So, you’ve moved to a new country. You’ve found a job, an apartment, and a language teacher. You are on track… But is that all there is? What about having fun? What about dealing with stress of adjusting to all this huge life changes?
You should look for friends. The emotional and psychological benefits of being with friends are well documented, and simply being around people with similar interests and in a similar life situation can make an enormous difference in adjusting to change. However, those same changes can create new barriers to meeting people and making friends in Japan. How do you do it? This guide is here to help!
First, Know Thyself
One of the primary ways to make friends is through shared interests. So, first of all, think about what interests you can explore in Japan. Do you like reading? How about manga? Are you a mountain climber or scuba diver? All of these are great ways to meet people in Japan. Is religion an important part of your life? Get on the internet to find your nearest place of worship.
This is also a good time to find something new. Exploring the culture of Japan is a great way to find not only new hobbies but also make new friends along the way. Japan’s filled with unique cultural experiences that interest not only locals, but visitors from abroad. Whether it be Akihabara’s modern idol culture or ancient performances of kagura or noh, there is something near you to experience, and people are usually very happy to welcome newcomers into their favorite entertainment. Community centers (市民ホール shimin ho-ru) not only hold cultural events, but have flyers for all kinds of events in the local area. Also try googling your neighborhood/town name with イベント (ibento, events) for information.
The strongest resource for anyone wanting to succeed in another country is connection to your local community. If you can find a way around any language barriers (either by focusing on your Japanese ability, or by finding people who speak your language) then making friends with Japanese people near you is the best way to help yourself get settled.
This can be a challenge, no doubt about it, but there are some things you can do to ease the process. I have mentioned in another article the benefits of volunteering, and making friends is definitely one of them.
If you drink alcohol, dropping in regularly at a neighborhood izakaya is a good way to meet people, practice language skills, and just generally relax. When I first came to Japan, I’d bring a dictionary to my local watering hole and use it as a place to study.
Sports teams are always a good way to make friends. Japan is a very sporty nation, and you’re sure to find local teams playing your favorite: baseball 野球/yakyuu; basketball バスケットボール/basukettobo-ru; soccer サッカー/sakka-; futsal/フットサルfuttosaru; rugby ラグビー/ragubi-; tennis テニス/tenisu; golf ゴルフ/gorufu; and running ランニング/ranningu are all immensely popular in Japan. Try googling your neighborhood/town name and the name of your favorite sport to find teams.
Internet to Real Life
This being the 21 st century, it’s inevitable that our real lives are woven around the net. Which is great! These internet resources are convenient ways to find other people to explore those interests with.
Everyone probably already knows Meetup.It’s a worldwide company, and the Japanese side is fairly well populated with groups of all kinds. Overall, Meetup.com users in Japan are an international group, and the meetups are often geared toward language exchanges, etc.It can be a good way to meet Japanese people who are interested in interacting with international residents, but that can also limit the topics explored to less local ones.
Doorkeeper is an event-focused website, and most of its events tend to be tech-oriented. It’s a good way to find people in similar work environments to yours, which is often a great avenue to new friendships. There is an English site, too, at https://www.doorkeeper.jp/?locale=en.
This is a Japanese-only site used to find people for all kinds of things.It’s similar to the site Craigslist, in that it started as an alternative to traditional classified listings, but has expanded into social connection as well. The メンバー募集 link has listings for friends, sports teams, volunteering, and more. Once your language skills are good enough to use it, it’s a great way to meet local people for specific activities. I have used it to find Pokemon Go friends, for example.
The r/JapanLife subreddit is specifically for international residents of Japan. It’s a somewhat unfocused community, but it’s also full of people exactly like you: living and working in Japan, and wondering how to connect to others. You can post questions, look for meetups, and generally just socialize online. You get out of it whatever you put in, so it’s best to be an active member if you want to make any lasting connections.
In the end, making friends is never easy.It requires you to open yourself up to others, and that can be scary in an already stressful situation. However, making friends here really pays emotionally off in the long run. Good luck, and hang in there!