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WWOOF – Getting a Job on a Japanese Farm — 18 Comments

  1. Sounds exciting!! I kinda wanna do the same some time in my life. I’m looking forward to the updates. (^_−)−☆

    • Nope. All travel expenses are on you. All they provide/are supposed to provide is a place to sleep and meals.
      Still absolutely worth it as those two things are gonna likely be the highest costs of any trip.

  2. I look forward to this. I plan on doing something similar to this in Septemeber and October but through helpx.

  3. It is a really great system. I highly suggest that anyone who can do this, and who considers themselves “Intermediate” (Level 20-39) but perhaps uncomfortable with their conversational skills or feels completely incapable of speaking in Japanese (like I did), jumps on this opportunity as soon as possible. It really works! I would suggest at least 3 weeks, because a fellow WWOOF-san who only came here for one week was really sad to go and I was sad to see her go. I strongly suggest doing something like this as an affordable way to improve your Japanese skills (Level up!).
    次の記事を楽しみにしています!

  4. Have any of you had a look at Agriventure its like WWOOF but they sort out the transport and the visa’s and you get paid to do the farm work when you are in the county. This is what i’m going to do (when i have saved up enough :( lol) the website is http://www.agriventure.com/ have a look!

  5. This sounds like a dream to be honest. I think I will be doing something similar after I finish my MA. Wow.

    You said you worked at an inn? What kind of work did you do there?

    • The majority of the work was helping prepare the meals for the customers, washing a lot of dishes, and doing 2-3 hours a day of various chores required to run a pension with a small farm.
      The chores varied, including work such as howing, cleaning, and harvesting berries. It could be hard at times but because I was surrounded by nice people and had approximately 4-6 hours off each day, it was a really great experience.

  6. Definitively sounds like a dream. I checked Biei out, really beautiful area. I will visit next time I’m in Japan.

    I wish I could do a WWOOF stunt, but I guess I’m too old for that. Do they accept people over 50? Not that I couldn’t do it, I’m really fit.

    • It is up to the hosts who they will accept, but if you say that you are fit I doubt that very many of them would turn you down. I’m sure that the host I mentioned would be glad to have you come help them and would probably find it amusing to get different than usual. Most of the WWOOFers I met were Taiwanese or from Hong Kong, and in general the age range seemed to be 18 ~ 28.

  7. Sounds like you had a lot funner time then I did.
    When I did WWOOF it consisted of 6 day work weeks from 9 till 6. My host lady would drop me off in the middle of nowhere, tell me to fill up some compost bags and she would come back by sundown. Then we would return home, she would cook dinner, then I was allowed 30 minutes on the internet and then went and cooped up in my room by 8:40 were i slept until the next day, rinse and repeat. I booked out of there and catched the first bus back to tokyo on my only day off.
    I have nothing against manual labor, but I guess I was a bit spoiled, as previously when I have done work, I always expect a nice paycheck after the end of all the hard work. With this family, I didnt have much nice things to look forward to after a hard days of work(ok, the food was really good, and the futon I slept on was amazingly comfertable, but still..)
    I guess the only good thing was she did almost always speak Japanese to me, so I was at least able to practice my japanese which was nice.

    Not saying everyones experience will be the same, but its good idea to talk with the host family many times before actually commiting to anything(the most important thing would be to ask for what a typical work schedule is).
    From what I have read, Japanese wwoof is a lot different than other wwoofs in europe, oceania, and americas(where it is usually 20-30 hours of work a week), wheareas Japan the usual seems to be 40 to 60.

    • Thanks for the opposite perspective. It’s useful for people who are considering the process and shows how important the research for a good host family is.

    • Sorry to hear that it didn’t work out as well for you. I certainly wouldn’t have written this glowing report if I had a similar experience.

      My advice to potential WWOOFers is to look very closely at the profile of the host you’re interested in to try and figure out if they seem nice, as well as asking a lot of questions about the work load and type of work.
      Also I found that working at a pension instead of a normal farm also worked in my favor, as there are more people around and a lot of the work consisted of washing dishes rather than farm work.
      I heard from a fellow WWOOFer similar reports of unkind treatment- one of her hosts restricted her time off to days which had bad weather as well as giving her difficult physical labor. Her way of dealing with commitment is to tell the host on the first few days that she is not sure how long she will stay, and after she feels out how much she likes the place she tell them her decision. I might suggest doing something similar. Also, make sure you have a way to access the internet so that you can plan the rest of your trip easily.

