Volunteer for Japan

I swear, if I had the money and if I wasn’t in the middle of looking for a job, I would be calling InsideJapan Tours right now. Why? Because they just advertised a “Volunteer for Japan” package: http://www.insidejapantours.com/japan-small-group-tours/i-vol1/volunteer-for-japan/.

Quoting from their Facebook page:

How can I volunteer to help the Tohoku relief effort?

Among the kind words of support and financial contributions to our fundraising for Civic Force, since the Tohoku Tsunami struck we’ve heard this question time and time again.

Until now there’s not been an easy answer. The message from Japan was quite clear; for the time being, unskilled volunteers, although well-meaning, are better off staying at home. Especially if you can’t speak fluent Japanese. Let the professionals aid organisations do their job unhindered.

In the aftermath of other disasters such as the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami or the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, NGOs were swamped with inexperienced volunteers turning up with good intentions. Yet volunteers need managing and feeding, slowing down the whole process and perhaps taking valuable resources away from those most in need.

However now, two months after the Tohoku Tsunami, Japan’s priorities have changed. Essential life saving resources (food, shelter, medical supplies) have been distributed and today it’s time for the big clean up to begin. It’s time for people to rebuild their lives and salvage destroyed homes, towns and communities. And for they need as much help as they can get.

We are excited to announce our collaboration with the volunteer organisation RQ Citizens Disaster Relief Network Japan (RQ-CNJ). Together we will be running 4 day volunteering trips to Miyagi Prefecture

The 4 day project includes 3 nights accommodation in Matsushima sharing a Japanese-style room of 2-6 people; coach transfers to and from Tokyo; 3 meals a day and all necessary equipment: rain boots, rubber gloves, cap, dust mask, dust proof goggles. Groups, with a minimum of 8 participants, will be accompanied by an English speaking assistant throughout the 4 day itinerary.

Honestly, I wish I could go. I would love to be able to give something back to help the country which I love so much.

Click on the picture (which I borrowed from their website) to see all the details. Even if you can’t help physically, many people are still collecting monetary donations for Japan. For example, InsideJapan Tours are collecting here. It’s been two months already since the disaster happened. Let’s do whatever we can to help Tohoku rebuild.

9 thoughts on “Volunteer for Japan

  1. Until this outfit can provide clear and transparent pricing indicating how much of the fee goes to the local communities, I’d take all such initiatives with a grain of salt. Most likely there will be just one entity that will benefit from this scheme – and that’s the tour provider.


    • Well, I trust this company because I sort of know them a bit. Also, I think their main point is that they will be providing physical help instead of monetary help. I hope it proves to be helpful, anyway.


      • 3 days for 450 pounds, including food and bus to/from? That’s about 59826 yen per person, plus there’s a single supplement, too. It’s a perfect money maker for the company. The tourists get to play volunteers and go home feeling good about themselves and the profit margins for the company look very healthy too.
        I’ve worked for several voluntourism outfits in my day so please excuse me if I’m skeptical. I sort of know how it looks from the other side. I used to lead groups like that in other parts of the world. Little, if any, actual useful work is performed. Oftentimes, there are sections just for such tourists where they can play, cause as little trouble as possible and not get in the way of experienced workers. Will it provide any meaningful physical help? Knowing how things work in Japan, I very much doubt it.


  2. Have a look at All Hands (www.hands.org) for a free option through a registered NPO. Yes volunteers need “managing and feeding” and they specialise in just that, making sure not to accept more people than local infrastructure can support. There is no minimum or maximum time commitment and there is lots of work to be done that doesn’t require specialist skills, shovelling the mud out from under people’s floorboards for example.


  3. Hello, I am one of the directors of InsideJapan Tours, the company who are promoting the volunteer for Japan package mentioned in this blog. Firstly, I would like to say how sorry I am that some people’s cynicism can colour their view to such an extent.

    Perhaps I should explain a little about InsideJapan Tours. The whole team has lived in Japan and speaks Japanese. One of my staff lived for 2 years in Minami Sanriku, a town that no longer exists. I am sure you can imagine the hurt that the disaster caused anyone with such close links to a place so badly affected.I would invite anyone who wishes to accuse him of ‘benefiting from the disaster’ to take this up with him personally. Do you think my team of Japanese staff would be happy to work for a company that looked to profit from the devastation in Tohoku?

    Members of my team have been involved in volunteer projects and we continue to look at how we can assist with the recovery. The events of 11th March left us all absolutely shell-shocked and desperate to help. We have raised approaching £25,000 for disaster relief supporting Civic Force, a Japanese NGO working throughout the affected regions. Japan is a place very close to my heart and to my whole team and we are doing everything we can.

    As far as the cost of the package goes, there is a margin for us against costs of about 10%. We are working with a Japanese company to make this available. As a tour operator we have costs over and above the basic costs of the service. We have to bond all our sales against our financial failure and have an office to run here and in Japan. In regards of the money going into the local tohoku economy, a large amount goes to the accommodation providers. I need to investigate the base of bus company being used to transport the volunteers before I can comment on where those funds end up. The trip is also accompanied by an English speaking assistant to make sure all communication is clear and that the participants can learn more about the region whilst they are there. But the bottom line is nearly all this money ends up in the Japanese economy and that is a good thing.

    This package was specifically for people who are travelling to Japan and want to do a small something in addition to their holiday. It is not aimed at people who wish to volunteer for longer periods. It is also for those who do not speak Japanese and want to be able to make a small difference. Yes it is not the same as volunteering for a month and living on the floor of a shelter with 50 other volunteers. I do not think this renders it of no value.We would not offer something of no use and I ask those who would take swipes at us and make negative comments to contact us before doing so in order to be better informed.

    I would also like to ask Annil to hold off making such a scathing judgment of me and my company until in possession of the facts.

    Finally, I would like to ask everyone to consider where recovery is driven from? My company has assisted tens of thousands of people with their travels to Japan over the past 10 years. We have been responsible for hundreds of millions of yen being injected into local communities that are not on the usual tourist trail. We have helped support the livelihoods of many families who are running small ryokan and minshuku. We have played a key role over the past 10 years in promoting Japan in the UK, working closely with JNTO to get the message of Japan out there. This is a very important area that will help drive recovery and I am extremely proud of our efforts to keep tourists travelling to Japan.

    So in conclusion, I would ask those people that hold such cynical views not to cast judgment without knowing anything about the people they are casting judgment on. I understand that there are businesses out there that do look to profit from disaster situations and do take advantage. However, it is better to find out the facts before doing so.

    For those interested in reading about the experience of volunteering I would encourage them to read my tour leader Tom Orsman’s account of his time in Tohoku.


    And for those who would like to donate money to an organisation that is making a real difference, you can do so at our Just Giving page – http://www.justgiving.com/InsideJapan

    Many people in my team will be running Bristol half marathon on 11th September, exactly 6 months on from the disaster, to raise funds for Civic Force. We have established a separate Just Giving page for this: http://www.justgiving.com/InsideJapanTours

    I apologise for the lengthy nature of this post but when my integrity is questioned in this way over a matter I feel very strongly about indeed, I feel there is a need to respond.

    Alastair Donnelly
    InsideJapan Tours Ltd


    • Alastair, thank you so much for dropping by and leaving such a valuable comment. As I think you know, I already support what InsideJapan Tours is doing for tourism, and also for the Tohoku region. I only wish there was more I could do to help.

      All the best for your continued efforts.



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