I have found here a good way to travel for “free” and to get to know Japanese culture a bit more deeply than just simply being a tourist. This is called Wwoofing. First of all, it’s not very well known as far as I know so I am going to explain it a bit. In Japan, you just got to register yourself on the website, pay 5500 Yen, (around 35 Euros or 40 USD), you will be able to use this account for one year. And you then get access to all the family “hosts” that would like to try this experience! They can usually offer you a bed, food for few weeks, some sightseeing with all the family and more than all that, a chance to live and share everything with them as a member of the family! Which is, I think, is a great opportunity to get to know more deeply the Japanese and their culture.
You can find it in many other countries but, I’ve tried it and it’s nothing as it is in Japan. There is a real structure that goes with this organisation and makes your life way much easier than anywhere else.
Also, of course, for all that, there is a contribution that needs to be provided. You usually have to “work” and “help” a bit, the family members to do all their daily duties. I’ve been with different families, and they all utilize this program in different ways. It first of all depends on the work the family is doing to make a living. In one of them the they had a small hostel east of Hokkaido, and I usually had to make the beds, clean, while the wife had a small bakery downtown and I helped her a bit with all that as well. You won’t be working for a long time each day, something like 1~2 hours a day, it will leave you plenty enough time to enjoy all the places you can go around or stay home with everyone, visit some tourist spots, learn Japanese chess, hang out with the other woofers…
In my second experience, the family had a farm with pigs and chicken. In this one, I got barely anything to do, as the father didn’t want me to really work. I sometimes gave food or preparing it for the pigs, I also went with them to buy or sell products we were doing door to door and everyone we met offered us something to eat or drink even octopus for breakfast… Very nice to try! But the family was really friendly and warm. The father was actually a writer that decided to give up on writing and become a farmer “to be free” as he said.
All of my Wwoofing experience in Japan was amazing and I really advise you to try this if you feel like it, you’ll see another side of Japan that is hard to find if you’re only doing tourism!