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FAQ about WWOOF-ing in Japan

I have been getting loads of questions on whatever that I have been doing to travel in Japan in the past few months. So here are some of the questions that I’ve gotten most. Feel free to drop a comment or tweet me if you have any more questions!

1. Are you studying in Japan?

Nope. IMO, it’s way too stressful to study there.

2. What were you doing in Japan for 2 months / 66 days? 

I was travelling and volunteering.

3. How much did you spend?

I spent around 150,000 for the whole trip including the 25,000円 / RM700 return ticket to Malaysia. So I spent around 2000 a day, which is around USD15 / RM60.

note: 150,000円 would be around RM4500 or USD1200.

4. That’s cheap. How did you save so much money? 

I participated in a volunteer programme called WWOOF; I managed to save a lot on accommodation.

5. What is this WWOOF thing? 

WWOOF is the abbreviation for World Wide Organisation for Organic Farming. In layman terms, it’s like an exchange programme between a volunteer and a host. In exchange for your volunteer work, the hosts offer free accommodation, food and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyle.

6. What is the work like? 

Well, it depends on what type of farm you’re volunteering at. I personally went to 4 different farms and the job scope differs greatly.

Dairy farms: I spent most of time in dairy farms because I’m super attached to animals and its hard work but I enjoy the work there. You’d be expected to milk cows, to feed them and to clean their living spaces.

Rice farms: I only went to 1 rice farm and I had the most miserable time there. Not because of my hosts, but rather because I felt out of place in house without animals… and it was COLD, miserably so. During my 2 week stay there, the weather was terrible and I didn’t get a chance to work in the farm. However, I was asked to do a lot of weeding, sorting out soybeans, packing soybeans and rice and cooking.

Organic cafes: I stayed at an organic curry restaurant in Japan and it’s really interesting. The work there was easier than the others and you get to learn a lot about organic cooking – something I was really intrigued with.

note: I recommend that you enquire about the job scope when contacting your hosts.

7. Can I still go if I can’t speak Japanese?

Most of the hosts are able to speak in English, but don’t expect them to be as smooth as native speakers. It’s not easy, but definitely doable. I went there not knowing more than 20 words of Japanese. Now, I can understand full sentences, and reply with super broken Japanese.

8. Do they pay you?

No. It’s a volunteer program, so you don’t get paid.

9. What are the working hours like? 

This depends on the hosts as well. Some places are super easy (they considered shopping as a work, so I would only work around 5 hours a day) but some expect you to work longer hours. Be prepared to work from 6-9 hours a day, 6 days a week.

note: You should enquire this when contacting your hosts as well.

10. Do you need a visa to do this? 

One of the reasons I chose to go to Japan was because they are having a special relationship with Malaysia at the moment. We don’t need a visa to enter Japan. However, this is only valid for those who are spending less than 3 months in Japan. If you plan to stay any longer, I recommend you apply for a working holiday visa or a working visa.

11. How do I become a WWOOFer? 

Visit WWOOFJapan. The application costs 5000, which is around USD40 / RM150. You can pay by credit card or credit transfer.

12. I just applied. What next? 

Now, it’s time to decide your route in Japan. Which airport are you flying to and from? (I flew to Osaka and came back from Tokyo). I’ll write a detailed post on this in the future.

13. How long should I stay at a host? 

Since you would normally work around 6 days a week, I recommend you spend at least 16 days at each host (including the day of arrival and departure). You would then have 2 off days this way.

14. How do I know which host I should apply to? 

You don’t. It’s all based on luck. Of course, you can check out their reviews, but that doesn’t mean that those without reviews aren’t awesome hosts. Also, you won’t know the detailed location of the host’s place until you confirm on your arrival. So you should contact them around 2 months prior so you would have adequate time to plan your trips during your off days.

15. What should I write upon contacting them? 

Tell them about your name, your hobbies, the duration and date that you’re expecting to spend at their place, and anything you think would help you get accepted.

16. They said yes! What now?!

Don’t get too hyped up. Now, you would want to ask about the working hours and the jobs that you would be doing. This is also the time when you “REQUEST CONTACT INFORMATION” which is a huge block in their main page that is absolutely impossible to miss.

17. Can I do it in other countries aside from Japan?

I did WWOOFing in Japan, but there are many other participating countries like Japan, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, etc.. You can find them here.

Note: Many countries have their own national WWOOF organization; the signup fee and operating system differs from country. If you signed up for WWOOFJapan, you won’t be able to WWOOF in other countries other than Japan. You should think carefully and confirm on a country before signing up for the program. So if you want to WWOOF in Japan and Ireland, you would have to apply to 2 different websites and pay for 2 different signup fees. 

18. I’ve read all the way, but you didn’t say how you managed to travel to so many places?

As mentioned before, you get 1 day off a week. I spent my off days travelling to various places around the area. Luckily, my hosts were awesome and they would drive me to the train stations or even to the location that I wanted to go.

Because the farms were at the more rural part of Japan, I managed to visit ‘not-so-touristy’ places. Some were so quiet; I was the only person in the whole temple. Some were more crowded, but it was mainly Japanese day-trippers as apposed to places in Tokyo where you would find travellers everywhere. I found it to be a more authentic Japanese cultural experience.

Yayy! Thanks for finishing the post. Feel free to comment or tweet me @alicialeow if you have any questions. I’ll be glad to help!!!

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