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kuchikomi

Growing number of men have no close friends

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“What if I die and nobody comes to my funeral? What if my wife dies and I’m left all alone in the world?”

Such thoughts keep Keiichi awake nights. They’re usually associated with the elderly, but Keiichi is 38. Having lately lost his job, he has come to realize how isolated he is. His wife alone stands between him and utter friendlessness.

It’s not an uncommon predicament, says Spa! (March 9). It’s a wide and busy world out there, real and virtual, and most of us know a lot of people, but friendship is another matter. Polling 300 men in their 30s, Spa! finds 35.4% of them have not a single close friend.

What does “close friend” mean? “Someone you can open your heart to no matter what the situation” is the answer most favored by survey respondents. If family trouble weighs on you, or you’ve just lost a job, the first thing you need might be a sympathetic listener. The need is not merely emotional, as the magazine points out. Recent research has shown friendlessness is unhealthy. The immune system slackens. Depression and Alzheimer’s become more immediate risks.

“I have lots of close friends,” boasted one Spa! writer as the editors batted around ideas for the feature.

“Good,” said an editor. “Test them. Ask them to lend you money. See what happens.”

Not without compunction, the writer cooked up a story about needing money for a parent’s medical emergency. He approached 11 friends. Nine passed the test -- sort of. “I can lend you some, but not much,” they said. “Not much” meant 30,000–50,000 yen. The assumption seemed to be that the writer would never pay the money back -- which rankled.

To return to Keiichi. He was an introverted child and had no close friends at all until college -- golden years, but they soon end and college friends are easily lost sight of. Then came work, with its daily grind that leaves little time for anything else. A series of transfers in rapid succession left him a perpetual stranger. He married, and there was no one to invite to the wedding except relatives and a few company colleagues.

Then his employer went bankrupt and he was out of a job. He and his wife now get by on day labor, earning between them 100,000–200,000 yen a month, with no better future in sight. “If I had a friend,” he muses, “maybe he could introduce me to a prospect.”

Then there’s Eiji, 37 and job-hunting. He has more than 1400 “followers” on Twitter, but they’re hardly friends. His family moved around a lot when he was a child; then he had to leave college early owing to illness. He got a job at the post office, which, as he tells it, “doesn’t exactly have the sort of atmosphere where everybody goes out drinking together after work.”

There were several short-term company jobs after the post office, until finally a recurring illness put him out of work.

“It’s not just money you don’t have when you’re unemployed,” he says. “It’s contacts.”

So he twitters. It’s better than nothing but, he says, not really satisfying. But though he wants friendship, he seems uncertain as to what he seeks in a friend. That’s why he shies away from meeting his Twitter mates offline.

“I tend to be guarded about my feelings,” he says. “And isn’t a friend someone you’re supposed to be upfront and honest with?”

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

134 Comments
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Gee, I would hardly call attempting to borrow money a true test of friendship. Most of my friends (the majority of whom I haven't heard from in weeks or months...<g>) would say just the opposite--you do no one any favors by lending them money, and a real friend would find another way to help.

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I know a few people like this (Japanese and foreign), who have a lot of decent and handy contacts, but no true friends to speak of. It's pretty sad because with a bit of proactive effort and a genuine interest in getting to know people, they could develop something meaningful. I noticed in the article that the respondents were citing "contacts" and opportunities to be made from getting to know people, but that's a pretty shallow way of going about it. It takes time, patience and genuine attitude to get good friends. I'm pretty sure the people in this article are not going to get very far the way they're going.

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men have few friends? so whats new....

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sk4ek

Absolutely agree. If a good friend absolutely needed money then I would give it to him, if I can afford it, but I would never lend it to him with any conditions. Too many friendships have been ruined that way...

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I think old Ben Franklin said a man's three faithful friends are an old dog, an old wife and ready money (i.e., cash in hand!). And, in my case I would put my 4 brothers and 1 sister as best friends who would help me out. I am truly thankful of having a lot of siblings in my family. Being an only child must suck.

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People have to use their sense of judgment more, and be willing to cut off people who waste their time. Take Facebook for example. How many shallow or self-centred people do you know have a huge amount of "friends" on their list, but never meet the great majority of them and couldn't depend on any of them for something really important.

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It can be difficult to form lasting friendships when so many companies treat their staff like pieces of machinery, to be shipped around the country at a moment's notice. It happens so many times that friends suddenly find themselves transferred to e.g. Kyushu. They will never come back to visit Sendai because their family live elsewhere and the companies begrudge any time off work. Similarly, I'm not about to visit Kyushu, because I could fly back to the UK for a similar price. The former friends are only ever seen again as pictures on their new years cards.

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I uas Facebook to keeo in touch it mates and to npromote my business. An example of a Facebook friend is someone i know in Osaka. He is a stay at home dad while his Japanese wife works, yet on Facebook he is down as an entrpeneur and very successfull. I don`t believe most things i read now.

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Unfortunately, this is really true not only for men but most japanese. That's why when they are in trouble, financialy and emotionally, they tend to commit suicide, rather than asking for an assistance atleast from a neighbor. How many japanese know their neighbors anyway?

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The Japanese can be hard to befriend. It seems like you have to proactively keep in touch with them, otherwise they just disappear. Most of the time it's too much hassle for me.

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Yep, being unemployed does suck....

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Quickest way to make friends in Japan (or anywhere for that matter) is go to the gym and hang out and be friendly, and/or join a sport (karate, badminton, etc.) or any other hobby group. Work friends have some element of duty/obligation, not fun/volunteer.

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I think you could say this about most people in modern society today. It's hard to find real friends because we're all so busy, and social networking sites create the illusion that you're popular and have "friends", and people think that will be enough. It's really not. I'm glad I was able to hang on to my three best friends from high school and through college, because I can't imagine life without that kind of closeness. I've noticed it is a bit harder to make friends in Japan, but I think the best friendships takes work and persistance from both parties no matter where you are.

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I blame technology and social media (Facebook, YouTube etc, etc). IMO most of us spend far too much time (ON OUR OWN) sat in front of a PC or the TV at home.

An example:

When we need to buy something, we don't even have to leave the house... We can research and compare prices online and then buy it online. Sadly, gone are the days when we would meet up with friends for a bit of window shopping on the weekend followed by a beer and a chat..

It has also become far too easy to meet and chat to the opposite sex online via dating sites and forums etc, etc.

Technology has made our lives very convenient, and sadly it has also increased our isolation.

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The758 at 10:03 AM JST - 9th March

The Japanese can be hard to befriend. It seems like you have to proactively keep in touch with them, otherwise they just disappear. Most of the time it's too much hassle for me.

This is very true. It seems that a friendship can easily get thrown in the "too hard basket". We just get a magnified effect because we're more of an unknown/uncertainty. The difficulty for me here is trying to figure out when someone is being reserved or just couldn't be bothered. Often its the former and catching up once in a blue moon (like so many friendships between Japanese people), doesn't allow you to get to know each other well enough. On top of that, Japanese figure we're going to go back home at some point, which doesnt help!

