Author: Julia Kühn
- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
Markus B. (19) from Germany tells us about his experience working for a sugar cane farm on the small island of Miyakojima, roughly 300 kilometers away from Okinawa main island. He arrived to Miyakojima on May 26th and worked there for a month. With a smile he looks back at his extraordinary experience in the very south of Japan. What was the farm like? (laughs) Funny enough, I actually worked for some sort of Japanese Buddhist cult. I learned that they send the sugar cane harvest to their Buddhist headquarters, which is located near Osaka. Apparently they collect harvest and other goods from all sorts of places all over Japan and then sell it elsewhere. Every morning they'd also have like a morning prayer and at some point I had to join as well. But it sounds stranger than it was, the people were incredibly friendly and nice. I did some research and apparently there are a lot of peaceful Buddhist movements in Japan. Why did you want to do farm work? I wanted to live and work in Okinawa for a month, because I'd heard many good things about the island. So I contacted World Unite! and asked if it was possible to do farm work there. Eventually I got a job offer from a sugar cane plantation on Miyakojima and I thought: “Why not?”. So on May 26th I flew south. How did your typical working day look like? I'd wake up around 4:40am, take a shower and have breakfast. Then I'd talk to my housemates, pack my gear for the day and we'd leave for the fields, so that we could start at 6am. There were two shifts every day, the first was from 6am to 10am, and the second was from 3pm to 7pm. Like this, we would avoid the worst heat during the day. We would get around 40 degrees, which was tough. So every day was eight hours of work. What I did was basically chopping off sugar cane and making it ready for transport. You could roughly break it down into five steps. The first step was to tear off the leaves from the top. The second was to chop off the sugar cane right above the root. Third step was to collect all the sugar cane plants and pile them up on a heap. The fourth step would be to tear the last of the leaves off and the fifth step was to tie them together, so they were easier to transport. What did you earn during your time? I earned 4500 JPY a day (~35 EUR). However, I didn't have to pay for my accommodation nor for food. What would you do in your free time? During my free time I explored the island with my working colleagues, because many of them were there for the first time, too, just like me. Other than that I'd just relax and take it easy. Did your Japanese improve during your stay on the farm? Yes, definitely. Interestingly, my boss was kind of a Germany-fan, and he knew some words. And one co-worker could speak basic English. But aside from that they only used Japanese. My co-workers were all super friendly, also my boss was really cool. I'm still in contact with all of them. In general, all the people on the island were really nice, however it was also kind of funny and weird at the same time to be the only "white" person on the entire island. I was kind of an attraction for the people. Did you experience any low points during the time you worked on the farm? I have to admit, there was one. It was the first day, the day before my actual work started. It was hot in my room, I couldn't sleep and I knew I had to work outside in the heat the next day – that was when I was quite terrified of it all. But after that, it was fine and it all went well. But of course it was hard at first, and I discovered for myself that I don't want to become a sugar cane farmer, at least for the long term. But at the same time I was glad that I'd done it. What would you tell people who are thinking about during farm work in Japan as well? I think people should be aware what they get themselves into. Farm work is hard, physical labour and people should be really sure that they want to do that. It is important to learn how to control or at least filter your thoughts. It sounds generic, but you have to keep thinking positively. If you have a positive mindset, you'll have the most amazing time. In terms of the beautiful island of Miyakojima, I'd say you should be aware that it is difficult to get off the island, especially if you can't drive or you don't have a car. I was glad my co-worker would give me lifts regularly, but aside from that there is hardly anything. You definitely can't rely on the public transport. Did this experience shape you as a person? I would definitely say that this experience taught me new ways of thinking. The people on the island were insanely nice. They lead simple lives, but they are so genuinely happy and content, and I think I kind of absorbed some of that attitude. The people are always in a good mood and happy, and it really rubbed off on me. You learn to appreciate the little things, it all really inspired me. What do you do now? I arrived in Osaka on July 9th. I'm working in a guest house and izakaya, and I also live there. I'm thinking of working here for at least another month and after that, I'm not sure yet. But I'm thinking of staying in Osaka. My visa expires on April 18th, and I want to stay in Japan the entire 12 months that the Working Holiday Visa provides me. