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You might be reading this article because you’ve been in Japan for a while and want to know if it’s possible to make friends with the locals.
Maybe you were born and raised in Japan and want to understand why making friends can be so difficult for some people.
Whatever the reason is, this article will be your guide to making friends in Japan!
First of all, what does it mean to make friends?
Making friends is getting an opportunity for personal interaction with someone else.
This can include activities like playing sports together, talking on the phone until late at night, or simply sharing a meal with them.
The important thing is that you spend time together and get to know each other.
Challenges with making Japanese friends
In a country with strict rules of conduct, it might be hard for people to make friends with others who aren’t from their social group.
This means making friends is more complicated than simply introducing yourself to someone new at school or work.
It’s also common in Japan to struggle with making friends because of the language barrier.
Some people spend 20 years living in Japan but still can’t speak basic Japanese.
If you’re one of these people, it will be difficult to make any sort of deep connection with someone who doesn’t speak your language!
If you are not in Japan, how can you meet Japanese people?
The first way to meet Japanese people is through an introduction. If you already know someone who speaks Japanese, ask them if they’re able to introduce you to their friends or family members.
You can also make friends online.
There are several websites for people interested in meeting others with similar hobbies (Facebook, Instagram).
Joining a local group is the perfect way to meet people with similar interests and make friends!
Even if you don’t speak Japanese, it’s possible to make friends by using English as a common language.
If you’re interested in making new friends through school or work, be sure to study some basic Japanese before coming to Japan.
Here is some advice for making Japanese Friends
The first step to making friends is to find an opportunity.
If you go to a foreign language school, the odds of meeting people will increase dramatically!
People who study English or another language tend to be more open-minded and outgoing than the average Japanese person. Foreign students are also more likely to make friends because they all come from different countries.
If you want to make friends at work, it helps to be outgoing.
Many Japanese people feel shy or nervous about making friends with their co-workers because they fear getting in trouble for talking too much on the job.
If you’re able to get past this social barrier, you can turn a co-worker into a friend in a matter of months!
If you’re attending an English conversation school, the staff members will usually know good places to go and meet people.
They can also introduce you to other students before class starts.
If you visit local cafés, you might be able to make friends with someone who comes regularly. Cafés are one of the best places to find Japanese friends because everyone spends hours there every day.
The next step is to take action and create opportunities for yourself!
If you’re shy, some of these ideas might be impossible for you, but try anyway.
Practice speaking out loud until your voice sounds more substantial. You can do this by reading out loud to yourself or even just asking your mirror, “how are you?”
If you’re timid and introverted, try volunteering for a club at school.
This will force you to interact with others because members usually come from different grades. You might not know anyone when you first join, but if you get involved, you’ll get to meet everyone really fast.
Another great way to make Japanese friends is to join a hobby group!
If you love biking, joining a club will increase your chances of meeting people who enjoy the sport.
There are groups for every type of interest in Japan, from music and art to fishing and cooking. You can join as many as you like, and it’s a great way to meet people with the same interests as you!
Learn useful Japanese phrases
Talking to someone can be really difficult if you don’t know any Japanese, so it’s a good idea to learn essential words and phrases before you start making friends.
If you take the time to study these simple words, your anxiety about talking will decrease dramatically.
If you’re interested in learning useful Japanese phrases, such as how to say “thank you” and “how are you?” check out this website: http://nihongo.j-talk.com/
Read, read, read!
If you want to improve reading and speaking Japanese, it’s a great idea to pick up some light novels or manga in English, your native language.
This will help improve your vocabulary and teach you about different cultures and customs worldwide. Reading is an activity that can be done alone, which makes it an excellent option for introverted people.
Just because you don’t know any Japanese doesn’t mean you can’t read manga or light novels!
Reading comics in a language that isn’t your own is difficult at first, but it will get easier and easier if you practice every day.
If reading isn’t your thing, try watching an anime!
