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Ecotourism and Conservation - National Parks in Japan

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We arrange internships and volunteer placements related to nature-based tourism / ecotourism and conservation of species in Japan, including placements at National Parks. Some internships are possible using English language only.

Project Description


Bear conservation and nature tours in Karuizawa

Karuizawa, a town located inside Joshinnetsu National Park, is known in Japan as a highland resort. To escape the summer heat of Tokyo, many people come to the mountain area of Karuizawa to enjoy the refreshing temperatures during the summer months. The forests around Karuizawa are full of biodiversity. Famous animals of the area include Asian black bears, Boars, Snow Monkeys and Flying Squirrels. Many visitors also come to watch birds such as Copper Phaesant and Green Woodpeckers.
The Flying Squirrels of the area are amongst the largest of the world. There are guided night tours in the forests on which visitors can observe the night activities of the Flying Squirrels. Further tours include the "eco tour" on which a biologist explains about the area's flora and fauna, and star observations at the night sky.
Black bears are occassionnaly coming to town to eat food leftovers from garbage bins. Even though the animals are shy and avoid humans, frightened bears can be a danger to humans. For this reason, in the past, bears were killed in town, which was minimizing their numbers.
In 1998, a cooperation between a wilflife research centre and the city administration was started, with the purpose of solving the conflict between bears and the town population. The number of natural food resources in the forest was increased and at the same time the garbage bins used at the city were replaced by a closable type of bins that bears cannot open, reducing their incentive to come to town. Awareness raising programs for the population were started.  
At the same team, the bears living close to town were tagged with radio collars to be able to track their movements. Should a bear approach town, the team members of the wildlife research centre try to stop it from doing so with the help of two Karelian Bear Dogs, which have been trained to spot bears and to push them back into the forest. The dogs also protect the team members and tourists as they can recognize the presence of bears much earlier than humans.
The tasks of interns and volunteers is to assist with the bear protection program. The radio collars have to be replaced every 2-4 years. To do this, the bears have to be caught. The team also has to react if a bear is approaching town. Around 20 bears are tagged with radio collars. Other activities include the monitoring and taking record of animal sightings in the forests of Karuizawa, and to remove non-native plant and animal species that can be a threat to the ecosystem.
Interns and volunteers also help the professional guides with their guided tours in the forest. Prior to a tour, it needs to be checked where the nests of Flying Squirrels are and whether they are inhabitated, to make sure the visitors can spot them during the nocturnal tour. Volunteers and interns also help at the visitor centre, informing foreign language speaking visitors. As the groups have a size of up to 30 persons including children, they assist the guide managing the group, for example to make sure nobody gets lost in the forest or is leaving the trails.
There are biologists and tourism professionals that can supervise internships.
Placements are possible only from March to October, when the bears are most active and when tourists visit the parks. Foreign tourists usually visit in spring and autumn, whereas during the summer months the forests are visited primarily by domestic Japanese tourists. The work in bear protection often starts in the early morning hours. You will work 5 days per week.
This internship/volunteer placement can be done using English language only. Japanese language skills are not required. Anyone who is interested in the work and who seriously wants to support the work of the team, can join. It is not requirement to be a student or graduate of related courses. Accommodation is provided free or charge, sharing a dorm room on self-catering base; there is a small kitchen.
The duration of a volunteering/internship placement at this project is usually exactly one month. If it is a requirement of your school/university to do an internship of longer duration, this is also possible.
This program is also currently looking for an English-speaking full time employee for international marketing and as a tour guide.

Ama Culture at Ise-Shima-Nationalpark

Ise-Shima National Park is known for its variety of landscapes with many small islands along the coast of the Ago and Gokasho Bays. The theme of the National Park is harmony between human and nature, which has been put into practice here for thousands of years.
Ama are diving women who without any diving equipment, in an environmentally friendly way, gather abalone, turban shells and other seafood. The ama culture is also known as the cradle of pearl cultivation. Their techniques and knowledge are recognized as a UNESCO cultural world heritage.
At their visitor centre, the women are explaining about their techniques. Afterwards, visitors can enjoy freshly caugth seafood, which has the reputation to be the best of Japan. Up to the Heian period, only seafood from Ise-Shima was served at the imperial palace.
Furthermore there are boat tours with lunch at a fishing village, and during the summer months (June-September) tours to watch Sea Fireflies (Vargula hilgendorfii). Sea Fireflies are nocturnal small water animals that have been existing for 400 million years, known for their blue bioluminescence.  
Interns and volunteers assist the women at the visitor centre, and they support guides with the tours and boat trips. There are tourism professionals that can supervise internships.
This internship/volunteer placement is possible in English language. Japanese language skills are not required. The minimum duration is 1 week. Accommodation is at a traditional japanese ryokan next to the visitor centre. Costs of 3000 JPY per night apply, including 3 meals per day.

