I’ve heard some foreign people in Japan complain that making Japanese friends is tough. I think a lot of foreign people who come over here to teach end up with weird opinions of Japan because they never really get to know anybody except other foreign people.
This is a shame! You haven’t lived in Japan if you’ve never hung out with Japanese people!
First off, it’s tough to make friends anywhere you move, especially to another country. And especially if you don’t speak the language. And don’t try! I can’t tell you how many of these people who complain never tried to learn Japanese.
I’m not a fluent speaker by a long shot, but I can speak enough to get around and have basic conversations with people, and that’s not hard to do if you put a little effort into it. Would you move to Mexico and not learn Spanish, or move to Italy and not learn Italian, or move to Thailand and not learn Thai, or move to Australia and not learn Australian (joke, guys!)? If so, what do you expect?
But everybody says that Japanese people always keep you on the outside. You’re always a “gaijin” and that’s why it’s impossible to make friends. I know for a fact, from my own personal experience that that’s not true.
Here’s what you do: learn a little Japanese and go to a bar and chat with people. There are bars all over Japan that are just like bars back home (it’s a little hard to chat with people at an izakaya), where people get lubricated on alcohol and they’ll WANT to chat with that crazy foreign guy or gal who’s hanging out trying to speak Japanese. They’ll probably get a little loose and start speaking English to you, so no worries about the language barrier. I can’t tell you how many times I went out when I first came here, and some dude at the bar basically gave me Japanese lessons while we drank.
What’s even better than that, is to get to know people through common interests. This is truly how friends are made anywhere. What are you into? What do you do on the weekends? You can find clubs and things for practically any activity known to man. Pretty much anything you can do back home, you can do here. Young Japanese people are into snowboarding, video games, sports, you name it. Go play soccer with some people on the weekends. Pursue your interests and you’ll meet people with those common interests here.
If all else fails, put a friendship ad out. Sound desperate and pathetic? Well, you’d maybe never do it back home, but that’s because it’s HOME! It’s tough to meet people in another country!
Honestly, hanging out with only other English teachers is a rut you get into, and it’s a drag. It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, and it cuts you off from the country you’re living in. I find that if you take the slightest interest in Japan, or if you like Japanese food, it’s easy to make friends. Just be adventurous!