extremely rewarding.
Accommodation, food and allowance
Accommodation is usually in apartments close to the hospital or care home where you are volunteering. Meals are provided on site and placements in Japan provide an allowance to cover any extra in-country costs.
Is it for me?
Volunteers must be patient, mature and respectful of cultural differences. The Japanese are very polite and working volunteers must always remove their shoes when indoors, wait to be seated and be punctual. The diet in Japan is very healthy and there are a variety of different foods on offer, plus the cosmopolitan nature of the population means there is always something delicious to enjoy. If you are willing to discover a new culture, learn a new language and enjoy the differences, then Japan is a fascinating country and an exciting time awaits you.
Need to know
- Pre departure briefing – all volunteers are invited to a group briefing prior to departure
- On arrival – all volunteers have an orientation course before placements begin
Free Time & Travel
In some Japanese placements, such as the medical and caring placements, you may be required to work during the Christmas or Easter break as these can be the busiest times of the year. But, whether or not this is the case, you will be able to take a break at some point during your placement to explore all the wonders that Japan has to offer. Japan is well-known for its fascinating cultural and historical roots and the natural beauty of its landscapes. If you are placed near Tokyo, why not take a day trip one weekend to visit Mount Fuji and Mount Komagatake, which gives wonderful views over the Hakone National Park? Further away from the neon glow of the capital, you could discover the Geisha culture in Kyoto, stay in a traditional Japanese ryohan (inn) and relax in the warming waters of an onsen (hot spring).
Japan is also well known for the fresh flavours of its cuisine. During the evening or at weekends, why not take a class in sushi making or ask one of your colleagues how to make the perfect ramen? Some host placements will even provide you with a bicycle for getting to work, so you could explore the surrounding countryside on your days off from the comfort of your saddle.
Volunteers have the opportunity to travel at weekends and after their placements with Mount Fuji, the bright lights of Tokyo, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Himeji Castle are must-sees. Japan is justly famous for its seasonal beauty and volunteers should make the effort to see the spring cherry blossom in Hokkaido and the autumn leaves at Jingo-ji Temple in Kyoto. On Honshu Island the Shinkansen is the way to travel, taking you from Tokyo to your destination faster than a speeding bullet. Further south, the island of Kyushu is more relaxed but no less interesting with its hot springs, volcanic range and breathtakingly beautiful shrines.
Dates & Costs
Lattitude Global Volunteering fee for UK nationals:
All departures: £2,500 (contact us for fees for other nationalities)
- In depth matching process to align your skills and interests with a placement that really suits you
- Assigned Volunteer Coordinator to help with all your pre-departure information, advice and guidance
- Links with returned volunteers
- Relevant DBS/police check fees
- Pre-departure briefing
- Airport pickup on arrival
- In-country orientation as part of country programme network of international Lattitude volunteers
- Day to day support from your placement host and a member of staff as your mentor
- Accommodation and food on placement site
- Weekly allowance (provided by most placements)
- 24/7 support from Lattitude, including in-country support from the Lattitude Country Manager
- Focus on your personal volunteer learning and development
- Returned Volunteer follow up and Debrief Event
- Opportunity to join the Lattitude Alumni Association
- Certificate of completion and references (on request)
- £25 application fee
- International Flights
- Onward travel to placement (if applicable)
- Travel insurance
- Inoculations (if applicable)
- Pocket Money for weekends/holidays/post-placement travel
As a charity we always recommend our volunteers fundraise to help meet the costs involved in volunteering overseas. In many ways it is part of the whole experience. For more information and fundraising ideas please click here
Planning your trip
We always recommend applying as early as possible in order to secure your place.
Please note that the application deadline is the last possible time allowed to get an application form in that allows us enough time to match volunteers and begin sorting out visas.
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“I think EVERYBODY should have an experience like mine. It is life-changing in the best of ways”Nicole, Caring Assistant