WELCOME TO KAMIKATSU
Do you ever look outside the window, and feel saddened by the rows upon rows of buildings staring back? Have you ever wondered where your food comes from, or what it's gone through to get onto your plate? Are you sick of the mountains of plastic that is endemic to our world today?
Sometimes the answers to our questions can be found right under our noses. And sometimes, it takes a widening of our perspective in order to discover the right understanding.
This is where we come in. We want to invite you to step outside of your daily routine, wherever and whatever that may be, and join us instead by stepping into the beautiful green mountains that is the backdrop to the village of Kamikatsu.
WHAT IS ZERO WASTE?
Kamikatsu is a (really) small mountain village located in Tokushima prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Officially designated as one of the 100 Most Beautiful Villages In Japan, it's easy to understand why the moment you enter into the lush green landscape stretching as far as the eye can see. But Kamikatsu's natural surroundings are not its only claim to fame.
Since 2005, Kamikatsu became the first village in the world to declare for “Zero Waste,” an ideal the village has been working hard to follow ever since. What does it mean to be Zero Waste? Before the implementation of the program, Kamikatsu, like many parts of Japan, disposed of its waste using incineration, as well as a dumping method inside a large hole in the ground. This system soon proved to be cost-ineffective and unsustainable, resulting in the need to overhaul it completely. “Zero Waste” program was born.
In Kamikatsu today, there is no garbage truck to collect residents' waste. Instead, villagers compost all of their organic waste matter themselves, and the rest is separated into forty-five different categories to be recycled for materials or re-used. A small amount left over that cannot be recycled is burned.
This program has been quite effective in reducing the amount of garbage that is incinerated, but we don't want to stop there. By aiming to become Zero Waste, we want to develop new ways to reduce the amount of garbage being made in the first place, to remove one time use items from our daily lives, to become truly a garbage free society.
In order to do this we need YOUR help!
WHAT IS THE TRY KAMIKATSU! PROGRAM?
What an extraordinary time we are living in, where at the click of a button it is possible to visit all four corners of the earth. But what can you really know about a place from just following in a guidebook's “Must Do” list?
For travelers seeking an authentic experience, the best place to start is with the locals. This is where we come in. Here in Kamikatsu we invite you to join our internship program Try Kamikatsu! where you will have the opportunity to live and work like a local.
What is it really like for residents to have to separate our garbage following the Zero-Waste way? How do businesses, that are accredited to be Zero-Waste, run their operations day-to-day? What is it like to grow your own food and produce meals that are both seasonal and local? And more importantly, what are we forgetting when we believe that opportunities exist solely within our cities, while the bounties in the countryside are routinely overlooked?
By joining the Try Kamikatsu! program, you will have the opportunity to live in Kamikatsu like a local resident. In exchange for accommodation and three meals a day, you will be working on designated days in Café Polestar, a local business accredited to be Zero Waste.
Days when you are not scheduled at the cafe can be spent visiting other local businesses, volunteering at local organic farms to learn traditional farming methods, meeting local craftsmen to learn the Japanese traditional arts etc. The official schedule can be tailored to each individual intern’s specific interests, allowing you to get the most out of your experience here.
You will receive your own room in Terumi Azuma’s house, the owner of Café Polestar. It is a traditional Japanese home with tatami floors. Bedding, linen, and blankets will all be provided. Please bring your own towel and toiletries.
The family consists of Azuma-san, her husband, brother, and four-year old son.
Conversational English is not a problem at home, indeed it is preferred so that we can all improve our English language skills!
Three meals a day will be provided. Please let us know beforehand if you have any special dietary needs.
Your primary responsibility, as of now, will be to help out at the café, where you have the opportunity to experience a Zero Waste accredited business in action. We can teach you how to make delicious Japanese meals using locally grown ingredients that are purchased each morning at Kamikatsu’s farmer’s market.
In addition, if some extraneous circumstances arrive, you should be flexible to help out in other areas, including looking after our son for short periods at a time.
You will have a wide range of opportunities to experience life in the mountain village of Kamikatsu, in the beautiful countryside of Japan. These include volunteering at the local garbage station to see how the town recycles their waste, visiting local businesses, such as the award-winning Italian restaurant Pertonare, and Zero Waste craft brewery Rise and Win.
In addition, there are many local farmers here growing Tokushima specialties like irodori and awa-bancha, and Kamikatsu is home to many artisans who can teach you their traditional crafts.
The opportunities here are quite many, so your schedule will really depend on what you would like to experience!
Ultimately we believe that innovation and change comes from a wide range of places, and our motivation behind starting our internship program is to become a crossroads for the exchange of new ideas.
We are interested in meeting people from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds, to share what you know and to learn from what we know.
