Tokyo is one of the most unique and exciting cities on the planet, and with over 35 million residents in the greater metropolitan area, it is also by far the largest. For those who have never been to Japan, choosing to volunteer abroad in Tokyo will be a brand new adventure in an urban environment which transcends explanation. You just have to experience Tokyo for yourself, and as a volunteer in Tokyo you can be sure that your time and effort will pay off!
Volunteering in Tokyo
Tokyo is a very wealthy city and one of the most important economic centers in the world. Since Japan is a highly developed country, volunteer placements in Tokyo will be available in much different areas, when compared to the nearby developing region of Southeast Asia. Still, because Tokyo is a city of 35 million, there are a significant amount of residents who are not well off, and can therefore benefit greatly from the help of volunteers.
There are many opportunities available throughout the city volunteer with children, whether working in childcare, education, or in other forms of community services for youth. Volunteering in Tokyo at an orphanage or teaching English at an afterschool center are both potential placements that are easy to find, as are various placements working with the elderly, disabled, or economically disadvantaged.
The language barrier can be a tricky obstacle for those who volunteer abroad in Tokyo, but many volunteer programs accept foreign volunteers of any nationality and language fluency; however, ideally volunteers should speak English at the very least.
It is possible to volunteer abroad in Tokyo year round, giving you a good amount of freedom to design your own schedule and experience. Volunteers can participate in volunteer programs in Tokyo for anywhere from just a couple weeks up to six months. It all depends on what is feasible for you!
Life in Tokyo
Tokyo can sometimes feel like another planet for first-time visitors. The Tokyo prefecture is absolutely massive, encompassing 23 special wards which are each governed as their own city, yet the city as a whole remains incredibly clean and efficiently connected. The Tokyo urban railway system is the most expansive in the world, incorporating both above and below ground lines, with trains infamously arriving at pinpoint accuracy to the second. Tokyo is also the busiest center of the Shinkansen high-speed railway system, which rips across the country at speeds of up to 200 mph.
From historical attractions to modern entertainments, global trends to Japanese niches, and conventional to bizarre, the city will never cease to surprise those who choose to volunteer abroad here, with both its vastness and cultural depth. There is always something new and exciting to do in this urban wonderland. Extensive museums, ancient shrines, theaters, bars, clubs, world class dining, Tokyo has it all. But, if you ever tire of the urban lifestyle, nature is never too far away either. Get away with a relaxing afternoon in Yoyogi or Ueno Park, or a weekend trip to climb Mt. Fuji!
One more thing – life in Tokyo is expensive. It is one of the wealthiest cities in the world and transportation, meals, and leisure costs can mount up to take a significant toll on your wallet if you are not careful. The whole city is worth exploring, but eventually sticking around local haunts will prove the most cost effective approach to volunteering in Tokyo. Experiencing Tokyo is well worth the price though when you have the chance, as you will find yourself living in one of the most truly special and enriching cities in the world.
Accommodation & Visas
Everything is made to be smaller and more efficient in Tokyo, including accommodations. As a volunteer abroad in Tokyo you can expect a comfortable, albeit less roomy, housing experience. Tokyo is a gigantic city so to save time, energy, and money, you will probably want to live somewhere that is near your volunteer placement. Often your volunteer program in Tokyo will include prearranged housing, either in a homestay or group living situation with other volunteers.
You will need a visa if you plan on volunteering in Tokyo for over 90 days. Travelers from most Western countries can volunteer abroad in Tokyo for up to the three month limit without a visa, but after will need to obtain the proper permit to stay and volunteer in Tokyo for longer. For more information on Japan’s visa policy for your home country you can consult GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Japan has developed as a largely autonomous culture throughout its history, as an isolated island nation, and even in today’s increasingly globalized world you will find Tokyo to be an incredibly unique city in one of the world’s most impressive countries. While transitioning to life amidst Japanese culture will come with its fair share of challenges and nuances to be mastered, locals will prove hospitable and understanding and help you along the way. If you are looking for an exciting global adventure, then the perfect opportunity to volunteer abroad in Tokyo awaits you.
Read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in Japan.