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Mother Nature Conservation Camp and Temple Stay on Sado Island/Japan

Praktikum und Volunteering möglich
 
As a participant of our Mother Nature Environmental Conservation Camp Japan you will stay on the grounds of the beautiful historic Koninji Temple on Sado Island and volunteer in environmental conservation, especially for the protection of the Crested Ibis, and various farming activities. As part of local communities you will have the chance to get to know a piece of rural and traditional Japan, which is typically not accessible to you as a normal tourist or when staying at larger cities.
 

Staying at Koninji Temple

 
Accommodation and base of our Mother Nature Conservation program in Japan is Koninji Temple near the southern tip of Sado Island. It was built in 811 by Buddhist monks and is attractively located in the midst of an impressive hilly landscape of dense forests, terraced rice fields and small orchards near the sandy beaches of the southwest coast and Ogi Port, which is a popular tourist attraction for the Tarai Bune traditional round boat trips.
 
Since the monk was promoted to head of his order in Kyoto in early 2020 and only visiting his temple for about a week each month, the temple is not regularly used for religious activities. His mother still lives in the temple though, not only taking care of the guests, but also looking after the gardens and the maintenance of the historical buildings. As a volunteer, you can help her with these activities around the temple.
 
You can choose between either Japanese tatami rooms in a historic temple building from 1843 (4-share rooms), sleeping on a traditional futon, or western twin/double rooms (for single or double occupancy), or fully furnished large tents (for 1-4 people) set outside in the beautiful gardens of the temple grounds. The catering for guests (Japanese food) is freshly cooked and delivered every day.
 

How can you get involved as a volunteer?

 
As a volunteer, you will participate in a variety of activities for which our volunteer coordinator creates a weekly plan.
 
(Click on the activity to read more and see pictures!)
 
 
The monk's mother, over 70 years old, takes care of the preservation of the temple's historic buildings and its grounds which have an ornamental garden and fruit trees. There is always something to do that you can help her with. Japanese youth groups also regularly visit the temple to help and you can join their activities.
 
 
 
World Unite! is part of the rice farming community of Ogura. The terraced rice fields were built on steep slopes in the 17th century and can therefore only be worked by hand or with small hand-held machines, which makes their operation not commercially profitable. They are only maintained to prevent landslides and as a food source for the Crested Ibis. You can join the farmers, for whom the terraced ricefields are just a sideline, every weekend. Rice is planted in April and harvested in October. During other months, the irrigation system, which includes a canal bringing water from a 17th-century water reservoir to the ricefields, needs to be checked and repaired. The edges of the paddy fields need to be fortified regularly with certain soils to keep the water on the fields.
 
 
 
A small company from Sado collects wild herbs and tree leaves in the forest to use them for the preparation of herbal tea blends. Volunteers of our program accompany the herbal experts into the forest, help them with gathering the herbs and will get explanations. In the company's premises, you can then learn and help to clean, dry and grind the herbs and leaves and process them into herbal tea blends. As a souvenir you can take your own tea blend with you.
 
 
 
A Brazilian carpenter and artist specialising in bamboo who lives in Sado is regularly arranging creative workshops for local schoolchildren using bamboo. The children for instance build musical instruments, toys or playground equipment from bamboo. Bamboo is an extremely fast growing raw material that can replace plastic and other less sustainable materials in a variety of applications. Unfortunately nowadays, bamboo hardly plays a role as a building material in Japan anymore. As a volunteer, the Brazilian bamboo expert will first show you how to make objects from bamboo and you can then teach this with other volunteers to local school children, while at the same time practising English conversation with them. From April to June, bamboo shoots are also collected in forests that are used in primary school canteens for food.
 
 
Several environmental organizations, which often cooperate with Japanese universities, are active on Sado Island. You can regularly participate in various activities of these organizations, which include monitoring Crested Ibises, finding nests and counting eggs, working on biotopes, as well as preparing and conducting environmental events and campaigns.
 
In addition, we regularly visit sites of biological or geological interest in Sado, such as the public Crested Ibis Breeding and Research Center.
 