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As for Facebook, I've got under 40 friends listed but they are actually friends who I often keep in touch with, as opposed to other people I know who might have 100-plus contacts but never seem to have anything to do with each other. Hell, I even know one guy here in Japan who has 900-odd "friends" and has an application that tells him when someone has deleted him...They're instantly blacklisted and bitched out. What a life!

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In my home town my circle of friends was very tight and strong. Someone had trouble, the rest came to support them. Despite a decade living in Japan, these ties are still strong today.

But in Japan it has been a totally different story. I meet loads of people and am very socially active. But of all the people I know there are only two that I can say I would turn to and trust to be there for me.

Making friends with Japanese guys is like climbing Everest in shorts and flipflops. Other foreign guys who I know in Tokyo say the same thing. They just can't get past "we should hang out sometime" with J-guys.

Girls on the other hand are an entirely different problem. It is easy to meet women in Japan but nearly impossible to have female friends. It often seems like women here don't believe a guy can be just a friend. And trying to be friendly is often misread as romantic interest.

In contrast my best two friends at home are female. We hang out, our respective partners didn't worry about us hanging out. And it was just taken as normal.

Time is a problem in Japan, but I thing the real root of this issue is that people are just not friendly or unwilling to take the steps that are necessary to forge friendships. It is really very sad.

So what is the answer?

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I have lots of close Japanese friends, but I think it's more just my personality... I am pretty proactive in keeping ties strong.

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If you want to make fun friends here, go surfing all year long. We all stick together drinking and eating and hitting the waves. Having two good brothers and sisters as well as parents on SKYPE is super too.

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Pass the test "sort of" what is that supposed to mean? I mean they offered 30,000-50,000, I think thats a pretty good friend.

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goddog. Who has the time off from work to live like that? Unless you like poverty, work some mellow related job or have so much money you don't need to worry about working, then being a surfer isn't a realistic option for most people.

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Friendships here are all superficial. Western to Japanese are often superficial. Who really has a friend here that do ANYTHING for you in time of need. When all your friends are only drinking buddies, which is the basics of Japanese friendship, real friends are hard to find. Superficial country with superficial relationships. A country of not telling anything too direct. Just see the reaction to someone if you ask them what they did on the weekend in your office. (to your friend.) They will roll their eyes. Japanese can't be friends with each other. They never learned how to play together.

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Who really has a friend here that do ANYTHING for you in time of need.

I have two Japanese mates who would and have, and I've gone out of my way to help in return with no awkward feelings. I've got a Japanese workmate who even offered to lend me 900 000 Yen with no strings attached, when I couldn't get a car loan a while back. Not everything is superficial, although it can be a really tough hike to make headway.

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I agree that the money test is downright ridiculous and this "writer" has a warped sense of friendship. Whose to say how much a person can afford? Why even put a close friend in that situation? Sounds inconsiderate and selfish to me.

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office friends are not friends. In Western culture you switch jobs enough to know that friends from work are only for the moment.

Ths premise is wrong, it's not about how you die, it's about how you live. Get outside and do something, then you will find real friends.

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My son's already got more friends than me and he's only 2...

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I agree with a lot of posters today (a bit unusual!), but especially 2koind2.

I've never had problems making good friends back home, but here it's a completely different ball of wax.

For me, it's even more difficult because I don't drink and have no interest in the club/bar/izukaya scene. I also abhor smoking, so that really puts a crimp on many relationships. I do play sports and I do talk with several guys, but I would not consider any of them friends.

I think there was a recent movie about this sort of thing, I think it was "I love you man".

Gotta keep looking I guess.

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Great. Another "assessment" of Japanese society by a gossip magazine. In my opinion, Japanese people open up about personal issues way more than westerners.

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Eiji, reminds me of the Adam Sandler's movie "Funny People" the Myspace joke.

The internet is where people socialize because of a shared interest. The internet is a way to socialize with friends and family members on Facebook, Twitters, and Myspace or any social sites on a specific category. People should not use the internet as an excuse to not meet real people out in the world. Meeting people and making friends mean you have to step out of your comfort zone.

Keiichi , Eiji, and the author of the article should start their own self-help/friendship/volunteer group to help each other and other people who are in similar position for networking and motive each other in finding jobs and getting to know each other in order for friendship to grow instead of moping around.

“doesn’t exactly have the sort of atmosphere where everybody goes out drinking together after work.”

The majority of Japanese people should hang out with family members and friends who will make a difference in their life instead of those that may be temporarily.

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Japanese people are very hard to make friends with since they all seem to be only into themselves and not willing to socialize outside from their own group pf people. If Japanese people are willing to be more friendly and sincere about themselves and the people that they meet, they would not be so lonely. Maybe they all need a little push from the outside world to break out from themselves.

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Wow, I'm amazed at some of your perspectives on friendship here. I don't really have problems amking and keeping friends, either her or back in my home country.

sf2k: office friends are not friends. In Western culture you switch jobs enough to know that friends from work are only for the moment.

I completely disagree - I am still good friends with people I worked with many years ago. They visit me (and I them) and we chat often.

noborito: Just see the reaction to someone if you ask them what they did on the weekend in your office. (to your friend.) They will roll their eyes. Japanese can't be friends with each other.

We talk about our weekends all the time in the office - where we went, things we did, funny stories. These are all Japanese coworkers.

tokyokawasaki: Sadly, gone are the days when we would meet up with friends for a bit of window shopping on the weekend followed by a beer and a chat.

Probably largely true, though to me it seems it's because people get older and start families, etc. With my single friends we still do this a bit, but the married friends don't get much chance to do this.

I'm not sure if Japan is more or less lonely in general than anywhere else - probably a bit lonelier as people are more emotionally reserved than in the west - but I don't think it's that hard to find quality friendship if you are willing to work on it.

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I can understand this as a foreigner who has in 8 years had 1 male japanese friend and a casual one at that. Unfortunately I feel like the token gaijing when joining in functions with most japanese yet excluded in other certain situations. Bicultural : Japanese society opens itself up to "assessment" for a reason : this being the fact that there are obviously certain "problems" whether they are surfaced or underying which are swept under the carpet or not acknowledged or talked about, which clearly is expressed moreso amongst my foreign friends whether that be disdain at work to intimacies about physical relationships.

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So men in this country are sexless, their wives want to kill them and now they are friendless too! What a life!! Of course these 'Spa!' surveys can't be taken too seriously but there is some truth to this one, I think.

Both men mentioned in this article only think of a friend as a business contact or someone that you going drinking with after work. Not really a friend at all but just an acquaintance. Sadly, that is probably pretty common. Many guys are just focused on their work and don't have time to develop friendships. It's just mendokusai. Their whole identity becomes wrapped up in their work which, if you ask me, is not exactly healthy or balanced.

