Friday, 15 January 2016

FAQ on WWOOFing in Japan - A budget way to travel, foster new friendship, develop new skills and a wonderful memory of a lifetime

I spent my whole 3 weeks of winter break in Hokkaido, Japan. The first week was a family vacation, and I went solo on week two and week three.

"WOW, it must have costed you a bomb," most people tell me. After all, Japan is always associated to high cost of living and the word "expensive".

Well, no. In fact, I spent less than MYR2,000 for my two-weeks solo adventure. Yes, MYR2,000 is inclusive of my one-way flight ticket, souvenirs (which amounts to more than MYR300), transportation and  accommodation and meals! 

And no, my meals doesn't consist of white rice and bread only and I did not sleep on the streets or begged for food. 

Exchange Rate as of 15 January 2016
It was all made possible thanks to WWOOF Japan

What is WWOOF?

Photo credit: WWOOFJapan
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing workers on Organic Farms. (No, it sounds like it but I am not barking). Volunteers, known as WWOOFers, offers help to the host and in return, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles to the WWOOFers. There are no money involved between the Host and WWOOFer. ie. WWOOFers do not get paid.

WWOOFing is a great way to travel on a budget as the cost of food and accommodation is covered. WWOOFers only need to fork out their travelling fee to and from their host's place.

Am I eligible to join this WWOOF thingy? Is it only for students?

Yes! Anyone above age 16 can join WWOOF! Students, working adults, and even retirees! There is no age limit to join WWOOF! Children (individuals below age 16) can join WWOOF too with a children membership.

Sounds cool. How do I join this WWOOF thing?

You join by filling up the registration form online. The annual WWOOF adult membership fee is 5,500 yen , whereas the WWOOF membership fee for children is  2,750 yen. After you've made your payment, congratulations! You are now a WWOOFer and you can start contacting hosts!
Exchange rate as of 15 January 2016

Exchange Rate as of 15 January 2016
Lucky you if you are earning in USD.

So what happens after I join? How do I get host placements? 

You start searching for host! Check out the full list of hosts in Japan HERE. You can refer to this guideline when contacting host for the first time :)


What type of host should I choose?

It all depends on your personal interest! There are so many hosts to choose from, from organic farmers, farm cafes, nature guides, environmental education centers, pottery, animal ranches, ski resorts,timber working places, pensions, and much more!

Try choosing a host that you think will suit your hobbies & interest. Be sure to read through their profiles thoroughly before contacting a host!

Please remember to read the feedback given by past WWOOFers on a host to ensure a pleasant WWOOFing journey. I've read blog posts regarding bad experiences while WWOOFing (like this one) so be sure to choose a host that has almost unanimous positive feedback!

I choose to WWOOF at a cafe x guesthouse, Heart n' Tree, because well I am jiaaqieats and I love cooking and baking, and they receive almost unanimously positive feedback!

Ok cool. What is the likelihood of being accepted by a host?

Depends on your luck and the season you are applying to WWOOF. I was rejected by 5 hosts before being accepted by the Hattoris. I applied to WWOOF from 25 December 2015 to 8 January 2016, which is in the midst of winter so most farms are not in operation, which left me in only a handful of hosts to choose from.

The best time to go WWOOFing would be during summer time, where most businesses and farms will be at their busiest time and require extra pairs of hands!

How long can I stay at a Host's place?

A minimum of three days, up to as long as 12 months. It varies according to the hosts but most hosts are flexible on your duration of stay.

Do I need a Working Visa to WWOOF in Japan?

No. A regular holiday Visa will do. WWOOFing falls under the category of "volunteering", not workingso a working Visa is not required. You are advised not to relate WWOOF to working, as the Japan immigration authorities may deem you as a potential illegal immigrant and therefore deny your entry into Japan.

source: http://www.my.emb-japan.go.jp/English/visit.html
Malaysians planning to WWOOF short term in Japan (less than 90 days) do not need to apply for a Visa!