  8. Hi Good Day, I already knew basic japanese and I already visited japan but not a WWOOFer.So now i want to try this kind of experience but im curious about the expenses?the fair?is it free? and how about to those visa required country?

  9. Just thought I’d post my experience.

    I did a 1 month WWOOF stint at two places in Nagano prefecture in May-June this year. I had studied Japanese myself for around a year (Kanji 4 years with Heisig… don’t ask) and thought it would be a great way to immerse. Before I went to Japan I quit my office job and got a working holiday visa (but you can do it on a tourist visa, as you don’t get paid).

    Well, it was interesting but the farming was *hard* work. And although the rule is 6 hours a day of work, it is more like 10 hours because I had to help with preparing the meals in the mornings and evenings too. My original plan was immersion and self-study in free time, but actually I found I had very little free time to study, just barely keep up with Anki, and the Japanese I was surrounded with was so full-on I didn’t understand anything. Definitely get speaking practice early, in your home country, even if you only know how to introduce yourself and think you sound stupid! And then I would work in the fields for hours.

    To be fair that was just the first place. The 2nd place was a pension in the mountains, and after a bit of housekeeping and helping with breakfast/dinner, it was mostly free time. So I got a lot of studying done then and also explored the area – but there was a complete lack of people to socialise with (although in the evenings I could speak to the guests, who were middle-schoolers).

    It was definitely an experience and I got to see some areas of Japan for very low cost. *However* coming from full-time employment it did feel a little like… slavery, lol. I know it’s voluntary, but you work many hours for no pay in exchange for bed and food (and you usually get the worst bedroom). You are spending your labour to help the people grow their business. Normally in life you get paid for your work and have the option of saving some of that money for your own benefit. With WWOOF you don’t earn, and you will be spending on transport and sightseeing – so it’s worth to keep that in mind. Of course you’re there for the experience, be that language or culture or learning about farming, but that aspect definitely grated on me.

    So although I joined WWOOF for a year, after a month I decided to go on a language course for 3 months instead, and now I’ve found myself an office job (not English teaching) working for a Japanese company, which suits me much better, and I can afford to rent my own place. :)

    • Adam, thanks very much for the story, you may have changed the course of my life.

      I myself just got a Working Holiday Visa and am quitting my office job at the end of this month to go to Japan in search of a new life (not English teaching). I’ve been learning using Heisig and did the JLPT N4 recently, so our situations are the same!

      I was considering WWOOFing for the sake of immersion but you’ve put me off that idea now, and I think I’ll go for the language school the same way you did. But did you not find that classroom style Japanese did not translate well into real life situations? How useful is it in your job?

      • Hi Diarmaid,

        Sorry for the delay! This blog doesn’t notify when replies are made, and I only just thought to come back and check. So I hope you get this!

        I actually documented most of my experience over at RevTK forums, so feel free to check it out: http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?id=12062 especially the most recent post I made yesterday.

        WWOOF is worth the experience as long as you know what to expect and it’s what you want to do. Maybe do the language school first? I was also very conscious of finances – school and accommodation is expensive. Going the “not English” route is tough.

        Best of luck with your trip. :-)

  10. I just started a Wwoofing experience after being inspired by your article a couple months ago. I didn’t luck out as much as you did or so it seems because I don’t really have the opportunity to eat with the whole family and interact with everyone, but I still get plenty of chances to talk with the main host who is very kind. I also have to interact with many people who I work with. I also lucked out with the fact that my first Wwoofing colleague is not only Japanese, but is also deaf so I get to have practice having conversations through writing on a paper and through gestures. Gesturing is something I haven’t been doing too much of and my interactions with my new friend is making me more comfortable and more inclined to use them.

    What I am currently struggling with is when to use keigo and when not to. I’m so confused! With the host, I feel like I shouldn’t use Keigo, but I still sometimes do. Also, with the other workers, they are all obaasan’s and I know that I am supposed to use keigo with older people, and they are my senpai so I think I should probably be using keigo there for sure, but I would love some feedback on this.

    I know I can definitely refrain from keigo with children, so I will do my best not to slip in any overly polite language with them. I still use です and おはようございますwith the kids some times instead of just おはよう.

    Thanks in advance for any feedback you might have to offer. I appreciate it.

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