Part of my plan in coming to Japan was to spend some time WWOOFing in order to meet new people with whom to practice Japanese and to save some money.
What does WWOOFing mean, you ask? Are you turning into a dog for a few weeks? No, no, my friends, nothing of the sort.
WWOOF is a global organisation, whose name means World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farm. So basically it means I go in Japanese farms and work up to 6 hours per day, 6 days a week, in exchange for a place to sleep and food.
I didn’t know the organisation before researching ways to maintain my budget while in Japan, and I am very happy I found it mentioned on an article. However the Japan consulate is not the biggest fan of it when you fill up your Working Holiday Visa application, so it is usually advised not to put it in.
Why is that? Sometimes, like in all organisations, you have people who do not respect rules, be it wwoofers or hosts. I have read a lot of issues about farms making people work non-stop, without talking to them or being remotely nice. The website is very clear about the fact that you should report any kind of problem, but it is also very clear to them that hosts will have more importance than wwoofers, which in nationalist Japan is not all that surprising. After all, people are indeed welcoming you for free.
Aren’t you scared? Not really. I have read more very nice stories online than very bad ones, though most people have at least one bad experience. However, people have to fill a complete profile, so I have resolved not to be lazy, to read these fully, and to make sure to only choose people who have reviews on the website. I trust that if making research, I won’t have problems. And worse case scenario, I can always leave before the agreed end.
What are WWOOF goals? Overall, WWOOF is supposed to promote organic farming, which really is needed in Japan. Indeed I was told by my first host is not considered important in Japan – only 3% of farms are organic according to her. It is true that here, all fruits and vegetable are very expensive, and there is much less “organic” labels in supermarkets. Such labels are expensive and difficult to obtain, and even on the WWOOF website, hosts do not have to be 100% organic or to have a certification.
I even found one near Tokyo who just wants an au pair for at least a year to help her take care of her daughter, women and English native if possible, which for me is the complete oppositive of the idea of WWOOF, but hey, why not!
Is there a cost? Yes, you have to get a membership, which is 5,500 JPY for a year (£38) for an adult.
Does WWOOF only exist in Japan? As said earlier, it is a global organisation. You can, therefore, go WWOOFing in many countries, including France, the UK, Canada, but also Cameroon, Mexico, or Israel, to only name a few. The whole FAQ and the country list is on their main website. Each WWOOF association is independent so you will have to pay memberships for each country if you want to WWOOF in different places.
I want to go WWOOFing in Japan, where do I start? On the WWOOF japan website! Don’t be scared by the poor design though. Also, be prepared to receive emails with the term and conditions every time you connect, and to have to search through messages as they don’t recognise conversations.
Anyway, here are my WWOOFing adventures!