Only in mutual learning and understanding, we believe, can we change the world a little at a time.
So if you believe in our mission too, then we want to meet you! Looking forward to a wonderful time together in beautiful Kamikatsu!
Hear What Our Previous Interns Had To Say About The Experience
"I got lots of amazing experiences in Kamikatsu. Zero waste was just one of them, and I could learn about this through real experience both at Café Polestar and in Terumi san's home, which I stayed in for two weeks.
During my stay, I was given enough time for reading books, taking walks (even though it was so cold and rainy while I was there), doing art and thinking. Those were things I had not tried before in my daily life. But it is only because I had a tendency to forget to do those things. To have that time again was so nice and exciting. And Terumi-san cooked delicious dishes with local vegetables which were seasonal for winter. I really hate winter just because of the coldness.
I have learned that there is a way of thinking that is so important in Kamikatsu, and I am trying to adapt it. Recently I have been finding something wonderful in my daily life, in ordinary moments not just in the special ones.
Finally, talking with people in Kamikatsu who are wonderful were the best memories. I was highly interested to learn about their stories. I really look forward to meeting and talking with them again. Definitely I would like to go back there many times, not only once, because now I am a fan of Kamikatsu!
Thank you so much and see you again."
Nana, 20 years old, Japan
"A chance encounter brought me to Kamikatsu, and I'm forever grateful for it. From the very first day, I was immersed in different aspects of zero-waste; from helping out at a local organic farm, working at a zero-waste certified cafe, to experiencing the town's bustling recycling operation, Kamikatsu internship was the perfect place to learn and live the lifestyle even for a short time.
Terumi-san really tries to understand each intern's particular interests, and can draw connections from almost any part of the community to enrich your experience. Try Kamikatsu, because you never know who or what will inspire you. Something might even bring you back one day! Five stars."
Cathy, 28 years old, Canada
"The people of Kamikatsu are so in tune with their surroundings, and with each other. I found their communal consciousness both inspiring and accessible. The way they treat each other, and the natural environment, gave me a lot of hope about the future of humanity.
What started as a grassroots campaign to reduce waste and incineration back in the 2000s soon became widely known throughout the country, and visited by many. But not too many. Volunteering at the zero waste academy made me appreciate how utterly necessary it is for everyone to share the same ethos. It’s very much a group effort.
A beautiful coincidence led me to stay in Kamikatsu for a month as an intern. I stumbled into Cafe Polestar and instantly felt at home, thanks to the extreme friendliness and generosity of Terumi-san and Linda.
Nakamura-san, a Buddhist artist who lives alone in the mountains, is probably one of the most self-satisfied humans I’ve ever met. Seeing how he lives off nothing, ordering his time between meditation, daily chores, reading and art, enriched what was once a hurried London existence. Spending a day in his wooden studio taught me a lot about craftsmanship, made all the more surreal by the mountain vistas.
My time in Kamikatsu was also a lot of fun. Linda jumps on any excuse for a celebration, gathering people from far and wide to laugh and dance and learn from one another."
Olivia, 22 years old, England
"The Azuma and Matsumoto family are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. During my time there I didn't feel I was there just to work as an intern, because they opened their lives to me and brought me in for 3 weeks.
Each person in the family is really amazing, and on top of being kind, helpful, fun, and honest they are such an inspiring group of people. Terumi, Takuya, Linda and Hiroki, I was so inspired by how all of you have such incredible motivation to make changes. The way you are developing and improving yourselves and your environment gave me faith again that there are people are trying to do something positive their lives. Thank you!
The internship itself is also pretty exciting. Working in the cafe is not difficult, it's enjoyable and it's stress-free. Plus the food is without a doubt super delicious!
Terumi was really amazing in that she organized for me to visit an organic tomato farm and the waste collection center for day-internships, and offered so many other opportunities for me to work in if I wanted any other experience.
On any day, you can guarantee that something unexpected or unplanned will happen, even so, the life in Kamikatsu is nothing but peaceful. The people are awesome, the work is fun, the area is beautiful and the focus of the internship is important and relevant to the environment. Thank you to Kamikatsu's no.1 Party People!"
Ailbhe, 20 Years Old, Ireland
August - September 2019
“I originally came to Kamikatsu on a writing tour, organized by author Andy Couturier around his book 'The Abundance of Less' . As soon as I laid my eyes on the bounty of mountains and heard the sound of the laughing river, however, I knew I was home. Synchronicity allowed me to find the internship at Café Polestar, and at that point there was no doubt in my mind I would be staying on in this magical place.
Interning at Café Polestar with Terumi-san has been such an incredibly rewarding experience, and one I will be eternally grateful for. Terumi-san and her family are the epitome of graciousness in a host. They made me feel so comfortable, and pretty soon it was easy to feel as if I had known them forever.
