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A Guide to Volunteering in Japan

Are you looking to offer your services to a volunteer organization in Japan? Check out the foreigner-friendly opportunities below!

By 5 min read

Like many places, volunteering rates in Japan tend to rise in the aftermath of disasters. By the third anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, according to a study by the Japan National Council of Social Welfare, more than 1.3 million people volunteered in the disaster-struck area. From vulnerable individuals and groups to animals and nature, there are plenty in need of support throughout the year. Japan has a variety of organizations you can contact if you’re looking to help out.

If you want to try volunteering in Japan, here’s a list of groups where commitments can vary from donating goods to volunteering for a few hours or weeks.

International and Refugee Aid

The local and global have become increasingly interconnected and these organizations pride themselves on connecting you to the struggles that people face inside and outside Japan.

Organization What is it? How can I help?
Amnesty 

International 

Japan (AIJ)

AIJ promotes human rights issues through campaigning, educational initiatives and government lobbying.
  • Write campaign letters
  • Organize events
  • Spread information
Peace 

Boat

Peace Boat organizes sea voyages around the world to promote peace, human rights and sustainability.
  • Teach languages (onboard)
  • Be an interpreter (onboard)
  • Write reports (in office)
  • Organize events (in office)
International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) IMADR organizes campaigns, information sessions, public opinion surveys and lobbies governing bodies on behalf of discriminated persons and groups worldwide.
  • Donate food and clothing
RAFIQ RAFIQ provides legal and social support to refugees who have resettled in Japan, especially those living in Kansai.
  • Translate and interpret
  • Plan events
  • Disseminate information
  • Accompany refugees to medical and governmental institutions
Refugee Empowerment International (REI) REI offers legal, educational and employment support to refugees and displaced peoples to rebuild their communities.
  • Organize events
  • Raise funds
  • Help with PR and marketing

Helping Children and Women

Women and children tend to suffer the most in abusive environments and these groups want to be there to support these vulnerable groups.

Organization What is it? How can I help?
Kobokan (Settlement House)  Settlement House offers social welfare services to community members from children to seniors.
  • Donate food and clothing
Seishounen Fukushi Center (SFC) SFC helps maintain the mental and physical well-being of foster children through to adulthood.
  • Help with housework
  • Be a teacher or mentor
  • Organize events
Kids Earth Fund Kids Earth Fund provides art supplies and instruction to children for their emotional and mental well-being.
  • Become a workshop leader
  • Organize events
  • Drive people and equipment
House for Women “Saalaa” Saalaa is a multilingual organization that operates a telephone hotline and shelter aimed at helping women in dangerous situations.
  • Donate food and clothing
House in Emergency of Love and Peace (HELP) HELP provides legal and social services to women and their young children escaping dangerous relationships.
  • Donate food and clothing

Helping Animals and the Environment

Like people, animals and the environment need care, too.

Organization What is it? How can I help?
Tokyo River Friends Tokyo River Friends organizes monthly clean-ups of rivers in the Tokyo area.
  • Join an event and help clean a riverside
Animal Rescue Kansai (ARK) ARK saves, cares for and finds homes for abandoned and abused animals.
  • Socialize with animals
  • Clean animals’ living spaces
  • Walk dogs
  • Organize events
  • Help groom an animal
HEART Tokushima HEART runs an animal shelter for hundreds of cats and dogs.
  • Socialize with animals
  • Walk dogs
Arakawa River Clean Aid Forum Clean Aid Forum plans clean-up events to beautify the Arakawa River area.
  • Join an event and help clean the Arakawa River
Japan Cat Network Japan Cat Network helps cat owners care for their cats and cares for felines without a home.
  • Clean and care for cats
  • Monitor cats’ health
  • Socialize with cats

Mental and Physical Health

If you would like to help out people with their mental and physical needs, start with the groups below.

Organization What is it? How can I help?
TELL TELL offers mental health support services, especially for Japan’s international community.
  • Train to be a Lifeline Support Worker
  • Organize events
  • Help with office work during peak periods
Run for the Cure Japan Run for the Cure Japan is the country’s largest breast cancer foundation.
  • Organize and participate in events held throughout the year
A Dream a Day in Tokyo  A Dream a Day in Tokyo helps to organize memorable events for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
  • Donate funds or clothing
  • Accompany families around Tokyo
Japanese Red Cross Society The Japanese Red Cross provides medical aid to disaster-struck areas and helps vulnerable people in local communities.
  • Help with disaster relief
  • Assist senior citizens
  • Hand out information
ShineOn! Kids ShineOn! Kids gives support to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families through social support and activities.
  • Organize and participate in events
  • Make phone calls for donations and support
  • Use creative skills to create activities for events

Community Support

Volunteering locally is one of the best ways to see the change we can make in people’s lives. Without strong Japanese skills, finding opportunities can be difficult. Start here to connect with the residents of your city and neighborhood.

Organization What is it? How can I help?
Second Harvest Second Harvest works to ensure that communities have access to nutritious food.
  • Deliver donations
  • Prepare donation boxes
  • Hand out food in person
  • Organize the pantry
Hands On Tokyo Hands On Tokyo connects volunteers with initiatives supporting children, seniors and people with special needs.
  • Make crafts
  • Participate in events
  • Provide English conversation
Tokyo Spring Homeless Patrol Tokyo Spring Homeless Patrol walks through Tokyo neighborhoods and provides essentials to homeless people.
  • Participate in a walk
  • Collect donations such as food and clothing
The Big Issue (no English website) The Big Issue provides social support to homeless populations through events, information campaigns and food drives.
  • Distribute information about services to homeless people
  • Support performers during events
  • Organize events
Never-ending International workCamps Exchange (NICE) NICE organizes workgroups to help revitalize local communities with an emphasis on fostering social bonds and taking care of the environment.
  • Clean rivers
  • Organize events
  • Help maintain schools and local infrastructure
  • Work with children, families and individuals with special needs

Have you ever tried volunteering in Japan? We can’t wait to hear about your experiences below! 

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