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Many people are into second hand clothes shopping: It's cheap, it's original, and it is often something you do not see everyone else wearing! Especially as a Working Holiday participant, you might want to spend money on travelling instead of expensive clothes, so we found a place where this is possible. Hipster of Tokyo If you like affordable clothes, then why not try out second hand shopping? In Tokyo, the neighbourhood Shimokitazawa is known for it's many second hand shops, cafés, and young hipster people. It is also known for live music and theater. So on a sunny Saturday, my roommate and I decided to find this place. The way there is very easy: A walk from the World Unite! share house to Kiba station, then 2 different trains, and we had arrived to Shimokitazawa station. Then we basically just walked out of the station, and were met by several second hand shops, good smells of sweets and coffee shops, and a great deal of people. We chose a random street, and then we started looking around. There was a mix of second hand shops and "normal" shops, cafes, restaurants, convenient stores etc. We went into different shops, and could see the originality of the clothes, and also how different it was to what is usually seen in the streets of - for example Kiba, where most people only wear black, white and grey. So far we could already tell that the place is perfect for people who like fashion! Colours, colours, and more colours We went past so many shops, and found a dress shop that we decided to check out. The amount of different colours were outstanding! I was wondering how people could possibly wear such flowered and coloured dresses, but it actually looks really good on many people here. In the streets we also saw people wearing original outfits, but most of the people walking in the streets did not look specifically hipster. After walking a lot, we decided to take a break at a crepe cafe. Everything was baby pink inside the cafe. A friendly male cashier greeted us when we came in, we ordered our chocolate crepes, and then we realised that all the customers were female. It was like a little girlie spot, with a beautiful lamp, small pretty details, and best of all - the smell of freshly made crepes. The place was so cozy and people looked to enjoy a lot. New York Joe Exchange One "Must-Visit" second hand shop is the New York Joe Exchange. We went there, and the place was packed! People were standing in line to look at all the colourful hipster clothes, and the line to the fitting room was long! Also, there was loud rap music and people seemed so excited to shop there. That is a place that no one who visits Shimokitazawa should miss! Sadly, we did not find anything we wanted to buy, but it will probably be a better idea to visit the shop on a weekday, and not on a busy Sunday. But it was nice to see, and we were happy that we went there. That was the last stop at our little day trip to Shimokitazawa, and we went home with yet another experience. About the Author Christina is 26 years old, originally Kenyan/Danish and she is currently interning for World Unite! in the Japan Tokyo Office. She is helping participants who do a Working Holiday in Japan through World Unite!, and when she is in the office she helps out with administrative work and social media marketing.
Most people who come to Tokyo know of the Skytree, the Tokyo Tower and the Shibuya Crossing with loyal Hachiko statue. Those are of course awesome places to visit when you are here, but how about some lesser-known but amazingly Japanese sights in the concrete jungle? Let me introduce to you these 5 quintessential Japanese scenes in the middle of Tokyo! 1. Bonsai Trees in Happo En This is one of the best places to see bonsai trees, as some of the trees that are on display here are already 500 years old! Pruned to perfection using traditional gardening techniques, these trees are more like masterpieces of art than anything else. Imagine all the work that went into a tiny tree that's hundreds of years old and grows exactly the way the bonsai expert wants it to grow. It is not a coincidence that an art that refined originated in partly Buddhist Japan. Besides the bonsai trees, the rest of the garden is also perfectly landscaped. It is no wonder that this is also a very popular place for young couples who can afford it to get married here and have their pictures taken in the garden. If you are lucky you might catch a few weddings and see what a bride and groom look like in their Shinto wedding dresses. They often pose near the pond full of happy and healthy koi fish. While you are there you should also not forget to stop by the tea house in the back of the garden and have a cup of matcha tea with some of the best Japanese sweets available in the city. The lady will serve you using Japanese-style small movements, where not one movement is unnecessary. Add to this the view, and you're all set for a perfect afternoon tea! 2. Godzilla in Shinjuku Ever since Hollywood did a remake of classic Japanese movie 'Godzilla' this legendary beast has been gaining popularity again. This dragon, who is actually a metaphor for nuclear weapons, even has a life-size replica of itself in the middle of entertainment-district Shinjuku in Tokyo. The best part is that it is not just a statue, at set times every day this monstrous movie villain even starts to roar and breathe steam starting at noon, and you shouldn't miss this! Especially at night, it is quite an impressive free show for everyone to see. Go with your fellow Working Holidayers to Shinjuku to watch the spectacle and after that have a yakitori meal in the alleyways of Omoide Yokocho. If you stay in the World Unite! sharehouse you will always be able to find someone who wants to go with you and explore the city. 3. Mario and Luigi in the Streets of Tokyo Even if you have always seen Tokyo as a city that is often featured in video games, you might still be surprised to hear that the streets of Tokyo do actually look like a real-life video game at times! It's only been a few years since the first Mario carters were spotted, and nowadays they became a part of daily Tokyo traffic. If you bring an international driving license to Japan, you will be able to dress up like your favorite Mario Cart character and drive the streets of Tokyo with an actual go-kart. So when you have a driving license and come to Tokyo, make sure to bring your international license and be part of the real-life Mario cart craze! 