Countyside Tourism, bicycle tours in Takayama

We can arrange an ecotourism internship with a tour operator that in the region of Takayama/Hida, about 4 hours by train west of Tokyo, offers full-day and half-day guided bicycle tours in English and Japanese, showing visitors "Rural Japan".
On the tours, the lives of the rural population are shown and visitors get insights that go far beyond the information found in typical guidebooks. You will learn first-hand about rice cultivation and you will visit a farmer's market, where the stories of the farmers are at least as good as their produce.
In addition, the tour operator offers guided walking tours in Takayama with a culinary focus, where visitors can witness the production of sake, soy sauce and miso, as well as guided cross-country skiing tours in winter, during which the snow is mostly high in the region.
Interns join the bicycle tours as assistant guides, they provide information at the company's reception desk in Takayama, and they assist with marketing, for instance writing texts for the company's website. The internship can be done in English. Japanese language skills are not a must. Applicants must conduct a skype interview. The minimum duration of the internship is 1 month.
Single-room accommodation on a self-catering basis is provided free of charge. In case the room is occupied, you will stay with a host family free of charge that also provides breakfast and dinner at no cost. If you stay with a host family, it is expected that you assist with housekeeping and babysitting.


Diving school, sailing tours and traditional guest house in Shizuoka

During the summer months (June-October) we can arrange tourism internships in Numuzu-shi/Shizuoka.
You assist in the provision of watersports activities (scuba diving, sailing, canooing) and in running a small guest house. Actual tasks at the guest house include cooking, serving meals, managing bookings, and preparing rooms. Interns who don't have any diving experience can get free diving lessons in the beginning of their stay, and will then be an assistant to the watersports instructors, e.g. they will hand out the diving equipment to clients and will make sure it is applied correctly.
During the summer months, every day a small number of tourists are staying at the guest house (around 2-11 persons), but there are also regularly large groups of up to 80 college students coming for diving and sailing tours. The guest house only has 3 rooms: two rooms with 4 beds each and one triple room; thus the total bed capacity is 11 guests.
Interns get free accommodation and meals. For the official PADI license and the PADI handbook costs of around 20,000 JPY (around 150 EUR) apply.
No Japanese language skills are required, but it is mandatory to be able to communicate in English.
Internship Report of Michaela.

Shin-Etsu Hiking Trail

The Shin-Etsu Trail runs along the ridge of the Sekida Mountains, which form the boundary between the prefactures of Nagano and Niigata. In the past the trail was used to transport salt and marine products from Niigata and paper and mustard seed oil from Nagano. The area which is located at an altitude of around 900-1300 above sea level boasts a rich ecosystem of dense beech forests. The 80 kilometers of the Shin-Etsu Trail can be hiked within 5-6 days; there are accommodation options in guest houses and campsites.
Interns and volunteers with Japanese language skills at conversation level can support an NGO that maintains the hiking trail in good condition and informs visitors about nature, local history and culture.

Ogasawara Islands Nationalpark

The Ogasawara Islands (also known as Bonin Islands) that are located around 1000 km south of Tokyo have never been connected to the Asian continent and have therefore, similar to Galapagos Islands, developed a unique ecosystem. They are a UNESCO world heritage. 70% of the islands' plants are endemic, just as numerous species of finches, snails and flying foxes. One can often spot Green Marine Turtles, Humpback Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins. Only 2 of the 30 islands are inhabited.
Tourist activities on the islands include diving tours, boat excursions and walking trips guided by biologists on beaches and at the islands' interior.
Interns and volunteers with Japanese language skills at conversational level can do a placement with the Ogasawara Tourism Association and support the guides and staff with tours and other tourist activities.
Info Box
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Location: Several location, see text
Availability: all year
Minimum Duration: See text
Maximum Duration: 12 Months (depending on visa)
Required Language Skills: English or Japanese- see text
Accommodation: See text
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Supervision possible: Yes
Qualification supervisor: Biologists, tourism professionals
Minimum qualification of intern: none
Further contribution to the project: No
Remuneration: No
Volunteering possible: Yes
Required qualification of interns: none
Further contribution to the project: No
It is expected:
Professional work, the "right" attitude

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