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

Praktikum und Volunteering möglich
The 2024 season is from June 10 to October 14, 2024. If you book before March 31st you will get a single tent at the price of double occupancy!
As a participant of our Mother Nature Environmental Conservation Camp Japan you will stay on the grounds of the beautiful historic Chokokuji 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. Futhermore, on this program we also always have Japanese participants, which stimulates an exchange of culture and language.

Staying at Chokokuji Temple

Accommodation and base of our Mother Nature Conservation program in Japan is the Chokokuji Temple. The temple is said to have been founded in the year 807 by the Buddhist saint Kukai and houses a variety of cultural treasures. It is located on the slopes of the southern mountains of Sado in a relatively central location and is still actively used for religious purposes. As a volunteer, you will participate, often alongside Japanese volunteers, in a variety of activities. A weekly activity plan is created with diverse tasks. You will be staying in a fully furnished tent in the attractive garden grounds of the temple.

How can you get involved as a volunteer?

As a volunteer, often together with Japanese volunteers, you will participate in a variety of activities for which our volunteer coordinator creates a weekly plan of activities.
(Click on the activity to read more and see pictures!)
Chokokuji is one of the largest and culturally most significant temples on Sado. Despite the monk being over 80 years old, the temple is still actively used for religious purposes. The monk and his wife are solely responsible for the operations and maintenance of the temple.
As a volunteer, you help with light maintenance and cleaning of the temple facilities, as well as light gardening, at least once a week. The monk is dedicated to maintaining the temple's garden, which blooms with a variety of flowers, including azaleas, hydrangeas, and cosmos, throughout all seasons.
School groups regularly visit the temple, and you prepare activities for the children to engage in during their visits, such as crafting.
Both Japanese and foreign tourists visit the temple year-round, especially during the spring to autumn seasons. They can experience guided tours and spiritual activities such as sutra writing, Zen meditation, and Buddhist sermons. You assist the monk in preparing such tourist offerings and support the temple with social media marketing.
In the 2024 season, volunteers will initiate and operate a small shop. The shop will sell Chokokuji Temple souvenirs, fair-trade products, and locally produced natural goods to tourists, aiming to financially support the temple and other local non-profit organizations.
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. Another lady who is passionate about traditional local herbs is providing workshops as part of our program where we learn how to make herbal insect repellent, herbal juice, gyoza with herbal filling and toothpaste made from charcoal and herbs.
A Brazilian carpenter and artist specialising in bamboo who lives in Sado is regularly arranging creative workshops using bamboo for our volunteers, sometimes joined by Japanese youth groups. We will first learn how to make cups and chopsticks. If you stay for a longer time and you join the workshop several times, you can build more complicated items such as furniture, 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. 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.
Once per week we are cleaning a piece of beach or other nature. We usually do this as a competition between several teams whereby the winning team (that collects the largest amount of trash or a type of trash that is worst) wins a little prize. During the summer months, families who are staying at the Sobama Beach Campsite are sometimes joining this. Most trash we find is ghost fishing gear, construction materials such as plastic pipes and cables, and other plastic. The trash we collect is picked up by the municipal trash collection company.
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.
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.
We work with various farmers that are doing organic farming that can explain you about their principles and you help them on their farms. For instance one farmer holds ducks on the ricefield that would eat potential pests, instead of using chemical pesticides.
Once per week we have a session about topics related to the ocean and climate, e.g. impact of industrial farming on climate change, overfishing, sharks, etc. You will then be given small research tasks on the topic whereby you for instance have a look at farming practices carried out on Sado or you have a small talk with local fishermen. There will then be a follow-up session where you discuss your findings with our lecturer. The lectures and follow-up sessions might be carried out remotely using zoom and projected on a screen at the temple.
We are regularly doing activities from which aging rural communities benefit, e.g.working on akiyas. Akiyas are abandonded houses. Due to the decreasing population of the Japanese countryside, there are many abandonded houses. Some villages have some 80-90% of abandoned buildings. For instance in the village of Matsugasaki, there is the abandonded workshop of Sado's last blacksmith who has passed away. The remaining villagers want to conserve the memory of the traditional handcraft by making the workshop a small exhibition space. Volunteers of our program were cleaning up the building and working on the exhibition. Volunteers are also going to a countryside afterschool club and doing presentations for the children, e.g. about their own country or about environmental topics. We also regularly arrange workshops and presentations of traditional local culture, such as learning to play the noh flute, taiko drumming and kyogen theater play.
There is a significant population of raccoon dogs ("Tanuki") on Sado Island, and a large portion of them suffer from mange, a skin disease caused by mites. Treatment is possible with a drug called Selamectin. Volunteers will prepare meatballs containing the medication and strategically place them where raccoon dogs are likely to consume them. Volunteers will not have direct contact with wild raccoon dogs, although they are easily found during the evening hours. The activity is conducted in collaboration with a veterinarian dedicated to supporting wild raccoon dogs.
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 Chokokuji Temple

