How to make friends in Japan


Are you interested in having Japanese friends? Let us give you proven and tested tips about how to make friends in Japan. 

Japan is known worldwide for its rich culture that combines tradition and modernity. For this reason, it is considered one of the most amazing tourist destinations in the world. People visit and even consider living in the country for these particular reasons. However, making friends in Japan can be a challenge to foreigners who do not speak the Japaneses language or even to those who can. This is caused by many cultural differences between foreigners and the Japanese.

There are numerous possible approaches when it comes to making Japanese friends. This article will be the ultimate guide on how to make friends in Japan. This includes all the necessaries you need in establishing a strong and good relationship with Japanese people. 

How to Make Friends in Japan: Crucial Things to Remember

In building a connection with people, grasping their culture is a big help. It enables you to determine and understand their interests. In addition, it allows you to immerse deeply in their values and beliefs.

In making friends in Japan, it is important to learn about their culture. Listed down below are some of the basics of Japanese culture:

1. Bowing as a Greeting

One key difference in Japanese etiquette is the act of bowing. Instead of shaking hands, the Japanese bow when greeting someone out of respect. This act varies from a slight nod of the head to completely bending down at the waist.

As the bow signifies respect, the longer and deeper the bow, the more respect you are showing.

2. Removing your Shoes

In Japanese culture, removing your shoes upon entering a home or even an establishment is considered essential. This is common in Japan to ensure that the floors and tatami mats are as clean as possible. Moreover, wearing specific slippers in different rooms is customary in Japan.

3. Wearing a Kimono Properly

Knowing how to wear kimonos is important as it is an integral part of Japanese tradition.

There are varieties of kimonos for different occasions. It depends on the level of formality of the event you are attending. Furthermore, there are specific methods to wear a kimono. For both women and men, kimonos should be folded left over right. Kimonos should also be worn with a specific type of white socks.

4. Bringing Back Omiyage

‘Omiyage’ is the Japanese word for souvenirs. Japan’s tradition is to bring back souvenirs to your loved ones, friends, and work colleagues when you go on a trip. It is also seen as an expected present to give and get for people, rather than something you shop for when you feel like it.

5. Giving and Receiving Gifts

In Japan, when you receive a gift from someone, you are supposed to give one back. It must also be noted that the gift you’re supposed to give back is equal to about 50 percent of the value of the gift you received.

6. Proper Way of Using Chopsticks

Chopsticks are essential in eating Japanese cuisine. All dishes are eaten using chopsticks as a tool. Furthermore, there are customs that you need to put in mind when using chopsticks. It is inappropriate to cut your food using chopsticks. If you need to break a piece of food, you can bite it off rather than cut it using chopsticks. In addition, putting the chopsticks in an upright position is associated with funeral traditions. So, after you finish eating, you can place your chopsticks facing to the left. 

7. Slurping is Allowed

In Japan, slurping is acceptable when eating noodles such as ramen, udon, or soba. This is different in western cultures, where people may find it rude if you slurp or chew loudly. In Japanese culture, slurping shows your appreciation for the food. It suggests that the food is delicious or appetizing. 

8. Cleaning Up is a Must 

At a young age, Japanese people are taught to be diligent in ensuring cleanliness. That being the case, it became a significant virtue in the country. Everyone should be aware and must act based on this principle. 

For instance, spitting or throwing your trash on the sidewalk is considered rude. Japanese people may see you as disrespectful, putting you in an uncomfortable situation. 

9. Punctuality is a Must

Punctuality is an important aspect of Japanese culture. Arriving late at work, school, or gatherings is a big deal for the Japanese. For this reason, people are expected to arrive earlier than the scheduled time.

10. Hospitality is Essential

Being hospitable is a characteristic common among Japanese people. It is considered a key part of their culture. They place a greater value on services from the bottom of the heart. Consequently, the customers will offer their respect in exchange for their hospitality.

Reasons for Making Japanese Friends

Before delving into how to make friends in Japan, it is important to determine the reasons and benefits of having a Japanese friend. Aside from helping you improve your Japanese, having a friend in Japan will allow you to learn more about their culture. In addition, you can have a great time since Japanese people are naturally fun to be with. 

The following are the common reasons and benefits of having a friend in Japan:

1. Japanese friends will feed and treat you well.

This happens less commonly in Tokyo and with people in their 20s due to money, but if you have Japanese friends in their 30s or above, they may take you out for lunch or dinner. In contrast to the West, you are not required to bring anything when you visit someone’s home in Japan. They will take care of everything. 

Moreover, the concept of kohai (subordinate) and senpai (superior) is prominent in Japan. This is commonly observed when people with much higher status or superiority take good care of the junior employees. Hence, if you are treated as a kohai by your Japanese peers, you are probably being treated well. 

2. Japanese folks give a rich Japanese experience.

Japanese people will make you experience fun and exciting things. For instance, they may take you by automobile to destinations you cannot ordinarily get by train. They will also take you to cool spots that are not well-known to foreigners. 

Additionally, they will encourage you to try new things and explain why something is done. If you visit a temple with them, they can describe what a Japanese person would do and why. When you visit a restaurant together, they advise you on the best way to eat a dish or which sauce or condiment to use. Having a Japanese person explain these things will allow you to have the most enjoyable experience in Japan. 