As caffeinebuzz said, friendship takes time, effort, patience and a willingness to be open and honest. You can't expect to become good friends with someone overnight. It's not as easy as making instant noodles: just add hot water and stir. Their is no formula for forming a close bond with someone and perhaps that's also why these men are finding themselves isolated. Another reason is that some Japanese tend to be reserved and it takes a long time to really get to know someone. Time that they don't have.

Also, in general, I would say that women often have more and closer friends than men do because many naturally are better at communicating and expressing feelings and therefore place a higher value on making & keeping friends. I sometimes wonder why my husband doesn't keep in contact with his friends (which are all friends through business). I guess it's only a real problem if the man feels that he is lacking connection in his life.

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my wife is my best friend.

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Many of my closest friends are ppl I didn't really like at first. I'm sure the feelings were often mutual. Some of my closest friends are 179.5 degrees away on the political spectrum, but that is one of the things I most value in the friendship. I don't find that to be too common in Japan.

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His wife alone stands between him and utter friendlessness.

That's the opposite of a lot of blokes I know, whose wives view their husband's friends with a combination of suspicion, jealousy and contempt.

Fun Police are knocking on my window...

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I read ages ago that a lot of American men consider their wives to be their best friends.

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Interesting article. I remember similar themes coming from a few Japanese friends many years ago about having close friends was next to impossible. I believe it could be a reflection of Japanese being taught not to become obligated to anyone outside their immediate family, if they can help it. You can make many good friends but very few close friends no matter in what country. I wouldn't want to put this to the test.

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friends come and go based on life cycle and specific needs/ interests within a particular life cycle.

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Growing number!? Yep, after the first case study of lonely 38-yr-old Keiichi, "Spa" added a second case study, 37-yr-old Eiji. Wow! Can't argue with the title: "growing number of men ..." coz the math doesn't lie. Spa actually doubled it. Then, Spa continues: “I have lots of close friends,” boasted one Spa! writer as the editors batted around ideas for the feature."' I wonder, in Spa's batting around ideas for the feature, exactly where and how they decided to conduct their poll of 300 men so they could arrive with a 30 plus%. Choose the right situation and you can make a "feature" fit your argument.

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regarding office friendships, i think it really depends on what kind of company and environment you work in. i work at the Japanese head office of an international apparel company and i think its easier to find people here whom you can depend on or just hang out with; in other words, make 'friends'. everybody (well, most of them) seems to have no problem hanging out with each other at our company; whether it be an after work beer or a game of futsal on the weekend. it also helps that we have a free-of-charge bar in our office.

i know it sounds lavish, but look at a company like Google. Free gourmet food, daycare services, yoga classes, free maintenance for your own personal computers, free almost everything! i wouldnt be surprised if not only productivity, but personal skills and friendships are averaging much higher than at a typical Japanese office.

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Aha, and when he was still working he didn’t think about friends at all, but now jobless he is thinking about such sophisticated matter- how pathetic this guy is. Friends and friendship creates from own personal good will to share and // or to participate his life with another human being. It is continuous process which goes trough all life. Some people don’t want ( or can not ) to share anything , so they end up being lonely. Whom is the fault?

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He was an introverted child and had no close friends at all until college—golden years, but they soon end and college friends are easily lost sight of. Then came work, with its daily grind that leaves little time for anything else. A series of transfers in rapid succession left him a perpetual stranger. He married, and there was no one to invite to the wedding except relatives and a few company colleagues.

You'd have to blame parenting (or lack of parenting) on this friendless issue. I grew up in the Caribbean (Barbados) and then in Canada in the 1980s. I was always outside playing sports, going to city parks, public city gyms, etc. for as long as I can remember. We used to make huge kites and fly them over the Caribbean sea, play marbles and road tennis after school, play tag & hide & seek in large shopping malls (was fun hiding in the clothes rack in women's clothing section) in Ottawa with my grade 5 pals, and get into lots of kiddie mischief. :-) No one stayed indoors!

Perhaps it has to do with Japanese culture and their all-or-nothing focus on getting ahead in Education? I don't know. But I feel that leisure time during a child's upbringing is very IMPORTANT. As for myself, I'm very outgoing and can socialize and make friends with anybody -- in any social setting. On the other hand, I can also keep to myself without having that "need" to be "with the gang" so to speak. On the flip side, some peeps these days can't seem to handle being ALONE for any length of time. They need "to be" with their friends or some clique. Not good. I believe in a healthy balance.

When I have kids, there's gonna be no TV during their early years. I want them outside playing, keeping busy, exploring, making friends, etc. TV (er, the Idiot Box) is also another big reason why people grow up LONELY.

Could it be that since Japanese men are given preferential treatment from their parents, that this makes them feel less inclined to make friends?? Just a thought.

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It is very hard to describe the meaning of genuine friendship. In the real life, most of the friends are fair weather friends. It is understandable that someone who is facing the hardship will not get many intimate friends. Social network friendship from web lack the normal intimacy. Friendship can not develop overnight. It is a development of trust, impression and comfortableness.

Even two people who has same interest does not mean they are real friends. For example, I am a regular Chess player. I wish to meet and befriend with skilled chess player. Actually it is my narrow interest for entertaining myself. It is also observing the strategies and improving my skills. I can be called myself as fair weather friend too.

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Some good and astute observations are being posted here, with arguably greater merit than this article. Nonetheless, even the optimists admit the difficulties of creating Japanese / non-Japanese friendships with depth and meaning.

But that in itself is a crucial part of the problem. When will we simply learn to accept people, and value them for who they are and not what they are? Japanese, non-Japanese, educated, uneducated, white collar, blue collar, etc etc. ad nauseum. They are artificial, divisive barriers borne out of insecurity, jealousy, stupidity...and we overlook the shared humanity. I notice it alot on JT and it bothers me, that combative 'us vs. them' mentality. Those vulnerabilities, the preconceptions, the overriding prejudice and bias we're quick to accuse others of, well...those are ours, too. It is easier to judge and dismiss, than it is to understand.

So please keep putting in the effort, guys. I know it sounds corny, or cheesy, but there are good and decent people, whose friendship would be treasured. Engage the reticent in conversation, draw out that shy and quiet person (Japanese or not). Give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if you feel you've been treated poorly or rebuffed. You might just surprise yourself.

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Shaolin7 - nice post - Hey the JT folks are ... as they are...part of our shared humanity. Friends...have different ideas at times and weaknesses...sometimes they perfectly agree...all part of friendship. You are so right, that a simple smile may create a friend forever.

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I think it' also a Tokyo or big city thing, people are way colder here than in Fukuoka or Hokkaido for example. Interestingly, I've been in Tokyo for 11 years now, and I have about 4-5 very close friends. All foreigners. I speak fluent Japanese, I went to school in Japan, I went with them to countless parties, drinking, excursions, etc., but still something doesn't click. While I completely agree with Shaolin, and I tried really hard, still there are sme barriers I couldn't cross.

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Hence the keen interest in artificial (robotic) companions in Japan....