In her knowledge of Kamikatsu, Terumi-san is second to none. Her mother was one of the founding members of the Zero-Waste Academy, so there are many insights to be gleaned from working with Terumi-san on a daily basis. Born and raised in Kamikatsu, she has many connections to the town and its history, so if there is anything you would like to learn she is quick to try and accommodate your interests.
Helping in the café itself feels more like play than work, as it is such a central gathering spot for the community. You are always seeing a familiar face coming in! And the food is so delicious and made with such love, from the locally grown ingredients to the way it is prepared with a mother's touch.
If you are looking to experience something like an authentic life, a place where you can discover for yourself what is important to you, and what is worth working for, then I cannot recommend enough coming to Kamikatsu. The people that you meet here might just change your life!
Linda, 27 years old, Canada
May – November 2019
“Kamikatsu, which is known for its Zero-Waste campaign, is a beautiful place in Tokushima Prefecture that has so much more to offer than its stunning nature! I was only able to intern at Terumi-san's Café Polestar for two weeks, but this short amount of time turned out to be truly worthwhile and very inspiring.
Throughout my whole stay, Terumi-san has been really supportive in every possible aspect! I was invited to stay with her and her family who treated me with nothing but kindness. They provided an environment full of positive and loving energy that really contributed to a wonderful internship experience. I had a great time helping out at the café! I very much enjoyed the delicious food and I was happy to learn how to prepare those delicious dishes that the café served.
Terumi-san genuinely wanted me to have a great experience and supported me to make the best out of my stay.learn about farming and to just have a good time. Climbing the Yama Inu Dake mountain, surfing for the first time, watching the fireworks at a summer festival – all that was amazing and super fun !!
But, getting to know all those great, great people with their fascinating and perspective-changing stories, that is what touched my heart and what I am really grateful for. So thank you, Kamikatsu."
Anya, 23 years old, Germany
“Kamikatsu is most well-known for practicing the 45 categories for waste separation. This is also the reason driving me to it. But with Terumi-san, I found Kamikatsu offering way more than a demonstration of effective recycling practices.
While called an internship for Polestar Café, it was actually a holistic program exposing me to how Kamikatsu reduces, reuses and recycles. I didn't only work in the café, but also helped at the Gomi Station (the waste station) and Irodori ( leaf harvesting) farm, and visited various projects designed with recycled materials.
In the Polestar Café, I usually helped in the kitchen. We cooked mostly with local produce and seasonal vegetables, so to avoid over-packaging. Off the peak hours in the café, she would also introduce me to the zero-waste practice (eg the rewarding point system, and the accreditation system).
While it is remarkable the progress Kamikatsu made in waste separation, it is even more impressive to learn its initiatives to avoid waste at all. The Kuru Kuru Shop is my favorite zero-waste initiative. This is where the Kamikatsu residents exchange their un-needed stuff freely. The Gomi Station management team would check and make sure the donated items are in good condition to be reused. So far the effort has prevented more than 15 tons of treasures from going to the waste bin.
Other Interesting Projects I Visited:
Kuru Kuru Craft Shop: Anyone visiting here would recognize the work here as artwork instead of stuff-made-out-of-
Rise & Win Brewery: This incredible building is built with recycled material again. In my eyes it is rather an art
project though they also have great food and beer too.
The most unforgettable experience out of my internship, however, was the visit to Nakamura-san, the legend of Kamikatsu who lives a self-sufficient life. I was stunned, and deeply inspired by the beauty of the simple life he leads -the ultimate course to zero-waste: to get rid of the unnecessary desires and attachment, and invest my life on the real essentials.
Despite I only had a short stay of 10 days in Kamikatsu, the internship was so enriching that I felt I have been living there for a long time. It was a research trip of waste management, a culture exchange and a self-discovery journey. I couldn't be more grateful. Thank you Terumi-san! Much love.
Gu Xinyue, 28 years old, China
HOW TO APPLY
If you are interested, please fill out the questionnaire below (answers in English and Japanese are both fine) and send the answers to: t AND
Must be at least eighteen years old.
Try Kamikatsu! Intern Application Form
1. Full Name:
3. Where are you from / live?
4. What is your current occupation?
5. Have you ever visited Japan before? Can you speak Japanese?
6. How did you learn about Kamikatsu?
7. Why do you want to come to Kamikatsu?
8. What does zero-waste mean to you?
9. What specific skills can you bring to our internship and to Kamikatsu?
10. Have you ever lived in a shared environment before?
11. When are you able to come to Kamikatsu?
Thank you, and we look forward to meeting you!
32-1, Hirama, Fukuhara, Kamikatsu-town, Katsuura-gun, Tokushima pref, Japan.