Japan Study

Cultural Internships

Engage Communities


The Cultural Internship (CI) is a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to experience new facets of Japanese culture firsthand. For approximately four weeks during winter break (February/March), students are immersed in a cultural or volunteer experience with local institutions throughout Japan. Many students describe the Cultural Internship as one of the highlights of Japan Study. Transportation to and from the CI site, accommodations, and meals are included in the program fee. Students apply for a Cultural Internship through the Japan Study Waseda office during Fall Semester. Please see the videos below for more information about recent Cultural Internship options.

Students also have the option of creating their own Cultural Internship. Sites must be located outside of the Tokyo/central Kanto region. Students’ home institutions sometimes have a connection or partnership that makes this possible. The process of creating your own Cultural Internship must begin prior to your departure by contacting the Japan Study Program Director at Earlham College.

Cultural Internships are subject to change depending upon the host site's needs and availability. Site options are added and removed each year. Please contact our office if you have a question about a particular site. The Cultural Internship is required for all Full Year students.

Recent Cultural Internships

Animal Rescue Volunteer at ARK in Toyono, Osaka

Students volunteer at a non-profit, non-governmental animal rescue called ARK (Animal Refuge Kansai) located in rural Osaka. There is a wide range of volunteer activities, including kennel care, dog walking, animal socializing, grooming, and more. This internship requires a lot of walking and physical exertion.

Living Arrangements: Shared Apartment

Ski Resort Assistant in Hakuba, Iwatake, Nagano

Working part-time at a ski resort area, students will work closely with Japanese staff and enjoy winter activities while living in a dorm-like setting at a hotel or resort complex. Students clean rooms at a ski lodge, and in doing so they get a close-up look at the hierarchy of a Japanese work group. During free time, students hit the slopes and have a chance to make friends with guests of the lodge.

Living Arrangements: Dormitory with Japanese college students

International Relations and Educational Exchange in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi

Students volunteer at local preschools and kindergartens, libraries, tourist information centers, and the city hall to help promote international tourism and international relations. Students will also have the opportunity to experience many local traditions through participating in cultural events throughout the city. 

Living Arrangements: Host Family

Becoming a Zen Monk at Sogenji in Okayama

Sogenji is a Buddhist temple nestled in the Maruyama mountains near the port city of Okayama. By following a rigorous daily training schedule, students become monks in the Zen tradition. Sogenji typically requires a one-year commitment, but Japan Study has arranged for students to participate fully in the life of the temple for only one month. Students have said that their time at Sogenji was challenging, but extremely rewarding.

Living Arrangements: Dormitory at temple

Rural Business and Local Culture in Taku, Saga

Students volunteer at various local businesses such as strawberry farms, pottery centers, manju stores, and more. They also experience local culture through experiences such as visiting the Confucian learning center and participating in seasonal events. Students will also visit local elementary and middle schools to promote cross-cultural understanding.

Living Arrangements: Host Family

Rural Homestay & Educational Exchange in Unnan-shi, Shimane

Unnan-shi is the oldest of our programs, having begun in 1986 and involving over 400 students.  The second least populated prefecture in Japan provides an experience far different from metropolitan Tokyo.  Students interact with their new host families and visit local schools as cultural ambassadors.  Rural Japan still preserves many local traditions – some through conscious effort, and others flowing through the culture almost unnoticed as they are transmitted from one generation to the next.  

Living Arrangements: Host Family

International Relations in Daito-shi, Osaka

Students work at a life-long learning center in Osaka called “Across” and assist in the teaching of various classes for adults, including calligraphy, English conversation, and traditional arts of Japan. They also volunteer at local organizations such as after school groups and activity camps for children. Students experience traditional culture through a variety of hands-on events.

Living Arrangements: Host Family

Working in Local Factories and Tourist Sites in Iwaizumi, Iwate

Students are offered an opportunity to experience rural life and see firsthand the efforts of a town to recover from the 3/11 Triple Disaster and to engage the economy of the region, nation, and the world. Students assist at local businesses such as a sake brewery, a sweet-making factory, and a Michi-no-Eki (roadside station). Students also visit local kindergartens and middle schools to promote intercultural understanding and aid in the promotion of local tourism.

Living Arrangements: Host Family

Environmental Tourism at Mori-No-Ie in Iiyama, Nagano

Students volunteer at a nature lodge in Nagano, a region known for its high snowfall. The lodge offers its customers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, igloo building, and snowshoeing. Students help with shoveling snow, translating hotel documents, cleaning guest rooms, snowshoeing tours, and interacting with guests.

Living Arrangements: Staff apartments at the lodge

Japanese Omotenashi at a Ryokan in Minakami, Gunma

The Minakami Cultural Internship involves working at a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) in a mountain resort town northwest of Tokyo. Students become an employee of the inn for one month and help with tasks such as cleaning, arranging rooms, and serving in the dining room while learning about the concept of Japanese hospitality called omotenashi. The hours are long and the work is physically demanding, but past participants have thoroughly enjoyed their experiences.

Living Arrangements: Staff dormitory at the inn

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Hospitality Work at Fukui Phoenix Hotel in Fukui, Fukui

Students live and work in a hotel on the Japan seaside and participate in all aspects of hotel work such as serving in the restaurant, cleaning, and assisting front desk staff. This site provides students a chance to view a professional working environment in Japan and an opportunity to learn about the concept of omotenashi.

Living Arrangements: Shared room in the hotel


Sake Brewing at Sachi-Hime Brewery in Kashima, Saga

Students learn about the traditional and complex sake brewing process by working with staff on site, assisting in the sake shop and café. Students will have the opportunity to experience life and work in a multi-generational sake brewing family.

Living Arrangements: Homestay

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Café Server at jazz café & bar Jazz Rug in Maebashi, Gunma

Students will have a chance to learn about the jazz culture in Japan through first-hand experience working in a small jazz café and bar. This site offers students the opportunity to learn about hospitality work in Japan, interact with customers, and engage in the local jazz community.

Living Arrangements: Homestay