4. Japanese Idols in Akihabara For those who are not in the know, Japanese idol bands are (usually) large groups of high-school aged girls who mainly appeal to middle-aged men who are looking to relive their good old young days. The music they produce is maybe not the best, but the cuteness of the girls is enough to draw large crowds to their concerts. Akihabara is the birthplace of one of the most iconic Japanese idol bands: AKB48. The group's name stands for Akihabara (AKB) and the number of members (48). The girls are continually replaced as they become too old around age 24. Those who retired or didn't quite make the cut sometimes become waitresses at the AKB48 cafe where above picture was taken. This cafe doesn't only serve cute dishes that are said to be band members' favorites, but they also organize quizzes about the band and small performances on their in-cafe stage. 5. Votive Tablets Adorned with Anime in Kanda Every shrine (Shinto) and every temple (Buddhist) has their own image on the ema (votive tablets) that people use to write their wishes on. Usually this image has a relationship with either the temple or shrine itself or the neighborhood the temple or shrine is located. As the Kanda shrine is located near anime fan paradise Akihabara, the ema here are decorated with anime pictures. Some of them have been drawn by the fans themselves and are quite impressive. It is an interesting combination to see, a traditional solemn shrine coupled with these colorful, modern pictures! About the author Stefanie has lived in Japan since February 2013, and after starting the Japanese adventure in Nagoya she happily settled in Tokyo in 2014. She loves exploring the city, and besides her work as a coordinator for World Unite! she also works as a tour guide in Tokyo. If participants of the World Unite! program in Japan have questions about exploring Tokyo, they can always ask Stefanie which places can't be missed. She also believes that the best Working Holiday experience includes not only work to boost your skills and resume, but also plenty of exploration of Tokyo as well as the rest of Japan.
Those interested in a Working Holiday in Japan are often worried whether or not they might actually find a job in Japan. At least, if you book the assistance of a reputable organisation assisting you with your Working Holiday, chances are absolutely minimal that you will have serious problems with the job hunt. We have just walked into the World Unite! share house in Koto-Ku, Tokyo, on a random day, which is home to many who are on a Working Holiday in Japan, and have asked those we found there about their experiences. Here you can read their feedback... Claas, 20, from Germany Claas has been in Japan for about six months. He is currently working in a food factory that produces smoked meat products such as chicken breasts and sausages. Claas found the job with the help of World Unite! employees and he started working at the food factory one month after his arrival. Klaudia, 26, from Poland Klaudia has been in Japan for about three months. Even though she is not a native English speaker, she found a job as an English teacher in a school as quick as one week after her arrival, with the help of the Japanese employment office. A World Unite! team member had accompanied her to the appointment at the employment office, assisting as an interpretor. Klaudia had also joined the preparation session of World Unite! prior to her appointment at the employment office, during which the questions that the employment office staff typically ask, are practised in Japanese, so Klaudia had time to think about good answers. With such preparation, around 80% of the foreign job hunters can immediately find a job. Even though it has become more difficult now compared to some years ago to land jobs as English teachers, chances are still high to land such jobs, particularly in Tokyo. Klaudia will soon leave for Hokkaido where she already has a pre-arranged job at the "onsen" hot bath of a ryokan. Ryokans are traditional Japanese hotels and World Unite! can pre-arrange jobs at more than 6000 ryokans in all Japanese prefectures for those who have basic conversational Japanese language skills. If you don't have sufficient language skills prior to coming to Japan, you can spend some time in Tokyo first doing some job that doesn't require Japanese language skills and attend language lessons simultaneously, and then start the ryokan job after some month. Just as Klaudia successfully did. Johanna, 23, from Germany Johanna has been in Japan for about three months. She has two part-time jobs, each at a restaurant. One restaurant is a German one. She found the job vacancy directly on the restaurant's website. The second restaurant is a Japanese one. She found it online as well. She landed her two jobs roughly two weeks after her arrival to Japan. Kevin, 23, from Germany Kevin has been in Japan for approximately three months. He works for a company that produces