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i was planning on having my wife as my best friend. set up our life in the countryside. we were very close. then kids came along & like certain insects, she has no more use for me. except to pay the bills that is. i've heard that from many many people in the past about japanese wives. wasn't expecting it from mine though. live & learn. as for japanese mail friends. they never seem to totally except an outsider. all the years i've been here never had one call & say "let's go have a beer" .

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The most strange thing I've ever experienced here that all the Japanese people I met, the intimacy grown with me are those basically who are out of Tokyo. I hardly could make any intimate friend in Tokyo. The big city syndrome or whatever you say is playing a role here.

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I think the real problem is bars. Or the lack of them. Lonely Japanese men spend much time at work, with workmates, or in front of computers. What they need is our western nasty habit of going out to real bars, not izakayas, and drink. I have so many good friends I met while sharing a beer for the first time. And this is something you don't see J-men doing.

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No, lending money out to a friend is not a good test of friendship. What person in his right mind would lend money when they themselves might be financially strapped---you could be in the same situation or GOING TO BE in the same situation as your friend if you do! I'll give money if I truly have extra money to give, without caring whether I ever get it back or not. That way, I will not have any regets giving it nor worry about needing it later on (after all, things might get really bad and your friend may not be able to ever pay you back). Assist in other ways if you cannot give money away, like having meals together sometimes.

Seaforte03---what a cute comment.

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Interpersonal skills is not Japanese people's strong point.

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Real friends are rare. When you're doing well they call you day and night and when you're in need they always busy. 21st century lifestyles are very practical and materialistic!

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"You can't expect to become good friends with someone overnight."

From most of the posts here, it sounds like people are putting in the time and effort, but like Japanese savings accounts, getting no return on investment.

I play music and in my home town musicians love to hook up, share ideas, play music together or chat about gear. Some of those connections turn into great friendships that you can count on. For example one music friend has his tour trailer stolen and all their kit with it. His friends from the music community put together everything they needed to finish their tour and then helped them out with donations to help fill the gap the insurance didn't cover. Now that is friendship.

Here music friends interest in you is directly proportional to how successful your project is. If you are getting more attention and better event offers the friends rack up and are omnipresent often looking for a chance to get onboard. If some problem comes up they are nowhere to be found.

Sadly I find a lot of relationships here are shallow and superficial. That is with rare exception. And it is one reason I think a lot of the Japanese people I know feel so isolated and depressed. They have done themselves in with a cultural inability to care about more than definitions, superficial considerations and material things.

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working 24/7 and watching TV/ Playing pachinko in your free time... is a great way to make friends!

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So please keep putting in the effort, guys. I know it sounds corny, or cheesy, but there are good and decent people, whose friendship would be treasured. Engage the reticent in conversation, draw out that shy and quiet person (Japanese or not). Give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if you feel you've been treated poorly or rebuffed. You might just surprise yourself.

An awesome piece of advice. I've hit and missed countless times but the few people I got to know was well worth the effort and has made my time here so much better. I always thought I was disadvantaged being in the countryside, and Tokyo would be a bit easier to make friends (seeing as it's full of 20/30 something year olds who move there for study or work. However, it seems that most of us are in the same boat! Keep rowing- How's that for corny and cheesy, hehe.

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If you have a hobby/interest and have basic social skills you should have no trouble making good friends. It also requires effort.

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"Keep moving."

Climbing Everest in shorts and flipflops is hard enough. Refusing to acknowledge that you are cold and freezing to death is just foolish. Making friends here is the same. At some point you just have to face facts that true meaningful friendships here are extremely rare, harder still for foreigners to develop and unlikely to happen for most of us despite heroic efforts to do so.

If every friendly outgoing guy I know here cannot make close Japanese friends that really does say something. And while all have female friends, there are issues there too.

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pointsofview, mate, i had tons of mates in every country i lived in from Europe, Scandinavia to Canada and the US, but in Japan me only proper mate is a Scottish geezer. The Japanese dont want to be proper mates. I never got invited to anyones gaff or social event. Now, i dont care. Instead of socialising i save up and go back to Britain as much as possible, watch some footy and meet me mates and family, lovely jubbly.

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I've been here 25 years and have no close Japanese friends and every other foreigner here I know would say the same. I totally agree with stevecpfc that the Japanese have no concept of friends as 'mates', myself also having one old Liverpudlian geezer as my only proper mate. Yet Japanese frequently refer to their casual friends as best friends though it so often rings hollow. My Japanese wife as well has gone cold and coolly demands my monthly salary with a stern countenance. I also agree that Tokyo people are indifferent to each other to the extreme.

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A friend in need is ....a pain in the neck.

I guess I had to be the first to say it. An important problem is that friendship has costs, and not many men are in a position to "support" a lot of friendships.

Here is how it works. A man has his responsibilities to his family. That creates responsiblities to work. Then come those to community, maybe then to extended family. Then, if he is lucky, he makes some time for himself and sets aside some time for a hobby, reading, craziness such as television, porn, Rolex watches, cars, or whatever.

If he is really lucky, he makes friends of his wife, his co-workers, his next door neighbor, some family members, and his partners in crime. Certainly, though if he is divorced, out of work, and living abroad, he is in bad shape. If he is a workaholic, it is hard to make friends reliably in other dimensions of life. If he indulges too much in a weird lifestyle, he is also unlikely to make reliable friends.

I think it is difficult to lead a balanced OR successful life and have many friends. There is not enough time, money, or anything if a man is meeting his obligations in other areas these days.

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SpeedRacer: So true! Creating friendships is a bit of a risk and Japanese people are not exactly known for their risk-taking. They usually are cautious and prefer to play it safe.

If you open yourself up and become close to someone, you become more vulnerable and they can find out your weaknesses. Another factor which probably isn't very attractive to the average Japanese man who prides himself on being strong and not needing anyone.

If you have a best friend who you think will need you or expect things of you, things you may not want to give, it may seem like more of a chore. So to some Japanese men, the possible negatives outweigh the positives, I guess.

As you mentioned, Japanese people generally have too many obligations as it is so adding a friend to that list could just seem like too much. Lack of time is a problem and distance can also be an issue. If you live an hour or more away from your buddy it does mean that you have to make an effort to see that person.

I am lucky to have made some awesome friends here. My best buddy is an American girl but I have become quite close with a couple of Japanese people too. There are open, friendly, real people out there. Guys: I encourage to to take the risk because there are so many rewards that come with having a good friend!

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dolphingirl: Guys: I encourage to to take the risk because there are so many rewards that come with having a good friend!

I do love friends with benefits ;)

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"I think it is difficult to lead a balanced OR successful life and have many friends. There is not enough time, money, or anything if a man is meeting his obligations in other areas these days."

But there is something very wrong with this definition of "balanced" and "successful." If you exist to provide resources then sure this sounds balanced. But is that all men are supposed to be, providers of income to family, taxes to community and labor to industry?

Seattle is a busy city and most of my friends there are professionals with families and responsibilities. The definition of "balanced and successful" there includes having healthy interests and hobbies, the capacity for caring for friends and making time to spend with them and all the other expectations such as work, taxes and provision of labor.