 
Between the rice fields of Iwakubi there is a zone that is managed as a biotope. Is is designed to be an ideal habitat for amphibians, fish and other small animals that feed the Crested Ibis. For this purpose, certain plant species are planted and water levels are controlled, connected to the irrigation systems of the rice fields. Regularly grasses and bushes need to be cut, so that the birds have access to the water surfaces. In addition, the existing animal and plant species must be regularly monitored and their density determined.
 
As a volunteer, you will learn about the management of biotopes, the presence of which is of course also benefitial for many other species of animal and plants besides the Crested Ibis.
 
 
Chokokuji Temple, built in the year 807 is the largest temple complex of Sado and known for its national cultural treasures such as statues from the 10th-12th centuries as well as its gigantic historical trees, to which spiritual powers are attributed. Hundreds of rabbits live on the site to keep the grass short. As a volunteer, there are regular assignments in the temple complex such as building maintenance work, light gardening and activities with student groups who are visiting. The monk will tell volunteers interesting stories about the history of the temple and Buddhism in general.
 
 
In addition to rice, the farmers of Sado also plant kakis (persimmons), oranges, kiwis, shiitake mushrooms and other fruits and vegetables. The forests of the area are also managed. Bamboo and other trees are cut for the wood to be used as building material and new trees are regularly planted.
 
At various locations, you can help with these activities and learn about principles of agriculture and forestry in Japan and Japanese rural life.
 
 
On the weekends (or if you get involved in the ricefarming activities of Ogura on weekends, on some weekdays en lieu) there are usually no volunteering activities, but we arrange group recreational activities such as going to the beach, hiking, and sightseeing for a small extra cost. You can decide locally if you want to join.
 
 

About the Crested Ibis

 
The Crested Ibis ("Nipponia nippon") is a bird with a size of 54-88 cm and a wingspan of 140 cm, which until the onset of industrial agriculture in the mid-20th century was relatively common in Korea, China, Japan and parts Russia, but is now threatened with extinction by losing its habitats. In 2002 there were only around 150 Nippon Ibises left worldwide. In Japan, the species was completely wiped out. The last Nippon Ibis of Japan died in 2003.
 
As a result, the government of Japan, in cooperation with the Chinese government, launched an internationally recognized reintroduction program on Sado Island, where Crested Ibises from China were bred in captivity and released since 2008. The first hatchings in the wild were observed in 2012. Today there are again around 440 ibises on Sado Island, some of which were even spotted on the neighboring main island of Honshu.
 
Essential for the survival of birds in the wild are the presence of suitable habitats. This includes traditional rice farming methods and the design of paddy fields including zones where the birds can feed throughout the year, as well as biotopes optimised as feeding and breeding grounds for the ibis. The inclusion of Sado rice farmers and the promotion of traditionally grown, high quality organic rice from Sado Island have been crucial to the success of the reintroduction program.
 

Did you know?

 
For the CO2 compensation of your long-haul flights, we plant 10 seedlings of native trees on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Info Box
infoboxheader01 3 en
Location: Sado Island, Japan
Availability: First Monday of May to last Monday of October every year, program start every Monday
Minimum duration: 1 week
Maximum duration: 4-24 weeks depending on nationality
Language requirements: English
Other languages of advantage: Japanese
Accommodation: Koninji Temple in Hamochihongo, Sado Island
infoboxheader02 3 en
Supervision possible: Yes
Qualification Supervisor: Biologist
Minimum Qualification Intern:
no formal qualification required
Further project contribution: No
Volunteering
Volunteering possible: Yes
Expected Qualification Volunteer: None
Further project contribution: No
We expect:
Professional work attitude, "the right attitude"
 
 

I. World Unite! Service Package

 
World Unite! Service Package: 800 EUR (one time fee)
 

The World Unite! Service Package includes:

 
  • Individual Consultation and Preparation prior to your arrival
  • Access to the World Unite! Online Resource Centre which has Preparation Materials including Intercultural Preparation, compiled particularly for your destination (PDFs, Videos)
  • Preparation Session via Skype, together with further participants
  • Support with the travel from Tokyo to Sado by our Tokyo team
  • Pick-up and Transfers from/to Sado Ferry Terminal on arrival and departure to/from Mother Nature Camp Sado
  • Personal support staff at your location and at our international office
  • Orientation and Introduction to Iwakubi and the project work
  • Our own World Unite! program instructor
  • Transfers for all volunteering activities and visits outside of Iwakubi
  • 24 Hours emergency support by local support team
  • For the CO2 compensation of your long-haul flights: Costs for 10 seedlings of indigenous trees that we plant on the slopes of Kilimanjaro
  • Issuance of Confirmations/Certificates for your university, scholarship, insurance, etc. and filling out/signing Internship Contracts for your university
 

