Most meaningful volunteer work in Japan requires Japanese language ability; however, there are a few organisations that accept short-term, English-speaking volunteers.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms Japan (www.wwoofjapan.com) Popular with travellers, this organisation places volunteers on organic farms around the country and provides participants with a good look at Japanese rural life and the running of an organic farm. It's also a great chance to improve your Japanese-language skills.
OGA for Aid (www.ogaforaid.org) This bilingual (Japanese and English) group does community work in the coastal regions affected by the 2011 tsunami.
Japan is an interesting place to live and work for a year or two and you'll find expats in all the major cities doing just that. Teaching English is still the most common job for Westerners, but bartending, hostessing, modelling and various writing/editorial jobs are also possible. Outside of these fields, Japanese language ability or local connections are vital.
Note that it is illegal for non-Japanese to work in Japan without a proper visa. To qualify for most work visas you need a four-year university degree (even for the same jobs that hire working-holiday visa holders, who are not required to have a four-year degree). An exception is modelling, acting or entertainment work; however, most agencies have their own recruitment channels and landing a contract on arrival is near impossible without connections and a portfolio.
The key to landing English teaching jobs is presentation. While an English teaching certificate helps, a polished appearance and an eager, upbeat attitude go a long way.
If you’d like to spend more time in Japan than a vacation allows, experiencing what it’s like to live and make a difference to the local community, it’s all possible by Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) with i-to-i TEFL. No previous teaching experience or local language knowledge is necessary. Get your free i-to-i TEFL e-book now to find out more about TEFL, what TEFL jobs are available and how it can get you exploring the globe...