You can enjoy them just like anybody else, but you’ll need to add subtitles and the original language. Amazon Video and Netflix, for example, provide a plethora of anime and films.
The Japanese approach to making friends is different from that in your own country:
Although the process is the same, Japan does have several cultural differences when it comes to meeting new people and developing friendships.
People often mistakenly think that making friends in Japan is challenging because of the language barrier or because Japanese people are shy around strangers.
However, this isn’t the case. It has more to do with how Japanese people think about others and their personal space.
Making friends in Japan is relatively easy; you just have to know the proper way to go about it!
First of all, getting friendship advice from an American company might not be your best idea since friendships are handled differently in Japan than in America.
The Japanese focus on the group rather than the individual.
This is why your entire student or work club can be your friend, but you wouldn’t necessarily talk to that person alone. Also, never just ask someone if they want to be friends!
Although this might seem like common sense for most people, it’s an essential first step to keep in mind.
Japanese people are more likely to talk with you if you’re already talking with someone else who is their friend.
But once you’ve managed that, making friends is easy!
Make an effort to make a Japanese person feel at ease.
Doing so with a smile is the best way to go about it.
Be aware of how your body language might be perceived in Japan since you are considered rude if you don’t keep eye contact or talk facing away from others.
When it comes to making friends, always aim for equal footing. People will not feel comfortable with you if you’re acting as if they’re beneath you.
Japanese people value honor and respect, so it will be easier for them to open up to you by showing those qualities.
The language barrier is a difficult hurdle to overcome, but even if someone can’t communicate with you, they’ll appreciate the effort that you made!
Stop using Polite Japanese.
The best way to make Japanese friends is to speak in Casual Japanese. This is most likely the language that they’re used to hearing each day, and they’ll appreciate you for making an effort to talk their language instead of forcing them to learn yours.
Even if you don’t know any Casual phrases, this isn’t a problem.
When making friends in Japan, it’s important to never talk about other people negatively.
In Japan, your friends are the most essential things in your life, so it’s rude to talk about them in any other context.
Be careful what you say and to whom you say it.
One thing that makes Japanese people uncomfortable is when foreigners do not understand or respect their social hierarchy. People have different statuses depending on their job, age, sex, etc.
Some words and concepts carry significantly negative or positive weight in Japan.
For example, using the term “sama” to address a guest or customer might convey that you are of higher status than they are.
At the same time, calling someone by their first name is considered rude since it shows no respect for their station in life.
Remember to always show gratitude.
Remember that in Japan, people are judged on their ability to be grateful for what they have.
If you act like nothing is good enough for you, Japanese people will feel uncomfortable associating with you.
It’s important to always thank someone if they buy you food or drinks when you hang out together.
Even if they just invite you to come along somewhere or out for dinner, be appreciative.
Japanese are not as spontaneous as foreigners.
If someone invites you to go along with them to something last minute, they are not putting any expectations on you at all.
So whatever you do, don’t say no unless you can’t go!
When people invite you somewhere in Japan, they politely ask for your presence.
Asking questions is the easiest way to make Japanese friends.
Japanese people love their own opinions, and by asking them about something, they’ll feel like you value what they think.
Just remember that if your friend doesn’t know the answer to something, it’s better to pretend like you knew that than admit they’ve made a mistake.
Don’t try too hard.
Once again, Japan is a country where people value respect and honor, but nobody likes someone who seems desperate or clingy.
If someone doesn’t seem interested in hanging out with you again, never underestimate the power of a simple text message asking how they’re doing.
But remember that once someone decides they don’t want to be friends with you anymore, it’s usually impossible to change their mind!
If your Japanese friendships become strong enough, you’ll probably end up spending time over at their house.
So make sure you keep an eye out for the kind of rude or disrespectful things in Japan!
The main thing to remember is to never put your feet up anywhere but on the floor.
This will show your hosts that you don’t value their home enough to appreciate where they’ve allowed you to sit.
Expecting Japanese people to initiate communication.
In general, if you want to communicate with a Japanese person, always make the first move.
