English Exchange

Nagano - Japan

Only 900€ per week!

Help locals gaining more confidence and practice in speaking English to foreigners. While Japanese study English in high school and become profound in reading and writing, little focus is put on conversation and pronunciation. Knowledge is not the issue, practice is.

Host conversation afternoons where locals can join on their own terms. More than just using the language, it helps them to get used to interacting with foreigners. And for you it’s a chance to learn about their life and culture.

Community Engagement
Physical Demand


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Program Description

In a recently published English version of the Otaki tourist map, some shops and hotels are marked with a star, to indicate that the owners speak some English. Still it is a challenge to get around without speaking Japanese.

Pride plays a role in this as well. A hotel would rather refuse a booking of a foreigner, than losing face by not providing perfect service due to the language barrier. Which is not helping the village’s initiatives to attract more foreign travelers into its picturesque surroundings.

To help the village develop, two measures need to happen at the same time:

  • Villagers and local business owners need to get used to interacting with foreigners
  • Locals need to gain more confidence and practice in speaking English

Japanese students study English in high school but the current education method rather focuses on reading and writing than on conversation. So don’t mistake them not talking to you for them not knowing English or even a lack of education. What is lacking the most is the practice in speaking. Without that practice, Japanese people usually don’t feel comfortable speaking.

This program aims to offer locals a platform to practice their English on their own terms. Participants are available at the community house in the afternoons and early evenings. Local students often stop by to study or work there for a few hours or to just hang out. That’s your chance to ask them everything you’d like to know about life in Japan and answer their questions about your home country as well. Be patient and understanding if it takes them a while to make up a complete sentence. The longer you talk, the better they will understand you. And the more locals enjoy talking to you, the more people feel animated to join.

Keep in mind that for people who hardly ever meet foreigners, you are more than just a chance to practice their English. You are an ambassador of your home country and culture. The impression you leave will shape their view on people of your country or foreigners in general.

Depending on the season and weather, expect to spend about 1-4 hours of conversation per day. This could be at the community house or other places in/around Otaki. Occasionally the local kindergarten may invite you as well to practice some English pronunciation by e.g. singing songs together. Besides practicing English, you will join other participants in Otaki to learn about local culture and explore the surroundings.

Aims & Objectives

  • Give locals a chance to meet foreigners. If you leave a good impression, this will help them being more self-confident and open-minded when interacting with foreigners.
  • Give them a chance to practice their conversational English by talking to you.


Monday to Friday

  • Breakfast
  • You may occasionally be asked to join the local kindergarten group
  • Lunch
  • Cultural or outdoor activities together will all participants in Otaki
  • Be available for locals to come by for conversation
  • Dinner
  • Be available for locals to come by for conversation
  • Cultural or outdoor activities together will all participants in Otaki

   Note:   This schedule can be changed and/or amended depending on weather conditions, local conditions and unforeseen circumstances.

Participant Criteria & Requirements

Standard Requirements

Minimum age:

Maximum age:

Minimum English level: Intermediate

CRB required: On Signup

Passport copy required: No

Resume copy required: No

Required qualification: None

Additional Requirements

There are no further requirements for this program.

Additional Equipment

There are no further requirements for this program.


Your time in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan will be spent in a small village, amid spectacular mountains, with just about 800 residents. Otaki is a wonderland of nature that hosts many guests, especially during the winter months when there is a nice coat of snow on Mt. Ontake. Japan’s second highest volcano not only is home to a ski resort, but also attracts many spiritual groups and forms of Buddhism. Mt. Ontake is surrounded by an array of different shrines and sacred places and a popular destination for pilgrims.

About the Accommodation

While in Otaki, Nagano, Japan you will be staying in a local Homestay or at our participant accommodation (possibility for some amazing camping in a tent during warmer months)10-25 minutes outside of the village by car. Please keep in mind the toilet and shower for the Green House location near the restaurant and campsite are separate from the    sleeping accommodation. The homestay at the house provides toilet and shower inside. There may also be a pet dog around the Green House location.

Food Arrangements

Weekdays you will enjoy three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and two on weekends, during your stay. Meals will be local cuisine and you can expect that they will include rice and vegetables.


The village of Otaki features an ATM, two convenience stores and a post office. These may not be in walking distance from your accommodation, but you’ll have the chance to stop by there several times during the week.

Activities & Events

Monday to Friday

Besides your program you will join some cultural or outdoor activities every day. These depend on the season and local circumstances. Some examples:

  • Visit typical local neighborhood house
  • Learn about Japanese bathing culture and how Japanese shower
  • Visit a natural hot spring
  • Take a traditional bath over a fire
  • Learn about local plants and flowers
  • Go to the river and cool down
  • Learn how to make origami
  • Join a Matcha tea ceremony
  • Trek up a hill to a viewpoint. Spot animal traces on the way.
  • Learn how to make sushi
  • Dye textiles with natural colors
  • Go to Otaki’s convenience store and ATM
  • Climb up to a sacred shrine above Otaki
  • Trek on the pilgrims trail leading up into the mountains
  • Join a traditional purification ceremony under a sacred waterfall
  • Make Japanese paper
  • Practice Kendo (Japanese sword fighting)

Sights & Surroundings

Otaki is a nature lover’s paradise with many outdoor activities possible year round. Great place for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking and kayaking on the lake. Major points of interest include: Mt. Ontake, Shintaki Waterfall and Tanoharatenen Park.


From this location we do not provide free transport to other locations.


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English Exchange

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