japan gap year

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Temporary Programme Suspension

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has required all of us to adapt and rethink how we conduct business. We have decided to consolidate programming for 2021 and reduce our offerings to the destination countries where Lattitude is able to send a greater number of volunteers. This will allow us to work efficiently with reduced staffing while maintaining the high level of support to our volunteers that we pride ourselves in. For this reason, we are temporarily suspending our programmes in Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, Japan, USA and Vietnam. We do hope and expect that we will be able to offer these wonderful programmes again in the future. Thank you for your patience and understanding.


Gap Year Japan! The Land of the Rising Sun is made up of over 3000 islands of which Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku are the four largest. Japan is highly advanced technologically and in many ways has become westernised, yet simultaneously it retains a strong sense of traditional culture. It is full of history, wonderful temples and beautiful, mountainous countryside and volunteers find Japan an incredibly clean and organised country. There are many opportunities for volunteers to get involved in such as learning Japanese and traveling the country, making Japan an increasingly popular gap year destination.

Please note: a basic knowledge of the Japanese language (or a willingness to learn!) is required for these volunteering placements.

Placement Roles

Medical placements

Medical placements in Japan involve helping out at mainly Red Cross Hospitals in Iizuka, Ashikaga, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but you could also be placed at a non-affiliated hospital called Saiseikai Kumamoto. These placements provide an excellent experience for anyone hoping to work in medicine or health related fields. The work is varied as volunteers will work in a variety of wards helping with many different tasks. Japanese lessons will be provided at the hospitals and volunteers may be asked to teach English to the nursing staff. The more Japanese you know, the more responsible the tasks you may be given. The role of a medical volunteer in Japan is exciting and interesting and offers the volunteer a real insight into both medical care and Japanese culture.

Duties will include: transporting patients around the hospital; distributing and collecting patients’ meals; cleaning- patients’ rooms and nurses’ rooms; preparing bandages and dressings; taking medical charts and X-rays to the clinics; collecting used medical equipment for sterilisation; collecting prescriptions from the pharmacy and working in the pharmacy; preparing and helping volunteer activities; working with the nursing and medical teams; talking to patients; helping with hospital events and assistance with filing and documentation.

Community Activity Assistant placements

Community and caring placements will involve working in one of the following: Leonard Cheshire Care Homes, the Cocoromi-Gakuen home for the elderly and disabled or Kobokan, which is both a home for the elderly as well as a centre for young children. The work is demanding and challenging but also extremely rewarding. Volunteers form strong relationships with the people they help to care for and their help is greatly valued by both the staff and patients.

Volunteers who work in old peoples’ homes or homes for people with disabilities find it more interesting than those in the UK. This is because the Japanese emphasise the benefits of a stimulating, interesting environment and there are always activities to motivate the residents, including: day trips, cookery, gardening, farming, arts and crafts and drama. Our volunteers are always warmly welcomed and valued. There is also the option of working in a community care centre where volunteers will play with young children, talk to the elderly and make friends with adolescents at the centre.

What to expect?

Medical Assistant

Our Japanese work placements are very popular and offer a range of different experiences in various parts of the country. As a Medical Assistant you could be placed in a Japanese Red Cross hospital in the small southern city of Wakayama. With 865 beds and several different departments with different specialities, this placement would be well suited to those who want to gain an insight into a wide spectrum of medical areas. Your duties in this placement will include talking to patients, working with the nurse and medical teams, transporting patients around the hospital, distributing and collecting patients’ meals, preparing bandages and dressings and preparing food.

Community Volunteer

As a Community Volunteer, you could be placed, for example in a home for the mentally and physically disabled in Takarazuka, a small city situated between Kobe and Osaka. Here you would help permanent staff and patients with activities such as cooking, painting and music. You would also help organise and lead outings and excursions and could also be called upon to help with feeding and dressing residents. This voluntary placement can be challenging but is extremely rewarding.

Accommodation, food and allowance

Accommodation is usually in apartments close to the hospital or care home where you are volunteering. Meals are provided on site and placements in Japan provide an allowance to cover any extra in-country costs.


Is it for me?

Volunteers must be patient, mature and respectful of cultural differences. The Japanese are very polite and working volunteers must always remove their shoes when indoors, wait to be seated and be punctual. The diet in Japan is very healthy and there are a variety of different foods on offer, plus the cosmopolitan nature of the population means there is always something delicious to enjoy. If you are willing to discover a new culture, learn a new language and enjoy the differences, then Japan is a fascinating country and an exciting time awaits you.

