Having to make new friends in Japan – or any unfamiliar environment – can be daunting. Add language and cultural barriers in the mix and it can be a recipe for a lonely start to life in a new country. 

This is an experience that is near and dear to many of our hearts here at Go! Go! Nihon. Most of us are from overseas and came to Japan as language students. We understand firsthand how difficult it can be to find your tribe in a new place and we know how common it is for students to experience homesickness and loneliness. 

We want to share some tips on where and how to make friends in Japan so that you can have the best possible study-in-Japan experience possible. Read on to learn more!

Ways to make friends in Japan

Your opportunities to make friends in Japan will depend a lot on where you’re living in Japan, as well as how willing you are to put yourself out there to meet new people. Keep in mind that adult friendships in general take more effort, so you have to put in the work if you want to make – and keep – new friends. 

With that in mind, there will always be chances to make friends no matter your circumstances as long as you embrace the opportunities.

Students at ISI Kyoto talking together in a study group

Through your language school

When you think about it, many of us find our very first friends through school. So it makes sense that the easiest way to make friends in Japan will be through your language school. You will spend every day with your classmates, which gives you plenty of opportunities to get to know them and bond with them. 

Make the effort to chat with different people during your breaks, organise get-togethers outside of the classroom, or arrange a weekend study group. Chances are, most other people will be in the same boat, so don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and start building those friendships. 

Sports and hobbies

Another easy way to make friends is to join a sports team or pick up a hobby. Team sports are inherently social and playing them is a quick way to build trust with others and foster positive interpersonal relationships. 

With both sports and hobbies, you can meet people who come from vastly different backgrounds, but you will all instantly have a connection through the sport or hobby you have chosen. Build on that connection by getting to know people at a deeper level and you’ll find meaningful friendships in no time. 

Some ideas for sports and hobbies you could take up (depending on if these are available where you’re living):

Students at a hanami cherry blossom party

Meetup and other social networking groups

Participating in a Meetup or other networking group will introduce you to people you may never have had a chance to meet otherwise. They’re often activity-based, so you can go in knowing that at least there will be others who enjoy the same things as you do.

Unless it’s a regular event where you get to meet some of the same people more than once, it can be hard to build lasting relationships if you don’t make the effort to catch up outside of the Meetup. If you click with someone, don’t be afraid to ask them if they want to hang out outside of the Meetup. 

Aside from Meetup, check with your embassy in Japan to see if they organise social events. Your school may also organise similar gatherings and activities. 

There may also be Facebook groups for foreigners in Japan from your specific country. Or you may like to join groups like Tokyo Expat Network, In Osaka, Girl Gone International, For Foreigners Living in Japan

Language exchanges

Small group language exchanges are a good way to practise your Japanese while making friends at the same time. You can find in-person language exchanges through Meetup and Tandem. Also check with your language school as they may also organise language exchange events for their students. 

Study Abroad Pub

Go! Go! World’s most recent venture, Study Abroad Pub (SAP) is the perfect place to meet new people and practice your Japanese at the same time. The recently opened pub (2022) located in Nishi-Waseda offers a great location to meet other international students in Tokyo, as well as Japanese students from nearby Waseda University.
There is a schedule of themed nights (games nights, board games, etc) and language exchanges, as well as regular discounts for Go! Go! Nihon language school students.
Check it out here: https://studyabroad.pub/

Part-time work

If you wish to – and are able to – take on part-time work while you study, then this could be a great way for you to meet new people and make friends in Japan. Similar to school, you will see your work colleagues on a regular basis and you will have more chances to get to know each other better. 

Volunteering

If you’re particularly passionate about a cause, you might be able to find a volunteer group in Japan where you can meet like-minded people while doing good for the world. Some volunteer organisations in Japan include:

  • Place to Grow – volunteers help those affected by the 2011 tsunami in Miyagi Prefecture
  • Hands On Tokyo – places volunteers with opportunities to help those in need
  • Social Innovation Japan – focused on social impact and sustainability
  • SEGO – most well-known for its beach clean-up at Fujisawa beach in Enoshima (about two hours outside of Tokyo)
  • ARK – Animal Refuge Kansai helps animals and accepts volunteers in Osaka and Tokyo

Group photo of Go Go Nihon students and staff at an orientation event

Go! Go! Nihon makes it easy

If you’re a Go! Go! Nihon student, you will have access to all our social events and orientation where you can meet fellow students. You can also join our private Facebook group where you’ll be able to engage with other students, keep track of events, learn about job openings and more. 

Learn more about how Go! Go! Nihon can help you to live and study in Japan and contact us with any questions.