The Rates do NOT include:

 
  • Accommodation and Meals (see below)
  • Travel to/from Sado Island (you book it on your own; we can assist you)
  • Insurance (Travel Health Insurance, Liability Insurance, Travel Cancellation insurance; you book it on your own, we can assist you)
  • Personal Expenses
  • Vaccinations
  • Weekend leisure activities
 

II. Accommodation Costs


Accommodation 280 EUR per week at fully furnitured 2+2-share tent (one tent has 2 rooms which will be occupied by 2 persons each)* or 4-share tatami room* on full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner), including filtered drinking water and tea.
 
Surcharge single occupancy of a room at the tent or 2-share tatami room* or Western double/twin room* (compared to 4-share tent/room): +70 EUR/week per person.
 
Surcharge single occupancy complete tent (the separating wall inside the tent would be removed so the usable space has double the size) or Western/Japanese room (compared to 4-share tent/room): +110 EUR/week per person.
 
Surcharge pickup from Haneda/Narita Airport in Tokyo and transfer by public transport to the sharehouse in Tokyo (arrival Thursday between 8am and 9pm): 60 EUR
 
Surcharge pick up at Sado Island from Ferry Terminal and transfer to Mother Nature Camp Iwakubi on arrival days other than Mondays: 80 EUR
 
Children under 14 pay half of the service package and accommodation price.
 
* Participants not booking together will be separated by gender in the rooms
 
 
 
 
Sado Island, with 855 km2, is the sixth largest island of Japan. When gold was found on Sado Island in 1601, the island flourished economically and culturally, developing a unique and rich cultural heritage, including performing arts such as dance, chants and music, the world-famous Taiko drumming, puppet theater, folklore festivals, and traditional handcraft. Sado has hundreds of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and several historical villages from Edo Period (1603-1867), which have remained architecturally mostly intact.
 
The island is of extreme scenic natural beauty, with 288 km of rocky coastline, dense forests, terraced ricefields and a northern and southern mountain range reaching an altitude of 1172 meters. Sado is sparsely populated, with the vast majority of the population of around 55,000 living in Sado City in the flat middle part of the island. The island has an oceanic climate with hot and humid summers and cool, humid winters.
 
The last Crested Ibis of Japan, which is a symbolic national bird in Japan (Nipponia nippon) died in Sado in 2003 due to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on rice fields. Since then, an internationally renowned reintroduction program was successfully implemented in Sado, with birds from China being bred in captivity and released since 2008. The first hatchings in the wild were observed in 2012. Today there are again around 440 Crested Ibises on Sado Island. The integration of the Sado rice farmers and the promotion of traditionally farmed, high quality organic rice from Sado Island were essential in the success of the reintroduction program.
 
Sado Island has been working hard in recent years to boost tourism and has some interesting and modern landmarks, such as the Silver and Gold Mine, the Toki Park for breeding Crested Ibises and numerous hiking trails, natural sites and beaches. There are also tourist offers such as scuba diving, boat trips and more.
 
World Unite! is a cooperation partner of the Sado Island Tourism Association, whose office near the ferry port we share.
 
 
 getthere sado
 
 
Arrival and departure should be on a Monday. You can arrive on a Thursday in Tokyo (Haneda or Narita) and stay for 3 nights in our sharehouse in Tokyo (1200 JPY/night for a dorm room bed) and then on Monday first proceed by bus or Shinkansen bullet train to Niigata and from there by Ferry or Jetfoil to Sado Island. The travel costs for the slowest (8.5 hours) option are 5000-8500 JPY (depending on the season) and for the fastest (5 hours) about 17,000 JPY one-way. Alternatively you can arrive directly to Sado on a Monday. Niigata also has an airport.
 
We will provide detailed travel information.
 
In the Ryotsu ferry port of Sado you will be picked up by us on a Monday and also brought back there on a Monday.
 
For the arrival or departure in Sado on a day other than Mondays, we would charge an additional 80 EUR per way for the transfer.
 
 
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