Need to know

  • Pre departure briefing – all volunteers are invited to a group briefing prior to departure
  • On arrival – all volunteers have an orientation course before placements begin

Free Time & Travel


In some Japanese placements, such as the medical and caring placements, you may be required to work during the Christmas or Easter break as these can be the busiest times of the year. But, whether or not this is the case, you will be able to take a break at some point during your placement to explore all the wonders that Japan has to offer. Japan is well-known for its fascinating cultural and historical roots and the natural beauty of its landscapes. If you are placed near Tokyo, why not take a day trip one weekend to visit Mount Fuji and Mount Komagatake, which gives wonderful views over the Hakone National Park? Further away from the neon glow of the capital, you could discover the Geisha culture in Kyoto, stay in a traditional Japanese ryohan (inn) and relax in the warming waters of an onsen (hot spring).

Japan is also well known for the fresh flavours of its cuisine. During the evening or at weekends, why not take a class in sushi making or ask one of your colleagues how to make the perfect ramen? Some host placements will even provide you with a bicycle for getting to work, so you could explore the surrounding countryside on your days off from the comfort of your saddle.

Volunteers have the opportunity to travel at weekends and after their placements with Mount Fuji, the bright lights of Tokyo, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Himeji Castle are must-sees. Japan is justly famous for its seasonal beauty and volunteers should make the effort to see the spring cherry blossom in Hokkaido and the autumn leaves at Jingo-ji Temple in Kyoto. On Honshu Island the Shinkansen is the way to travel, taking you from Tokyo to your destination faster than a speeding bullet. Further south, the island of Kyushu is more relaxed but no less interesting with its hot springs, volcanic range and breathtakingly beautiful shrines.



Lattitude Application Fee – $150

The application fee covers the cost of processing applications and conducting interviews.
Whenever possible, we like to travel to your area to interview you in person, but if not possible, video conferencing using Skype is an alternative.
All applicants are guaranteed an interview. This fee is non-refundable.

Lattitude Placement Fee – $3945

The Lattitude placement fee covers your preparation & support prior to departure as well as in-country support whilst on placement. This is payable in two installments:
Upon acceptance to the Lattitude programme, a non-refundable $1000 deposit is payable within 7-10 days.
The balance of your Lattitude fee is payable 60 days prior to departure.

Orientation – $650

Volunteers receive an informative group orientation upon arrival in their placement country.
This includes accommodation, safety & security briefings, an overview of the local culture & customs, language skills (where relevant), and other handy tips.

What’s included?

• In depth matching process to align your skills and interests with a placement that really suits you
• Assigned Volunteer Coordinator to help with all your pre-departure advice and guidance
• Links with returned volunteers
• Advice on obtaining police checks
• Advice on obtaining a Visa
• Pre-departure briefing seminar
• Airport pickup on arrival
• Accommodation for the duration of stay (either with a host family or on placement site)
• Food provided by host (may not include every meal, but you will know what to expect before your arrival)
• Day to day support from your placement host and a member of staff as your mentor
• 24/7 support from Lattitude, including in-country support from local reps and the Lattitude Country Manager
• Focus on your personal volunteer learning and development
• Returned Volunteer follow up and Debrief Event
• Opportunity to join the Lattitude Alumni Association
• Certificate of completion and references (on request)

What’s not included:

In addition to the Lattitude fees above, volunteers will be required to pay for their own international flights, travel insurance and any visa costs. Lattitude staff will assist you in making these arrangements.

International Flights
Travel Insurance

• GP medical clearance
• Travel doctor consultation (mandatory)
• Vaccinations (if applicable)
• Onward travel to placement (if applicable)
• Pocket Money for weekends/ holidays/post-placement travel
• Accommodation and food during holiday periods


As a charity we always recommend our volunteers to fundraise to help meet the costs involved in volunteering overseas. In many ways it is part of the whole experience. For more information and fundraising ideas please click here.


Placement Availability – 2020

Swipe left/right for more information

Medical AssistantMarch 20206 MonthsSpaces Available
Community VolunteerMarch 20206 MonthsSpaces Available
Medical AssistantSeptember 20206 MonthsSpaces Available
Community VolunteerSeptember 20206 MonthsSpaces Available

Placement Availability – 2021

Swipe left/right for more information

Medical AssistantMarch 20216 MonthsSpaces Available
Community VolunteerMarch 20216 MonthsSpaces Available
Medical AssistantSeptember 20216 MonthsSpaces Available
Community VolunteerSeptember 20216 MonthsSpaces Available
Japan Lattitude volunteers

“I think EVERYBODY should have an experience like mine. It is life-changing in the best of ways”