Japan is a country that we like to think we know all about, but don’t. Everything looks familiar, but is different. An ancient culture, a modern culture, a serene lifestyle, a frantic lifestyle – Japan represents all these things from the traditional temples and shrines of Kyoto to the ultra-modern high-rises of Tokyo.
Project Trust has placements in schools right across Japan, in both urban and rural settings. Volunteers can be placed in the centre of Tokyo’s skyscrapers, amongst the temples of Kyoto or in Toya on Hokkaido. The schools differ from project to project, but the focus of all the projects is teaching English.
As a country with a seemingly endless amount of activities and festivals on offer year-round, there really isn’t a dull moment. Japan, while not especially large, is surprisingly vast. The opportunities to travel and explore the country are almost boundless, with a transport network to rival any in the world. Tokyo rush hour, or the bullet train – it all runs like clockwork.
Living in Japan
Frigid winters in Hokkaido make the subtropical islands of Okinawa seem worlds away, especially when you have been invited to hit the ski slopes. Meanwhile, summer in Japan is typically warm and humid throughout most of the country, but is also an ideal time for nature expeditions like hiking. It’s considered the season of festivals (think: outdoor gardens).
There is only one official language spoken in Japan, which is of course Japanese. However, many people in Japan are able to understand English to a certain extent since English is the foreign language that everyone must learn as part of compulsory education (this is where you come in).
Volunteering in Japan
A gap year in Japan is a chance to get to know a country that, just when you think you have a handle on it, surprises you with something new. It can be easy to fit into Japanese society, yet still be learning new aspects about it months into your stay as you get to grips with the language and begin to understand more about the way people live.
In the same way that you will be fascinated by Japan and its culture, a lot of people in Japan are very interested in Europe, about the UK, about how we live and what we are interested in. This is therefore the perfect opportunity to learn while you teach.
You will also have great opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities- there are lots of opportunities to share your skills and learn lots. You may be asked to help out with teaching other subjects too!
What you can offer?
You will need to be enthusiastic and motivated to teach English to people of all abilities and have the patience to support their development. English is important for Japan to succeed on a global scale.
If you have any additional skills (such as sports or music) there is a lot of opportunity to set up clubs, teams and extra-curricular activities.
What will you gain?
Living and working in Japan, combined with the opportunity of experiencing life in big cities or rural hubs, gives Volunteers a unique insight into what life can be like in Japan.
During the school holidays, you will have plenty of time to explore Japan with its unexpectedly beautiful landscapes, charmingly courteous people, and its tangible sense of history and cherished traditions. Few will be able to resist the chance to get to grips with its mysterious yet tantalising culture that blurs the traditional boundaries between East and West.
Volunteering overseas can help you gain confidence by giving you the chance to try something new and build a real sense of achievement with a long term placement to test your abilities a supportive structure. By immersing yourself in a community overseas you’ll learn about cultures, languages, religions, foods and lifestyles completely different to what you’re used to. At the same time you’ll apply your energy, talents and existing skills to engage in an exchange of mutual benefit with the community you’re working in.