Finding friends in Japan
August 10, 2011 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Where should an American expat go to meet people in Japan?

A friend of mine, arguably a workaholic, is an American residing in Japan for the next year or so. He has lived there for almost a year and he's having trouble meeting new people and striking friendship.

He recently had relationship woes and I'm worried about his lack of social support over there. He knows almost no Japanese and he's somewhat introverted as well.

I do not know his exact location except that he's about 40 minutes away from Tokyo by public transportation.

Given those is there any suggestion on what he can do?

Thank you in advance for any advice.
posted by 7life to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
He could contact the U.S. Embassy and ask to talk with the family liaison office (might be community liaison office, it's been a while since I was part of the U.S. expatriate community). This office is in charge of helping Americans working for the U.S. government maintain their sense of community and culture, and in cities with large enough expatriate communities it will be connected to stuff going on beyond Embassy circles. Ask for information about upcoming events for Americans.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:33 PM on August 10, 2011

I should say - the FLO/CLO exists to support embassy staff and their families, but in my experience its work was not limited to them. In these strange budgetary era there may now be restrictions that didn't once exist, but I imagine that the FLO/CLO staff would probably be happy to help another American connect to the community.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:34 PM on August 10, 2011

Learning Japanese to a conversational level is actually surprisingly easy, if you have access to the right materials.

I can super enthusiastically recommend the Michel Thomas method Japanese audiobook (Foundation, 8 CDs; Advanced, 4 CDs).

The method really really really really does work.
posted by krilli at 3:11 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can empathize with this situation. Alone in the big city, its easy to feel like there's noone of "your kind" around. Doubly so in a place like Japan, where unless you know where to look you might think that most people don't want anything to do with you.

If you want to find some open minded locals, I heartily recommend going to the Design Festa Gallery and checking out the cafe. Basically everyone one who visits there seems to be a cool dude, and have pretty good english/tolerance for listening to bad Japanese. The exhibits are always changing so it's not boring to check out multiple times either.

Also, keep in mind that there are TONS of expats in Tokyo who are recently torn from their social circles and more than willing to make new friends. Just punch in Tokyo on and you'll find a crazy amount of little open invite expat events.

If they just want to hang out with an aquaintence, The Pink Cow tends to be a good spot to socialize as well.
posted by Winnemac at 3:25 PM on August 10, 2011

Look for a local International Association, which may offer free Japanese classes. (My experience is in a small city far from Tokyo, but I imagine that similar things exist in other places as well.) He may or may not make friends with his classmates--if he does, great! But if not, at least he'll pick up some Japanese, and having something regular and relatively social can be really good when you're feeling isolated.

(The International Association in the city where I lived also had a rad library of English novels, and bulletin boards for local events/jobs/conversation partners/etc. All very helpful!)
posted by equivocator at 6:08 PM on August 10, 2011

I asked this question just the other day. Maybe there will be some ideas in there for him, although that is targeted specifically at interactions towards the goal of practicing Japanese.

Otherwise, there are definitely ways to meet people here. First of all, he should start going to the couchsurfing meetups. He can just show up and start talking—people are super nice and interested in meeting new people. Alternatively, he can do what I did and post an advertisement on the Metropolis classifieds site...I did that in order to get a language partner, and I got about ten offers from interested Japanese folks.

But in the end he's going to have to push himself a bit if he wants to go these routes. If he wants some counseling, a quick Google search shows resources for counseling in Japan. I've also heard good things about the hotline TellJP. He could call...or maybe volunteer there too.
posted by dubitable at 7:58 PM on August 10, 2011

Haven't been there for a few years, but I second the Pink Cow.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:28 AM on August 11, 2011

Sounds like a job for a Tokyo MeFi meetup!
posted by KokuRyu at 2:49 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can get more information on where exactly he is, memail me. I'm from Tokyo.

A 40min-by-public-transportation radius from Tokyo is a pretty large area, especially considering Tokyo covers 800 sq miles.
posted by xmts at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2011

Tokyo MeFi Meetups are sadly relatively rare.

If your friend is into design at all, the monthly Pecha-Kucha events at Superdeluxe are a good place to see interesting stuff in a multi-language/multi-cultural milieu.
posted by gen at 12:54 AM on September 27, 2011

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