Do I need to speak Japanese in order to WWOOF in Japan?

Being proficient in the Japanese language will definitely be an added bonus, but it is not necessary. I have friends who have zero knowledge in the Japanese language participating in WWOOF Japan before, and they claim to have no language barrier between the hosts! Many hosts have accepted host from all over the world and therefore have a good, or acceptable level of proficiency in English, suffice for communication with the WWOOFers!

I communicated with my host family in Japanese as I had took Japanese language lesson two and a half years when I was in high school. I was really surprised by my host family's good grasp in English language while communicating with the tourists! The daughter of the family went on an exchange program to US for a year before so she had no problem communicating in English.

Can I WWOOF with my gf/bf/family? 

Sure! As long as he/she possesses a WWOOFing membership and your selected host gives the green light!

What are the working hours?

Most hosts give WWOOFers 6 hours per day, and 6 days a week. Do check with your selected hosts as it may vary. I was really lucky to have 4 days off out of my 14 days stint at Heart n' Tree. My working hours ranged from seven hours per day (inclusive of break) and up to almost ten hours per day! I didn't mind at all as my extra day-offs compensated my OTs, and I was really having lots of fun :)

Hmm, will I have time to travel? 


I WWOOFed at Tsurui-mura, a small village located at Eastern Hokkaido where getting to any tourist spot nearby was tough due to the lack of train and bus services. Being there during winter added salt to the wound, as walking to a nearby shop or onsen was torturing, due to the strong winds and slippery icy road.
I was really lucky as my host family brought us on a day trip to Teshigaka! We visited Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan hot spring, had Teshigaka Ramen & paid a visit to one of the Onsen there!
And sometime when my host family travels to the nearest city, Kushiro, to run errands, they would bring us along so we get to walk around and do some tourist-y stuffs!
And sometimes after a long day at work, my host would drive us all out for a dip at the Onsen!

So the bottom line is, yes, you definitely will! Especially if you choose to WWOOF at perhaps central japan, where public transportation is more easily accessible or during summer, where you can walk/cycle everywhere! Or if you have a host as kind as the Hattoris :)

Are my meals provided by the hosts even on my off days?

Yep!
Was brought to town for some Kushiro Ramen on one of our day-offs!

So how much will I spend when WWOOFing? 

Flight tickets + train/bus tickets to your host place + any additional expenditures (those random purchase at the vending machines, or any unusual snack at the convenient store, onsen entry ticket etc. etc.). It is hard to come out with a rough estimate but here is a breakdown of my expenditure:

*approximation based on my exchange rate of 100 yen = RM3.50

I spent a lot of transportation as my host stays in a small village faaaaar away from the main city center.

I was already in Hokkaido for a family vacation so my KL-Sapporo flight ticket was already covered by my parents :P
Tsurui-mura on Google Maps! 
You can definitely slash your expenses much more compared to mine, so do take note of the location of your WWOOF host. I never regretted choosing to WWOOF at the Hattoris, as Tsurui-mura was really beautiful and I get a glimpse of another side of Japan which can only be experienced it Tsurui :) 

Can I WWOOF at more than one place?

Yes why not! As long as your schedule fits the hosts'.

OKAY I AM UP FOR WWOOF. Can I WWOOF in other countries other than Japan?

Yes!! Visit http://www.wwoof.net/ for the full list of countries you can WWOOF at. However, do take note that each country has their own set of membership fees & rules to abide too. Do take note that you can't WWOOF at let's say, United Kingdom, with a Japan WWOOF membership. 


WWOOFing will be a great chance to learn and develop new skills, be it soft and hand-on skills, foster new friendship, gain cultural intelligence, and a memory of a life-time.

Hope this blog post helped you and if you have any further query, feel free to leave a comment, or you can reach out to me on FB or via email @ jiaaqi95@gmail.com :)

I will be updating about my WWOOFing life soon so stay tuned for the blog post :)

Happy WWOOFing! 
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