In this case balance is truly balance and not some watered down and slave like interpretation of what a working man must be.

The real problem is that Japanese people have surrendered to a system of virtual wage slavery that robs them of time for family, friends and self. They call it success while 100 people off themselves a day. They call their material wealth and job title success when most are miserable. And they call supporting family success despite the dysfuncations that originate with over work and lack of time.

I have a good career, a very active outside interest with our music, I have other hobbies and in my home town it was the same. But there I had strong social ties and real friends. In Japan I don't despite being connected to so many people. Time is challenging, but doable like New Yorkers, Londonites or any other major city's residents.

The cruel truth is that Japanese do not prioritize connections and the use of gadgets here is making it even harder for people to connect to other human beings. It is a severe social illness that will have lasting negative consequences including contributing to the frighteningly high suicide rate.

Judge a man by his ability to have real balance and success, which includes meaningful connections to others, not by his existence as a drone.

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I have to disagree with this as is not always the case. As an outsider it is always going to be more difficult to have friends. Although I have used this to my advantage. What I find as one of the most important things to learn is distinguishing between the Hon'ne and Tatemae. This is probably one of the most important survival skills you can acquire which can be like decrypting Egyptian hieroglyphics. This applies to friendships as well and how well you are in-tune to these differences likely will determine how well it plays out when meeting people. Politeness can just as effectively be wielded to establish distance between individuals, as it can bring them together. Being addressed in polite formal language can be considered respectful and reassuring.

Although from someone you're trying to form a closer, more informal relationship with, that same language can seem cold and emotionally distant. A phrase can take on totally different connotations depending on the level of politeness used, the context in which it appeared, and the relationship established between you and the other person. On the flip side Japanese men need to take on the role of the leader more. Being indecisive and unsure of yourself are considered poor character traits which can effect the kinds of friendships and or relationships you are likely to encounter. The what if scenario likely plays a role here as well but to engage one must also do so in return. Fear of the unknown only creates more fear, misunderstanding and uncertainty. I don't know but it has worked for me.

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But though he wants friendship, he seems uncertain as to what he seeks in a friend. That’s why he shies away from meeting his Twitter mates offline.<

Well thats no suprise... honne tatemae comes into play with every situation in the Japanese society. I wonder how many have actually made true friends in their lifetime...but they always speculate that a gaijin is lonley . Meanwhile they will never acknowledge the fact that their own lives need adjustment in terms of true bonding instead of superficial interaction or reputation. They lack so much...

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Boring article. Nothing new here; move on.

Japanese are not good at inter-personal skills. It is due to their upbringing. They surpress their emotions, are told not to get involved with others' personal affairs, they do not want to get involved in risky/unhappy situations, etc... As a result, they are cold people. It is as simple as that.

And no, going out for drinks after work does not mean you have friends. It means you have acquaintances. If you want close friends, most of the time you have to go further than the work environment - most probably to your school days. It is the old friendships that mostly bring close friends.

I also do not believe Japanese can have close friends. Close friend is someone you can share your personal stuff with (either good or bad), someone who knows you for a long time. Japanese run away from anything bad and do not want to get involved - sunny days friends only. It is how they are. Very difficult to change at this point. You do not learn this stuff from books or teachers. You have to grow with it, see it around you.

I am trying to get a guy in my office to call his close friend from his university days since the friend's father got some serious illness. I mean talk with him. He says mailed from his keitai and does not want to disturb him since it is his family matter. Wtf are you calling him a friend for then? Friends talk with each other. That is what they are for. They share burdens AND happiness.

Anyway, move on folks. Nothing new here.

PS: Looking at what I wrote, my observations are mostly from Tokyo. This thing might be different in rural areas.

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They call them losers. But I understand. They act strange and do weird things like calling your wife to tell her where you are.

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This extends to other relationships too. I have met quite a few people who say they have a boyfriend or girlfriend that no one around us have ever met. Then you find out that the "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" is someone they see maybe once every other month or so. And this is a "relationship?!?!?"

But in constrast meet the older people here. They are friendly, will talk to you, take a genuine interest in you and feel both warm and kind. I sometimes think that the over 70 people in Japan are so far advanced over the younger generations. They certainly have better manners, better interpersonal skills and greater common sense.

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tkoind2 interesting read. thanks for your posts.

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I have had run-ins with a number of my 'friends' in Tokyo, a lot of the time because I didn't (and still don't) understand how the friendship thing works here.

Admittedly it is odd, really odd and based on hours and hours of discussion with a friend, it would really seem that all of them after school days are closed to any more close friends. The next level after school days would be to get married to be with the partner. I don't think it's possible to be real close friends with a Japanese person as well (unless they're westernised).

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Well, one of my really best friend is one japanese girl. She is great, helpful and really very open, but as well very westernised as she lived in Europe for 6 years.

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I will agree with most posts here that it does seem to be hard to make close friends among japanese. I personally have a handful of japanese friends who i consider as pretty close, but these few exceptions are japanese people who have lived abroad and thus they have been more open to getting to know other people. I do have a good deal of japanese acquaintances, and maybe just one or two of these could evolve into a life long friendship.

But its also difficult to generalize. Not all japanese are too stressed of work or too busy to make friends, many are also shy and feel socially awkward getting emotionally deep. I do know some really interesting people though, and most of them dont seem to lack friends.

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My best mate is my Japanese missus and teh only otehr Japanese very nice to me are her family. I do not try to socialise with Japanee anymore as i get frustrated with their lack of being open and accepting me as afriend the way the would to a Jpaanese.

The thing is i had a few Japanese friends in England who treated me the same as they did their fellow Jpaanese mates. Maybe the society is too closed and wary of outsiders to make real advances just yet.

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Another point- friend is person with whom you can share your interests; in case of many japanese people they haven’t got any particular hobby / interest. Everything is turning around work

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@tkoind2:

Girls on the other hand are an entirely different problem. It is easy to meet women in Japan but nearly impossible to have female friends. It often seems like women here don't believe a guy can be just a friend. And trying to be friendly is often misread as romantic interest.

PM me! My best friend and I were having exactly this conversation in reverse today! Why cant guys be friends with us without eventually trying to hit on us???! I am gagging for male friends - WLTM some!!! I really miss my guy-friends from home, but most J guys arent interested in being friends with married women...are interested in #%$"#ing us though, or so it would seem....!

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kirakira: I would suggest trying to meet some gay guys. Most of my male friends in Japan are gay (don't know why; just turned out that way) Very fun to hang out with and you don't have to worry about them coming on to you! Plus no worries about your husband having any jealous feelings.

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@ dolphingirl: re making gay friends: "Plus no worries about your husband having any jealous feelings." In the States that also would be true, unless your husband is a conservative Republican, or a Christian minister. Then you might find that you've got a rival... :-)

Not to change the course of discussion, though...

I think tkoind2 is right. There does not seem to be an established norm of how to form deep friendships and maintain them, let alone have a balanced life. Without that norm, or ready examples, people tend to drift along.