and packages food for convencience shops, which in Japan are called kombinis. He found the job with the help of World Unite! employees three weeks after his arrival. World Unite! browses through online job boards, including those that are only in Japanese, and helps you finding offers that match your skills and interests. World Unite! also provide Japanese text templates of how to address companies that offer jobs, and they translate your CV/resume to Japanese. Also they practise job interviews with you. If you need assistance with finding a job, as a World Unite! working holiday participnt, you can just come to their office, which is open daily for 4 hours from Monday to Friday, and ask for support. Markus, 19, from Germany Markus from Bavaria has been in Japan for one month. He had pre-booked the World Unite! Working Holiday farmwork option. He first joined intensive language lessons for four weeks in Tokyo and has just recently passed the job interview with a sugarcane farmer from the island of Miyakojima near Okinawa. He will travel there next week to start his job as a sugarcane farmer. Ben, 22, from Germany Ben has been in Japan for two months. He is currently working as a kitchen employee at a pancake café. It took him 2.5 weeks to find the job and he found it online. In addition, he works as a chat host in a language café. This job was organised through the Japanese employment office, that a World Unite! team member accompanied him to. Renée, 22, from Germany Renée has been in Japan for roughly two months. After one month she found a job as a German language teacher in a Japanese preschool. She found this job online. World Unite! offers a job councelling session to participants, which gives insights into the Japanese job market. World Unite! also provides a comprehensive resource lists of online job boards and actively pre-selects and suggests listings that match the skill and language level of most participants who are on a Working Holiday. Adrian, 20, from Germany Adrian has been in Japan for about three months. He works at a German restaurant. This job was organised through the Japanese employment office. He started the work three weeks after his arrival to Japan. Thomas, 20, from Germany Thomas has been in Japan for about two weeks and already works part-time at a German restaurant. He found the job via a chat group of World Unite! participants, in which another participant had posted the vacancy. It only took Thomas one week to land the job. Malin, 19, from Germany Malin has been in Japan for about two and a half months. She works at a restaurant which is part of a hotel. The restaurant job was proposed to her through the Japanese employment office, where she went accompanied by and prepared for by World Unite!. Andres, 29, from Chile Andres has been in Japan for about one month. He first came to Japan without an organisation, but didn't manage to find a job on his own. He then decided to book the services of World Unite!. Within two weeks, he then found a job as a waiter in a restaurant that is part of a hotel. The job was organised through the Japanese employment office, that World Unite! accompanied him to. Toni, 28, from Germany Toni has been in Japan for 2 weeks. Immediately after his arrival he signed up at several agencies that specialise in Western models and extras for TV, movie and advertising productions. Only one week after his arrival, he was successfully casted as an extra for an American advertising shooting. Some advice to those who are looking for a Working Holiday job in Japan: Be flexible! Particularly if you speak no or only little Japanese, you should not reject any job that is offered to you. Even if it is not your dream job, it will still help you to get practical work experience in Japan and to improve your language skills. If you join Japanese language lessons simultaneously, even better! In case you don't enjoy this first job, you can still change it after some time and probably get one that you like more, or one that is better paid, if your language skills have improved and you are more familiar with the Japanese labour market. Follow the Japanese norms! There are relatively strict rules in Japan about how you are expected to dress and look like (e.g. hairstyle, jewelry, make-up, perfume etc) on a job interview and how to behave. You should follow these norms if you want to get the job. Expression of individualism is not so much appreciated in Japan from applicants for the kind of jobs that those on a Working Holiday in Japan can realistically get. World Unite! will teach you about all of this during the intercultural training session and the job counselling session, which are part of their Working Holiday support. Use the help of an organisation that supports you. The expertise and experience of an organization that provides support services to foreigners who are on a Working Holiday in Japan will make it so much easier and faster for you to find a job quickly, if you depend on the salary to finance your stay in Japan. Even if you have to pay a program fee, you will avoid being without a job for a longer time, risking to run short of money. If you find a job within the first 2-4 weeks, which is very realistic for the majority of participants, you will typically break even (= your income through the job will exceed the total expenditures including your travel costs to Japan, the organization's program fees and your living expenses such as rent, meals, commuting costs, and health insurance) within the 3rd or 4th month of your stay, depending on how many hours per week you work and your salary.