If you rely on them to make contact, whatever you want from them will probably never happen!
You don’t have to be as reserved as a traditional Japanese person to avoid coming off as too aggressive.
But make sure you are always the one who reaches out to people first if you want them to remember you!
Not planning ahead when making Japanese friends.
One of the biggest mistakes foreigners make is not planning anything they do with their new Japanese friends in advance.
Don’t just wing it and call up someone on a whim, then show up at their house without arranging any plans with them first.
If you want to have a relaxing time, just hanging out with someone in their home, always give your host plenty of notice that you’re coming!
Planning everything in advance can help eliminate some awkwardness or surprise visits.
And remember that even if they tell you to come over at 8:00 p.m., you should get to their door even earlier just in case!
Taking the initiative.
One of the best ways to build up trust and respect with a Japanese person is to take the initiative and be proactive about getting together.
If you wait around for them to make plans, they might never do it or forget about you instead!
The easiest way to take the initiative is by asking them if they have any plans for a particular day.
This will show them that you aren’t afraid, and it can even increase your value as a friend since coming up with weekend plans on the fly is really difficult.
Once they’ve agreed, make sure you suggest specific things they can do rather than trying to let them choose on their own.
If you try to make plans with someone and seem hesitant, don’t press the issue!
Remember that sometimes Japanese people are embarrassed about not knowing English well enough or having enough money to buy things.
Whatever it is that’s making them turn you down, it’s probably not personal!
Touching someone’s stuff without asking.
One of the worst ways to make Japanese friends is by touching their stuff without permission!
Despite what you may know about Japan, not everyone is okay with physical contact.
So unless you get express consent from your new friend, don’t touch their clothes or anything they’ve got sitting on a table.
This includes their phone or gaming system, even if it’s turned off!
Touching someone’s stuff without permission will make them feel uncomfortable very fast!
And if you do something like this when you’re meeting up with someone for the first time, they’ll think you’re weird too.
Talking about your past.
Many Japanese people are very interested in your life back home, but it’s rude to talk about where you used to live for too long or too openly.
So, try to focus on them by asking questions about their past.
If you want a Japanese person to open up to you and think of you as a friend, avoid talking about yourself too much until they ask!
This is especially important if you’re meeting someone for the first time.
Japan is a country that values courtesy and politeness, so you should always avoid getting too drunk when you’re out with other people.
If you want to have a good time with them and be remembered as the “cool foreigner,” keep your alcohol intake moderate even if they don’t!
And if this is your first night hanging out with them, don’t take any shots.
Remember that from the other person’s perspective, having a foreigner drink too much alcohol can be really embarrassing since it might seem like they have no self-control.
Being blunt when speaking English.
One of the best things to impress a Japanese person is to avoid blunt or rude answers when speaking English with them.
This is because the Japanese people are very polite, and they don’t like it when foreigners seem too casual or hip.
Remember that this works both ways, though!
If you ask a Japanese person if they’re good at English and say yes, only follow up by saying, “Oh, that’s good,” without asking them why it’s good.
Even if you think they’re actually bad at English, it’s better to just not say anything at all!
Not clarifying when speaking English.
Lastly, one of the worst ways to make Japanese friends is by speaking English to clarify what you mean.
If they’re taking too long to respond, ask them if they’ve understood what you said before moving on to the next topic!
Even if it seems like they’re ignoring you or trying not to look confused, take a deep breath and then explain yourself as clearly as possible.
And remember that even if someone thinks their English is good, it’s always better to ask for clarity than assume they’ve understood you.
As long as you’re polite and avoid these mistakes, you’ll be able to make Japanese friends in no time!
Looking down on the other person.
Remember that everyone has a different culture, so don’t judge or expect them to act exactly like you or your friends back home!
So always ask questions about their lifestyle and how they do things, even if it seems weird at first.
This will help you learn new things from one another, which can make your friendship even more substantial!
This especially applies to meeting someone for the first time.