@kronos: what you said is probably more correct for Tokyo than other places, but even in Tokyo I can't agree that people are actually cold or without deep feelings, on the inside, or that they "can't have close friends." Certainly it's not true of the many Japanese friends I've had. Japanese habits of social interaction, however, reflect the distance and ambivalence that cultural habits instill. There's no fundamental reason that Japanese can't -- from the Western perspective -- "loosen up" and make friends more easily. The feelings are there, inside. But societal expectations don't encourage reaching out, and norms and ready examples in that direction simply aren't there. This is one reason why volunteerism has been very slow to take hold in Japan, I think.

But I treasure my close Japanese friends. Few are "Westernized" though; I purposely made friends who spoke little or no English, to force myself to learn Japanese more quickly.

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I've lived here a long time and although I try, I have no problem becoming friends with Japanese women but Japanese men - forget it. The conversation is just soooooo lame. It almost never goes beyond the 'you use chopsticks well', 'do you like natto?' The 2 or 3 close male Japanese friends I have are at least 10 years older than I am.

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From my experience Japanese have conditional Take Take relationships based on obligations. Rather than unconditional Give Give relationships based on genuine sincerity, mutual respect, and enjoyment of each others company.

For example so many Japanese that I meet are excited and say, "Let's be friends; you can teach me English." It is like saying let's be friends because I want to use you for a free English lesson. It immediately turns me off. I am waiting for the day that a Japanese person says "Let's be friends, I will teach you Japanese, show you around and introduce you to all my friends and family". It will never happen in my lifetime.

In fact I am convinced that Japanese culture is fundamentally narcissistic.

The criticize and put each other down all the time They show no interest in others There is a fundamental lack of empathy and sympathy There is an obsession with appearance, money and status There is an underlying superiority complex masking deep insecurities. They try and manipulate each other to do things using guilt, fear and obligations. ie Emotional Blackmail. They can be dismissive of those they feel are inferior.

This is almost a classic definition of a Narcissistic Personality disorder.

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I have said it before & I say it again, Jpn is generally a cold uncaring self centred society, I am approaching 20yrs here, I have a handful of friends only a couple are close.

And to those who say its because of the foreign/Japanese aspect........h`mm take a good look at the Japanese around interacting amongst themselves, they have many aquaintences but not many friends. I find that many Japanese simply dont know how to enjoy themselves. Take away drinking, golf & panchinko & not many have much after that.

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samuraisteve:lol, i always thought it was me who had problems talking to japanese men. really conversation is lame, like " weather is nice today", i know how the weather is today, no need to repeat weather report

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@ space monkey: your comments certainly are thought-provoking, and insightful, at least as to the Japanese you've met. My experience has been different. But I will say, that your description of the narcissistic aspects increasingly fits my fellow Americans here in the States. That's very troubling.

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Yeah, I agree with the comment that unless the Japanese is over 70 or quite westernized, they are almost impossible to become close friends with. I know some Americans that bend over backward to be friends with Japanese, not realizing that the so called friends are smiling at them because they are being showered with brownies, applepie, smiles and joking around... all initiated by them, making the Japanese smile and laugh. Unfortunately I think they Ameican is being laughed at because what they are doing is amusing to the Japanese persons.

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"I've lived here a long time and although I try, I have no problem becoming friends with Japanese women but Japanese men - forget it. The conversation is just soooooo lame. It almost never goes beyond the 'you use chopsticks well', 'do you like natto?' The 2 or 3 close male Japanese friends I have are at least 10 years older than I am."

This sounds very familiar. Let me add that you are being exposed to a pretty small cross section of women as well. One of the things I regret most about learning Japanese is having to listen to other people's conversations in restaurants. Believe me, they are not just boring to foreigners, Japanese people are boring to each other too.

To others speaking about narcissism, maybe people understand that this is many times a reaction to their environment. Men especially in Japan are subjected to a strong sense of rivalry from the get go. It just gets worse as they get older. When do the walls come down? When do the rivalries end? When does the climbing stop? Right about at retirement. Then a man looks around and sees all the people he stepped on, other people still climbing the ladder, and "friends" turning out to be people who were really only in it for themselves. Usually this is the point in life where a Japanese man hangs himself from loneliness. Just another piece of sodai gomi to his wife. Uruzee o'san to his children. Then they use the insurance money to pursue their own narcissism.

Just some sunny thoughts to brighten up your morning everyone!!

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Well my answer is they should get XBLA and play together. That is how I stay close with the few friends I still have back in the USA. If you can play xbox for hours on end without hating each other, then you will be great friends. Video games are the test! Plenty of people will annoying you with their attitude, ability to work together and being the worst or the best player. It is a great judge of character.

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@dolphingirl

Plus no worries about your husband having any jealous feelings

Yeah, you know what, he can go screw himself after all the female "friends" he has had over the years!

But seriously - I find it very hard to form close bonds with Japanese even though I would like to, male or female, for mosr of the reasons people have listed already, particularky the nature of take-take. Its unbelievable the "friends" I dont hear from for months or years...until they want something from me.

Just recently, I thought I was getting a good friendship going with a lovely, intelligent, professional, older, very westernised Japanese guy. We shared a lot of the same interests, had coffee and I loved talking with him.....but - whaddya know! And this revelation came just 6 weeks after having my 3rd baby!!! Didnt know whether to be shocked and appalled, or think to myself "Way to go, KK!!!"

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Friendship is like an investment. For it to grow, you invest time, effort and money all at the same time. Being unemployed too means I have a lot of time and effort available but with no money I would just be "a pain in the neck."

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@dolphingirl - sorry I forgot to mention - yeah, gay guys just dont seem to want to hang out with me - Im just not cool enough!!!

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Japan is not merely a cold and uncaring society, it is ruthlessly competitive and anti-social. As much as the Japanese speak of unity, the importance of getting along with each other and smoothing over differences, etc, what is actually happening is an oppression (eventually suppression)of the individual's identity. This pattern begins with the "one size fits all" regimentation in compulsory schooling and caries on into adulthood. Children learn very quickly to assault each other over differences, inform on class-mates and participate in the Go-Nin-Gummi system of observing each other to score points with the teacher.

Japanese people do not have friends... they may have allies... but they do not understand the nature of friendship as it exists elsewhere in the world. I would be interested in knowing how many people responded that they do have friends, only because it felt too pathetic for them to tell the truth. I would be interested in seeing how women would respond to such a poll as well.

A previous commentator mentioned alcohol. I agree that seems to be a real problem in this country. When Japanese get drunk they do not behave well. Alcohol does not help people to open up to each other and become closer, it acts as stimulant initially (one or two drinks), but soon produces depression.

Materialism is the overall ethic here. Even relationships between the sexes are a commodified, economic exchange such that I would argue that even love (as meant in the West)- much less friendship - does not exist here.

I have been here almost fifteen years. I wish I could say I had a friend.