To many people, foreign tourists as well as Japanese locals, Hokkaido's image is one of low temperatures and snowy mountains. It's no wonder most people go to Japan's northernmost island for winter sports. However, this amazing place has so much more to discover than just skiing down a mountain! I already visited the landscape in summer of 2009, and this time I wanted to see it during winter as the weather during summertime is a bit similar to Germany. But unlike Germany, Hokkaido turns into a snowy wonderland during the winter. If you are in Japan for a working holiday, do yourself a favor and make sure to spend a week or so at Japan's prime winter sports destination! Sapporo This year I spent around one month in Hokkaido. I decided to set up my freelance headquarters in Sapporo because the capital city has the best connection to the public transportation. Another aspect is that most of my friends are living in or near Sapporo. During the first weeks I explored Sapporo and its vicinity. As Sapporo is not a sprawling city, you can reach many spots within an hour of walking, so I walked to the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium when a Ski Jumping event was going on. I never saw this sport before, and it was so amazing to see the competitors flying! If there is no event going on you can watch a training if you are lucky. Next to the stadium, there is a winter sports museum. Unfortunately it turned out to be closed in January, but when I visited Sapporo in 2009 it was open and I recommend you stop by. The best part of the musuem is that you can practice different winter sports with simulators, it's almost like being on the slopes for real! Other interesting spots you shouldn't miss when you are in Sapporo were the Sapporo Clock Tower where you can explore the history of the city, the Susukino nightlife district, and Mount Moiwa. When I went up this mountain using two ropeways, I was stunned by one of the most beautiful views of the city and the ocean from the top. Penguins in Asahikawa In the begin of February I went to visit a friend in Asahikawa. Because I stayed with his family, I got the chance to see from up close how a Japanese family lives in Hokkaido. My friend and I visited popular spots in the city, like the science museum and the zoo. The zoo of Asahikawa is quite a famous place in Hokkaido. It is not big, but the highlights are the nice arranged habitats and the penguin walk, where a group of penguins walks through the public area as seen in the picture. The renowned Asahikawa Yuki Matsuri (Asahikawa Snow Festival) is also a must-see. You will see snow sculptures along the river, ice slides, and be able to try many delicious kinds of food. I also visited the judo club of my friend's sister and watched the class practice. At the gym we met the class teacher of my friend, and he invited me to come to the high school the next day. I was really excited to get the chance to see a Japanese high school from the inside! The students were really amazed to see me, a foreigner, in their school. During English class, I assisted the teacher by helping the students while they prepared a group speech. After class finished, the teacher guided me around the school. This experience was a unique moment I will remember for sure! During my stay, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (Sapporo Snow Festival) also happened to be in full swing. I even arrived in time to see how artists built up their ice sculptures. After the event kicked off, the city was full of gigantic snow walls with pictures and ice sculptures lit up in every color. For the last week of my stay I visited several places. First on the list was visited Obihiro. I am a horse lover, so my main reason for visiting this city was the horse racing stadium, which is unique in the world. Here you can see how one of the mightiest horse breeds in the world is running on a special racetrack. Bannei horses are not cantering through the track like they do during a normal race, but they are pulling a heavy sled over 2 hills. It was very special to me to be able to watch this spectacle. Hot Springs, Bears and Drift Ice The next city on my list was Noboribetsu, which is popular for its hot springs, old city with people in ninja costumes, and bear park. In the bear park, you can see brown bears doing funny tricks to get attention and food from visitors. When I took a short walk through the city something that stood out were the many statues of Oni (demons) along the way. There is a place near the city named Jigokudani, also known as 'hell valley', hence the statues. It is a spectacular place with hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity. It is from this valley where most of the onsen in the vicinity get their hot spring water. At last I went to the eastern part of Hokkaido. My first stop was Kushiro, which is famous for its wild nature and Japanese cranes. In the evening I took the train to Abashiri and stayed here for one night because it would be an early wake-up call the next day for a boat trip to see the drift ice. On an icebreaker, we went for a one-hour tour through the bay and the drifting ice, which I already saw from the train one day before. We were also lucky to see Stellerˋs sea eagles next to the boat. It was a great end to a trip to remember! About the author Michaela has been interested in Japan since she was young, and aged 25 she decided to go on a Working Holiday to the country that has always felt like a second home to her. Feeling safer by going to Japan through an organization, having the back-up of World Unite! turned out to be a good investment. Michaela found some great jobs during her stay on a Working Holiday visa (one job was scuba diving assistant!), and she also took the opportunity to travel around many areas of Japan. In the end, Hokkaido turned out to be my favorite place, as here you can find a great mix of nature and city.