I spent two weeks near Rankoshi, in the south of Hokkaido, volunteering on a local vegetable farm through an organization called WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. My stay here was absolutely incredible. It was my first time farming and my host family were so welcoming and friendly from the first day. I also had the privilege of meeting other wonderful volunteers who sadly came and went, but with whom I share beautiful memories.
I learned about WWOOF through a friend, and as I was already in Japan for the JapanTravel internship, I decided to extend my time in Japan to try something entirely different from what I am familiar with. I had volunteered before but had little experience farming, so I went for it. I contacted a host through WWOOF and was accepted into their home for two weeks.
I had heard endless praises and fond recollections of Hokkaido from friends and family, and since I wouldn’t be traveling to Hokkaido during my internship, I decided to go there to volunteer. I volunteered on a farm in the outskirts of Rankoshi City. Everyday I would work alongside other volunteers in different vegetable fields for a total of six hours, the length of time volunteers are required to work per day as stated in the WWOOF contract. Oftentimes, the farming work consisted of weeding either outdoors or indoors depending on the weather. Three meals are provided everyday, and the food was absolutely amazing. I don’t know what magic my host mother is capable of but she fed me extremely well. Instead of staying in shape with daily physical labor, I actually gained a few pounds because of all the food.
Every week, volunteers have a day-off, on which you can do anything and go anywhere. On my first day-off, I went hiking with another volunteer. I unfortunately broke my camera when I fell along the way, but I had my first hitch-hiking experience to balance things out. Japanese people are extremely generous and we managed to hitchhike four separate rides to ultimately return to the farm. The people who picked us up were so friendly each time, and were all so willing to go out of their way to help two helpless humans along the roadside.
On my second day-off, which was also the day I left Hokkaido, a volunteer who lives nearby and comes twice a week to help on the farm was so kind, and took me and another volunteer to an Indian restaurant and then a local ice cream shop before sending me off. As my train left the platform at the end of my time in Hokkaido, my reluctance to leave rose straight to the surface and that pang of sadness that I had prepared myself for still affected me nonetheless.
The two weeks I spent in Hokkaido was incomparable to any other moment of my life so far. I learned so much from the people I met. We shared countless hours of laughter, melted together under the sun, supported each other, and feasted like the gods. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but at least I’m sure I will be because it would be so great to see them again. If you have not had an experience like “WWOOF-ing”, I highly recommend you go and seek one out because you will not regret a life-changing experience.