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@spacemonkey - I wish I could disagree with you, but your description of the essential Japanese character is quite possibly the most insightful I have ever read!

I get particularly annoyed when they try to use the looong, drawn out, uncomfortable (for me) silences to get me to do something I don`t want to do.

I hate the way my husband acts superior to those he considers "beneath" him - like waiters for eg.

When we were watching the terrible earthquake in Haiti - no joke - I said to my MIL "Oh my God, look!" and she said "I KNOW!!! I had no idea they had Suzuki jeeps in Haiti!!!" Hows THAT for lack of empathy???!!!

This is my experience over and over again in my 8 years here. They love to tell me what I am doing wrong here...but could never raise 3 kids themselves in a foreign country.

Everything you list is exactly why close bonds cannot be forged.

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Reading through some of the recent posts, I'm reminded of when I was a student here in high school. When it came time for me to go home, I suddenly had large numbers of other students approaching me in my last week, suddenly expressing regret that I was about to leave, and wanting to catch up "sometime". It really ticked me off because I'd followed the teachers advice to be proactive and make friends through the year, but it seemed I never got very far. On the last day when they turned the tears on, it took my best efforts not to roll my eyes and impart some well deserved sarcasm upon them:p

One other stumbling block when making friends here is their fear of what their other friends might think. My best mate who is Japanese and westernised to an extent, was keen to meet my other friends and hang out which was completely cool, but when I mentioned that I hadn't met his Japanese friends, there was a bit of awkwardness. It turns out that one in particular really doesn't foreigners at all, and would probably be fairly awful towards me in person- And even questions why my mate bothers with hanging out with me. (just out of interest what do you think about this?).

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caffeinebuzz - I noticed a lot of my J friends were incredibly keen to meet my western friends too, but sometimes were not so keen to introduce me to their J friends - including my own husband in the beginning!

I was told I was too "wild" to be introduced to J friends - that gave me a good laugh! Other reasons were that I wouldnt understand the conversation, would make some people nervous, it would upset their wives/girlfriends (what? So being foreign Im automatically a hooker??!) etc etc

As for meeting my friends - the women seemed to want to get to know us genuinely but then found it too hard, the guys wanted to pick up western chicks but then found us terrifying! And the ones who just wanted to sleep with me were just never interested in my friends at all - always a giveaway, that one!

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Got to say the stuff about japanese men is so true.There are afew good ones out there but very hard to find. After 4 years of going to my kids fathers day show in kindergarten I dont even bother trying to make small talk. They are complete social retards and as that guy said learning japanese just makes it worse as you understand exactly how bad the level of conversation is... But I dont think these social skills are as important here ,not as conversationalists anyway. When you teach adults english you have to teach tem more than just the language! Being by yourself is never nice in any culture just seems easier here.

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I wish to thank kirakira25 and caffeinebuzz for their acceptance of my comments because I really did hesitate about being so vocal and nearly deleted my comments before finally deciding to post them. I have had similar experiences at parties where the servers are treated horribly, disrespectfully and rudely. Recently, at a party I attended, a female server was told to sit down next to me and talk to me! I said that I am sure she is busy, must be worried about her job and really needs to get back to it, but the "man" said: "It's ok, I know her boss!" He then said her bosses name and ordered the woman to sit down. The woman looked frightened and resentful but the man was gleeful he had produced such a reaction in her. She obediently sat next to me. How she maintained her composure is a testament to the strength of her training and professionalism. We had an obligatory conversation, then I made apologies for her, and said surely she must be very busy and doesn't have the time to sit here chatting with me. She was finally allowed to leave the room.

Putting this story of friendship together with the new suicide statistics in Japan is important. I feel we need to recognize that in a society where more than 100 people a day commit suicide, in such a small population group, this speaks to the fact that on a very deep level even Japanese people don't like their country. All those 32,753 (reported) suicides cannot be chalked up to the economic decline. For at least 12 years the suicides have topped 30,000 souls. Is this their only way out?

Caffeinebuzz, have you noticed that feelings and emotions seem "canned"? I mean, when it was time to say good-bye, samishi came out because it was the appropriate feeling for the moment. Kawaii and Kimoii are two such ready made emotions, one involving "good feeling" and the other "sad feeling". But there is a very limited range of possibilities to their emotional life.

I am sure I am going to take some heat from the usual suspects who will cry that I am Japan Bashing or they will use the other ready made response: Japan, love it or leave it. However, it is high time that there be a creative and proactive response to Japan's social problems. It is time to grow up. I've got some stuff to do now, so I got to go. Look forward to more of your interesting posts. I wanted to say more, but no time just now.

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Oh, it was space monkey! Very insightful post!

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FRIEDgaijin, I understand totally where you're coming from. I think there is a time and a place, and I don't think theres Japan bashing in what you've said. I'm a bit of an optimist and find it easy to make friends over the world, but Japan throws up a few interesting barriers (all the ones mentioned so far!), it seems. That doesn't mean I'm bitter, annoyed or out to get Japan either, but I'm willing to call a spade a spade and acknowledge that its very hard to get through to many people here for various reasons. I've made a couple of truly great mates here and think it's worth trying to sift through the masses for the people you can really get to know well.

As for the canned emotions. It's very difficult to judge someone's real emotional state, but I'm not an overall fan of the younger generation's compartmentalisation of their emotions in Japan. It's not healthy and can seemed very forced.

Hehe Kirakira, sounds like a bunch of excuses that are more grounded in your friend's fear of their friends potential reactions. As you'd know, unpredictability is a bit of a challenge to most folks here and they're a bit wary of someone from the "great unknown"(Gaijinland) who could rock the boat a bit! Before someone takes me to task with that, I don't mean that as a jab at Japanese people, but more of an observation of the way they like to maintain harmony in as many things as possible.

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Lots of interesting thoughts on this topic. I have some insight that I didn't have before and perhaps a better understanding too. Thanks everyone!!

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FRIEDgaijin - I wish I could disagree with you too - but I don`t. Not at all. The best I can say about the whole situation is "This is not my culture. It is not wrong, just different." But then I look at the suicide rate, and how generally unhappy so many (but not all by all means) Japanese seem to be. And I just think - how can this be right?

I am not saying that things are rosy elsewhere, like home in the UK for example - far from it! But I am living here, for good it would seem (or until I divorce DH anyway!!!) and so I am primarily concerned with Japan`s social and mental health, not anywhere else.

I get the feeling from many Japanese I know - especially the older ones - that they feel "cheated" in some way. I think they know life is easier outside Japan, in terms of more holidays, relaxed working hours, more life-balance. I think they were sold on the "work hard and ye shall reap thy reward" concept...and it hasn`t happened. The younger ones seem to have watched this and just given up before they even start.

There seems to be a lot of jealousy here, a lot of mistrust of other people, and a total inability to step outside the box.

Obviously I am generalising here - but I think all these things combined makes it hard to get close to people. My Japanese family in particular prefer to sweep problems under the carpet - nothing to see here. They won`t confide in or ask for help from anyone. But ultimately it has to come out, and it does in other ways. It bothers me to see it starting to affect my kids.

