I spent 3 months during the months of December to March of 2021-2022 to do a Workaway experience in Tokyo. It was such a life-changing experience and I really recommend for anyone to do this to take a more local and relaxed way to explore Tokyo for over a month.
What is workaway?
Workaway is a platform that allows members to arrange homestays and cultural exchanges around the world. A membership to Workaway costs $44 a year and opens over 50,000 opportunities in more than 170 countries worldwide!
Workawayers are basically Volunteers and are expected to contribute a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging and food, which is provided by their host. Of course, these conditions change according to the hosts.
Work at the English Cafe
The language cafe is located in Takadanobaba, in Shinjuku, one of the busiest areas in Tokyo. This cafe offers the opportunity for local Japanese people to come and practice their desired language. English is the main language, but they also provide French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese tables. If you can speak any other language than English, you may be put as staff at these languages as well!
The customers are there to learn and practice their English and foreign knowledge, but it also offers you the opportunity to make friends with local people, as well as more about the Japanese culture. Most people I met were always very excited to teach us about their own cultures. It’s truly a cultural exchange and experience of Tokyo.
It really doesn’t feel like work. Sure, sometimes the conversation can get dry and hard to keep up but that rarely happens. Most of the customers who come are locals and within 2 weeks, it felt more like a school club and a hangout. Sometimes I even went when it wasn’t my shift just to hang out with the customers there.
Conversations are usually held in groups so it’s never really boring or tiring and we talk about all sorts of topics. The topic that I talked about most about was how I was born and raised in New York and our local foods.
Most people who come to the cafe can speak English well and it wasn’t hard to communicate with them. It definitely benefited me that I can speak Japanese since the customers didn’t feel as nervous to talk to me and seemed to take a liking to me faster because of it.
The work is 15 days an hour with the most common shifts being 4 days a week. Usually, it’s 3 days working 4 hours and one day only 3 hours.
Every week you can get 2 “no-session” days in a row, which enable you to go for a small trip to other regions in Japan!
Other than the customers at the language cafe, there are always so many other workawayers working with you. All workawayers live in a shared house (the male house and female house are located in different areas). It is so easy to make friends. I think while I was working, there were about 13 other workawayers working alongside me, and they were all very friendly.
There were 3 different housings during my time there. 2 shared houses separated by gender and one studio apartment, which was the one I stayed in. In all of these housing, you have to share a kitchen, restroom, shower, and a washing machine with other residents/roommates.
There is no food provided, and they prepare the beds (with bedding). This makes it truly feel like you are independently living in Tokyo rather than a volunteer/homestay situation. It really felt like it was our own place and we had the freedom to do whatever and bring in whoever we wanted.
All of the share houses are located about 15 minutes from the language cafe in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The trains were very close and everything that is needed was very close by, like the convenience store and the supermarket.
My Workaway experience in Tokyo
I really enjoyed all the different people I got to talk to. I’m definitely more of an introvert so this experience really helped me open up about the concept of talking to new people. Every day, I was able to meet so many different types of people of all ages, from high schoolers, working adults, to retired people, and get a different perspective and mindsets. This Workaway experience in Tokyo really broadened my horizons about the world and I was able to make life-long friends.
The owner of the cafe was also always very helpful and nice. Whenever there was a situation, he was there to help out and advise.
Overall Workaway experience in Tokyo
My overall Workaway experience in Tokyo was amazing and I really recommend it! As my first workaway, this was such an amazing start, and I can’t wait for all the other experiences I’ll go on!
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