3. Japanese friends help in meeting more Japanese

Making one Japanese friend is the most difficult task. However, once you make one Japanese friend and accept you into their social circle, you will begin to make several other Japanese friends. 

The initial step is proven to be the most difficult. But once you’re in their social circle, you will have no problem. 

4. You will have a deeper understanding of your culture.

Some examples mentioned above only include surface-level relationship behaviors. Once you get past the need to introduce yourself to Japanese culture, you can start asking about each other’s culture and society.

Japanese people are extremely interested in foreign cultures. Due to their limited exposure to foreigners, Japanese individuals will have many questions they have wanted to ask. They will often begin to question you about your country’s tradition, followed by more random and in-depth inquiries about yourself and your country. 

Challenges in Making Japanese Friends

As a result of cultural differences and language barriers, most foreigners are clueless about how to make friends in Japan. They struggle to build a connection with the Japanese people. For instance, Japanese people can feel intimidated when conversing with a foreigner. Consequently, they do not initiate or maintain contact despite their desire.

Another common difficulty is finding a new friend who shares your interests and personality. This is comparable to making friends in your home country. Finding areas of shared interest might facilitate friendship formation. 

In this section of this article, the common challenges in how to make friends in Japan will be enumerated. These are the following: 

1. Language Barrier

It is common for foreigners to struggle to make friends in Japan, especially when they can’t speak basic Japanese. For this reason, it is a challenge for them to build relationships with the Japanese people. Also, foreigners tend to be skeptical when talking to Japanese people, making it more difficult. 

2. Lack of Communication and Connection

Japanese people struggle in terms of communication with foreigners. They tend to be hesitant when asking questions or when sharing their ideas. They overthink what could go wrong when talking to foreigners, leading to them not initiating a conversation. Likewise, foreigners find it hard to build a connection with Japanese people. Foreigners also do not know how to communicate properly with Japanese people. Hence, they need to start learning from scratch. 

Understanding that both of you do not know how to communicate well with each other will be a good start in building the connection. This will enable you to gain Japanese friends sooner. 

3. Lack of Common Interests and Personality 

In making friends, people tend to find some common ground with each other to build a connection. Similarly, it is also a crucial variable in learning strategies on how to make friends in Japan. 

One known challenge in making friends with Japanese people is finding areas of similarity with one another. This led to them not being able to converse more deeply and establish a strong relationship. 

Misconceptions about Japanese

Everywhere you go, one thing that cannot be avoided is being a subject of stereotype by nationality. Stereotypes may lead to misconceptions about a certain culture of individuals. This may hinder your relationships with other nationalities, such as Japanese people. 

If you want to excel in making friends with Japanese people, it is important to determine the common misconceptions about them. Recognizing the following misconceptions will assist you on how to make friends in Japan. These are the following: 

1. Japanese People Love Anime

There is a wide range of choices and a variety of animation in Japan. For this reason, it is widely believed stereotypes globally. However, as much as animation is the most common TV program in Japan, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Thus, it is important to ask if the Japanese person you’re talking to is interested in anime. This is important know-how on how to make friends in Japan.

2. Japanese People are Quiet

Most people view Japanese people as extremely reserved and shy. However, this is not the case. Most of the time, they appear quiet or shy because they cannot converse well using English. 

Nevertheless, if they are allowed to immerse themselves in a social circle, they will be more relaxed and outgoing. Japanese people need to know more about cultural differences to be confident. 

3. Japanese Always Work Hard

The stereotype about Japanese people being a workaholic is partially true. This is linked to the high competition and standards between companies. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, they don’t feel like working. They want to do nothing, but because of the standards, they are compelled to work hard. 

4. Japanese Always Wear Kimono

Kimonos are known as the traditional clothing in Japan. As a result, it became widely believed that Japanese people wear kimonos daily. This may have been the case in the past. However, when Japan started importing western types of clothes, they eventually opted to wear that instead. 

5. Japanese are Always Polite

It is widely known and expected for Japanese people to be polite. This stems from their bowing culture, which signifies respect for others. Nonetheless, just like others, they also have their limits. There will also be moments where they may seem rude or in a bad mood. But this is normal for everyone. 

It is a good thing to be seen as polite; however, it should be expected that it is impossible because nobody is perfect. 

Making Good Friends in Japan

After considering their culture, the benefits, and the challenges of having a Japanese friend, it is now time to identify some basic ways to make friends in Japan. These are the following:

1. Attend a Language School 

By attending a language school, you will have the chance to mingle with Japanese people. This can be a good opportunity for you to learn about their language and cultures. Furthermore, it can be a perfect avenue for you to make friends and create a good relationship with them. 

2. Join Cultural Exchange Events

Cultural exchange events are a good place to meet people of different nationalities. You will be able to interact and converse with them. Hence, it will be an efficient way of making Japanese friends at such events. 

3. Participate in Volunteer Work

Volunteering is another way of meeting Japanese locals. Aside from doing something productive, it will be a perfect opportunity for you to expand your connections. This may also help you build your reputation, which can benefit you in gaining more peers in Japan. 

Final Takeaway 

In establishing bonds and friendships with others, one must put twice the effort to guarantee that it will last for a long time. That is also the case when making friends in Japan. It can be a tedious task, but nothing is impossible. 

Furthermore, you must know the basics of how to make friends in Japan. By considering the basics, you can experience a more smooth-sailing experience in Japan. It is not only convenient but can also be fun for everyone. 

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