Volunteering in Tokyo

ByMark Guthrie
Apr 20, 2017

Volunteering in Tokyo

When living in a new country it can be a great thing to offer your free time to help the local community. One such way is volunteering for a nonprofit organization (NPO) .

Volunteering has a lot of upsides and few downsides to it.  It is a great way to meet new people when moving to a new town, or just finally getting out and about after living in it for some time, and the people you meet are generally pretty cool.  If you are looking for an opportunity to get out and volunteer your time for a good cause, there are options here in Tokyo.

Hands On Tokyo

Hands on copyHands On Tokyo was founded in December 2006 with a working Board of Directors comprising both Japanese and foreign nationals committed to making volunteer activities more accessible and accelerating the growth of volunteerism in the Tokyo area. Hands On Tokyo collaborates with many local organizations to encourage senior citizens, revitalize playgrounds, deliver food to the hungry, support people with visual impairment and inspire children in children’s homes, amongst other projects.


Second Harvest Japan

HarvestIn Japan there is up to 8 million tons of food loss in Japan every year, while one in six live below the poverty line. As the only registered food bank in Japan, since 2002 Second Harvest Japan have been turning ‘mottanai’ (waste) into ‘arigatou’ (thanks) by redistributing food waste from supermarkets such as dented tins and excess inventory.

Their primary focus is on poverty and disaster relief through distribution of food and essential supplies to welfare agencies, orphanages, shelters, the homeless, and others in need. Volunteers generally serve 2.5 hour shifts in one of Second Harvest’s numerous operations, including food pick-up and delivery, food preparation, packaging of food for distribution, food drives, food distribution, and various office activities.


Nature Conservation Society of Japan

NCSJ copyAs an independent and advocacy NGO (non-governmental organization) dedicated to conservation of ecosystem and biological diversity, the Nature Conservation Society of Japan have been around for 60 years. Nature conservation through recommendation, campaign and advocacy is their core aim, which takes the guise of various projects, from field trips to connect with nature, conservation research and environmental publications.


Amnesty International

AmnestyThe Tokyo branch of perhaps the world’s most famous NGO has two bilingual factions. AITEN (Amnesty International Tokyo English Network) is the largest and holds a monthly open meeting for education and letter-writing. During the year they organize a table at several of the international school festivals and similar events in the Tokyo area as well as live music fund-raising events of their own.

The second group meets monthly for letter-signing of their Action File (India and Vietnam), and of their anti-death penalty campaign for Vietnam. It also includes letter writing for Japan’s minister of justice asking for abolishment of death penalty in Japan.


Run for the Cure Foundation

Run for the Cure Foundation is a registered NPO with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government since 2004 with the mission to eradicate breast cancer in Japan as a life-threatening disease through education, timely screening, and treatment. Through their activities, the Foundation develops and executes community outreach programs and education initiatives; organizes programs to help increase quality of life of breast cancer patients and survivors; funds mammograms; and donates funds to other organizations.

They will be holding their annual run/walk event in November. This event, held in Hibiya park, includes a 5K/10K run or a 5K walk.


Animal Walk Tokyo

Helping pets one step at a time, Animal Walk Tokyo was formed in 2010 and are an animal-loving community for like-minded people to come together to help our four-legged friends in Tokyo.

AWT started by holding fundraising events for local animal rescue groups. They use their events to raise awareness among the local community that animals do suffer around us, and that everyone can help.  100% of all event proceeds are used to donate food, medical supplies and transportation to rescue groups saving animals in the area. Though they are not currently looking for volunteers, they do hold regular events that can be followed by liking their Facebook page.


Tokyo Voluntary Action Center

TVAC copyTokyo Voluntary Action Center (TVAC), founded in 1981, is a non-profit organization which was set up under the mission of promoting volunteerism in Tokyo Metropolitan area. They develop volunteer programs in schools, companies, and a range of various communities in cooperation with local volunteer centers and more wide-area organizations.

In addition to TVAC, there are 64 local volunteer centers in the Metropolitan Tokyo area, so if you are looking for a specific cause or organization at which you would like to volunteer, TVAC may be a good place to start looking.


Tokyo International Players

Tokyo International Players TIPFounded in 1896, Tokyo International Players (TIP) is a 100% volunteer-run organization and the oldest running English language theatre company in Japan. Volunteers can participate as actors, but there are also numerous backstage volunteer opportunities including set design, costume construction, props, stage management, lighting, and more.

How to volunteer here: www.tokyoplayers.org/index.php/en/get-involved/volunteer

Animal Rescue Kansai (ARK)

ark_kansai_logoARK is a non-profit, non-governmental private organization with the aim of forming a network of people who love animals, believe in sharing their lives with them, and who work actively to rescue them from suffering. ARK has some activities in Tokyo, and welcomes volunteers help walk dogs, socialize cats, and generally just help out.



Mark Guthrie

Photo: http://www.handsontokyo.org/ Screen grab -Modified
Photo: http://2hj.org/english/ Screen grab -Modified
Photo: http://www.nacsj.or.jp/english/index.html Screen grab -Modified
Photo: http://www.amnesty.or.jp/en/get-involved/ Screen grab -Modified
Photo: www.runforthecure.org Screen grab -Modified
Photo: www.animalwalktokyo.org Screen grab -Modified
Photo: http://www.tvac.or.jp/page/english.html Screen grab -Modified

Photo: www.tokyoplayers.org

About the author

Mark Guthrie editor

Novelist, copywriter and graduate from the most prestigious university in Sunderland, Mark whiles away his precious time on this Earth by writing about popular culture, travel, food and pretty much anything else that is likely to win him the Pulitzer he desperately craves. Find some more of his musings at www.markguthriewrites.com and on instagram @markguthriewrites