The temple is said to have been founded by the Buddhist saint Kukai in the year 807. It has a large number of cultural assets, including three eleven-headed Kannon statues declared as Nationally Important Cultural Properties, created by the saint himself. Those statues are only unveiled to the public once every 33 years, and the next viewing will be in 2034. Additionally, there are statues of Kongo Rikishi (two wrath-filled guardians of the Buddha) made in the Heian Period (10th-12th century), and Gochido Hall, which is a prefectural cultural asset. In 2018, the current monk, Tomita, added a large stone "rabbit kannon" statue that is dramatically illuminated at night and has gained attention on Japanese TV. In Buddhism, Kannon is a bodhisattva, a being who has achieved enlightenment but chooses to remain in the cycle of birth and death to help all living beings attain liberation. Kannon is particularly associated with compassion.
Within the temple's grounds, there are three very large cedar trees to which spiritual powers are attributed. They are estimated to be more than 1000 years old, and there is also a Japanese Umbrella-pine tree that is more than 500 years old. These ancient trees are classified as prefectural natural monuments.

About the Crested Ibis

The Nippon Ibis ("Nipponia nippon") is a bird with a size of 54-88 cm and a wingspan of 140 cm. Until the mid-20th century, before the advent of industrial agriculture, it was relatively common in Korea, China, Japan, and parts of Russia. However, due to the loss of its habitat, it became endangered. In 1981, the bird was declared "extinct in the wild," and the last five Japanese specimens were captured. In cooperation with the Chinese government, an internationally recognized reintroduction program was initiated on Sado Island. In 2008, the first ibises bred in captivity were released, and the first wild-bred chicks were observed in 2012. Today, there are approximately 500 ibises on Sado Island and 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: arrival on Sado on Mondays
Minimum duration: 1 week
Maximum duration: 4-24 weeks depending on visa
Language requirements: English
Other languages of advantage: Japanese
Accommodation: Chokokuji Temple on Sado Island
infoboxheader02 3 en
Supervision possible: No
Qualification Supervisor: -
Minimum Qualification Intern:
no formal qualification required
Further project contribution: No
Volunteering possible: Yes
Expected Qualification Volunteer: None
Further project contribution: No
We expect:
Professional work attitude, "the right attitude"

I. World Unite! Service Package

Program Activities and Accommodation
First week 625 EUR. Any additional week +330 EUR. From the 10th week only +295 EUR/week.

This includes:

  • Participation in all program activities (offered on 7 days/week)
  • Orientation and Introduction atKoninji about the program activities
  • Transfers for all program activities on Sado Island
  • Accommodation in 4-share tent (you choose) [Single/Double occupancy possible at extra charge, see below]
  • Full board (3 meals per day) incl. unlimited drinking water and tea
  • Access to the World Unite! Online Resource Centre which has Preparation Materials including Intercultural Preparation, compiled particularly for your destination (mobile phone friendly Knowledge Base)
  • Individual Consultation and Preparation prior to your arrival
  • Preparation Session via zoom, together with further participants
  • Support with the travel from Tokyo to Sado by our Tokyo team
  • Pick-up and Transfers from/to Sado (Ryotsu) Ferry Terminal on arrival (Mondays) and departure (Mondays or Fridays) to/from Mother Nature Camp Sado
  • Personal support staff at your location and at our international office
  • 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:

  • Travel to/from Sado Island (you book it on your own; see details in the slider "Getting There" below)
  • 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

Surcharge twin occupancy at a tent (compared to 4-share tent): +60 EUR/week per person.
Surcharge single occupancy tent (compared to 4-share tent): +100 EUR/week per person Special promotion until March 31, 2024: +60 EUR/week
Children under 14 only pay 150 EUR/week.
* 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
From the Ryotsu Ferry Port on Sado, you will be picked up by us at no additional cost on a Monday and taken back there on either a Monday or Friday.
You can take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Niigata (just under 2 hours) and then take the ferry (about 1.5 hours) to Ryotsu/Sado.
If you are farther away in Japan, you can also book a domestic flight to Niigata City, take a city bus to the ferry port, and then take the ferry to Ryotsu/Sado.
Your arrival in Tokyo:
For a small additional fee, you can add the following: You can arrive in Tokyo (Haneda or Narita) on a Friday between 8 am and 8 pm, and we will pick you up from the airport and accompany you to our sharehouse. There, you will spend 3 nights in a dormitory room. On Monday morning, you will then continue your journey to Sado.

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