Photo: Louise Angerer
executive impact

Launching and nurturing an online community In Japan

By Kathryn Wortley

For evidence of the power of a simple idea, hard work and perseverance, look to Amanda McCready. Arriving in Tokyo six years ago with no know-how or contacts, the stay-at-home mom set up Tokyo Expat Network (TEN) to help others in her situation. Today the Facebook group has some 26,000 members.

Savvy Tokyo sat down with Amanda to find out how it all started, what challenges she has faced, and how her altruistic action has helped her, as well as her community.

Why did you set up TEN?

I attended Tokyo Here & Now, a two-day program run by Tokyo American Club to help newcomers settle into Tokyo. It was amazing. We learned so much. We were able to ask so many questions and get the answers right then. I thought, what happens afterward when we have a question about our new lives here?

Then I remembered a group called Singapore Expat Wives. I had found it on Facebook while I was living in Singapore, where I lived before Tokyo. It helped people in all aspects of their lives—that’s the magic of social media. I decided to set up a similar group for Tokyo, so expats here could cast a wider net to get the answers they couldn’t find elsewhere. 

To this day, if someone is looking for an answer, when Google comes up short, TEN is there to help. TEN was created as a place for asking difficult or obscure questions, and getting and sharing information. 

From approving posts and requests to join, to the general maintenance of the page, there is a lot to do. How do you manage?

Last year I added two wonderful admins, who are awesome. Having them help me has let me get more sleep. When I’m in the States in the summer or winter, I don’t feel like I have to get up in the middle of the night and approve posts. And it means I don’t have to check it constantly because we share the tasks. 

Having more admins approve posts also gives a better flow to the group because posts can go up frequently throughout the day. We also can decide as a team on whether to approve tricky posts. We have rules, but some posts don’t fit perfectly within the guidelines. We can decide together if the post will help the community or if it is more appropriate for someone’s Facebook wall. I really appreciate their feedback on those posts. 

How has TEN evolved?

There are always lots of similar questions and only a small percentage of the group actually sees posts that members make, so we are trying to utilize a section within our group called Units to address frequently asked questions in one place. It’s like a file of things that everyone can see and comment on. I’d love to utilize Units a bit more in the future to serve as a quick and handy resource for our members.

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Gosh! It's a wonder how any of us survived before such things...

Seriously though, is the overall effect a positive or a negative? Yes, lots of information is good, but baseless rumors and misinformation can also spread faster, while having such a crutch can also keep people from getting out there and trying things for themselves. The echo chamber effect can also be pretty strong.

I dunno. When I got here 24 years ago I enjoyed exploring on my own. Maybe if I arrived today I'd go straight to TEN. Who knows?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This sounds like it is meant to serve what I call the Golden Ghetto, havent used that term in a few years.

Sounds like this is for those at the high end of short term expat stays, a completely different world than most foreigners live in here in japan.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

"Golden Ghetto"


6 ( +6 / -0 )

It refers to those "stuck" in Hiro, Nishi-Azabu type areas :)

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Ok, so more than 4% of foreigners living in Tokyo form part of this group. Cool.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Must be difficult to have money and be able to afford to LEAVE, twice a year.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A network for rich Americans.

Sometimes you'd think they're the only demographic here.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

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