Japanese people don`t seem to be able to trust each other because by trusting someone you let down your guard and let them see the "real" you. I have watched my husband over the years faking his butt off! He never shows real emotions to anyone except me. On the other hand just by looking at my face you know exactly what kind of day I am having! No wonder I freak everyone out!

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What I don't understand is how some people complain about the Japanese, but then go on to say things like, 'I really can't stand how my husband treats others he views as beneath him....' but you married him?? He's Japanese, isn't he? So he must be a good guy other than treating people like crap? Sorry there Kira, I'm not trying to take a deliberate shot at just you but your example stood out the most. I'm rather surprised at the responses of other intelligent posters, as well.

How many people's friends are truly genuine and loyal, irrespective or ethnicity or country of origin? If you were back in your home countries, broke as a joke, unemployed, struggling with life...how many of them would act as benevolently as you all say they do? Lend you money, let you have a place to stay until you get back on your feet, take you out for dinner and commiseration, regularly call to see how you're doing, etc. How many of them would really have your back in a time of need? And when you wax nostalgically about the good old crowd back 'home', aren't most of your social activities also centred around alcohol, or at least that how alot of these 'great' friendships had their genesis? Some are critiquing the Japanese for this, but I'm fairly sure there's an entrenched drinking culture in other countries too. I have no problem with holding people up to a better standard, provided it's a fair application across the board (including oneself).

There are differences, for sure, but I don't think they're quite as diametrically opposed as alot of you are saying they are. The perspective is skewed, and there remains that air of imagined cultural superiority which detracts from the good discussion. But I guess since this is JT I had better get used to it.

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This is really an awesome discussion.

Shaolin, I see what you're saying, but we're talking about a topic that strikes at what seems to be affecting a very large proportion of foreign residents- If not a majority. No one likes the feeling of not being included or going without good friends, and I think it's important to keep this in mind. On top of that, its clearly evident that even Japanese people are becoming aware of their social inadequacies, and we're often on the receiving end of a magnified effect of this. I'd agree though, that a small minority are coming from a perspective of cultural superiority, but on the whole most posters are very justified in their disappointment despite their efforts to get out there and give it a shot.

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Again, its really important to keep persisting in your efforts since you have the chance to live in a foreign country, especially one with so many opportunities and decent people as Japan, and there are people out there who you can get to know well if you put in a bit of time, patience and effort to trying to better your situation.

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What an excellent bunch of posts. Lots of honesty here. There actually ARE Japanese people researching this heavily trying to figure out this distinct pathology. The pressure... the isolation. It is truly a killer society in need, frankly of many many more clowns. The knots binding people here are turning into nooses. I am pretty sure that this is happening to some degree worldwide.

Have to comment on one...

"Friendship is like an investment. For it to grow, you invest time, effort and money all at the same time. Being unemployed too means I have a lot of time and effort available but with no money I would just be "a pain in the neck.""

Yeah. Well...no. I personally feel that you would have a lot to offer and having little to lose, now would be a great time for you to go out and find some friends and get on with enjoying life. Don't let my post about the high costs of friendship turn into a stick for you to beat yourself with. Sow your seeds of friendship and watch them grow. In my experience, if there is ever a great time for making friends, it is when neither person has much to offer... but friendship. Then at least the motives are clear.

No. What I meant to say was that narcissism, and personal ambitions, and roles that people accept in modern life many times preclude attention to finding friends. If one gives up devotion to those roles in favor of friends, then one gets punished. Role fulfillment is valued by society, friendships are valued personally.

Just as one example, I have this friend....

He made the mistake of trying to make friends with a woman after getting married. Yeah. Did not work out. Forget the awkwardness of wondering what their mutual expectations were, they had to deal with everyone's interests and resistance and expectations. It created waves of insecurity that ripple through families and other friends. He tried several times, but each time, it just got weird, but not because of sex or anything. It was because of everything else. Eventually he gave up. Pressure to conform in Japan does not just apply to education and work. It applies to family roles, friendships, and all the rest. Anything outside of a certain pattern creates friction, leading to a decision that a man in Japan makes. Typically, the decision is self-denial for the greater good of the wife, family, children, etc. It is the Willie Loman choice. Death of a Salaryman.

Anyway, I am way too young to have that guy's problems, so I am lucky, I guess. Somebody needs to write a book. I wonder who Japan's Arthur Miller will be.

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Finbarr. You want to know something really weird? Walk around some time and you can find that about 5% of Japanese people look and feel as though they are awake. The rest are asleep. Sleepwalking. Going through the motions. Maybe it is the same way everywhere, but I am conscious of it here. Not just men. Not just kids. Everybody. I don't want to dehumanize them, or anything, but seriously. Pod people.

Finding friends at a cocktail party can be really difficult because everyone has their zombie face on. But if you do some conversation scanning at restaurants or other places, you can find the people who are not drones. Unfortunately, there is no way then to meet them. Money helps, but not much.

As far as I can tell, this prevalence of zombie people is a problem for most people. Japanese people also have problems meeting interesting people. How many J people try to be interesting among strangers anyway? Very few. And as J talents demonstrate so well, TRYING to be interesting is a far cry from BEING interesting.

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I have taught conversation English to over 20,000 Japanese over 8 years. About 4 years ago I decided to stop teaching English and teach people how to make friends using English.

I teach all the core principles of friendship including the following:

Encouragement. 2. Praise 3. Sympathy 4. Empathy 5. Interest 6. Inclusion 7. Acceptance 8. Approval 9. Appreciation 10. Respect 11. Understanding 12. Effort 13. Celebration etc

Unfortunately as a previous commentator posted friendship is not highly prioritized in Japan due to a large number of social reasons. Japan prioritizes work first, Italy prioritizes family, maybe some other countries prioritize self. Every culture is different.

What a Japanese person thinks is friendly someone from another country may find unfriendly.

What has happened today though is that all the people around the world are using English to make friendships with people from other cultures and there are now emerging common universal principles of friendship that will allow you to make friends with anyone from anywhere.

Unfortunately many aspects of Japanese culture are generally considered unfriendly by universal standards. If everyone does it then its not unfriendly. This is fine if all your freinds are from that same culture and think the same as you. But when you live in a multicultural city like Sydney fro example that has 200 different nationalities of people you cannot except everyone to accept your definitions of friendship. You must defer to the common principles.

Some examples of what I find unfriendly in Japan is:

Not praising but criticizing Not showing interest in my life or culture, i.e. not asking me how my weekend was or anything about my country Saying sorry instead of thank you Not including you in what they do Making no small talk Never inviting you anywhere Rarely discussing emotions Constant use of emotional blackmail Always agreeing Criticizing you behind your back Showing little sympathy Showing little empathy using stock phrases to communicate going silent when they are upset Avoiding any responsibility Lack of genuine interest in what you do Endless obligations and the avoidance of being obligated to you.

Please comment everyone.

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@Shaolin - no offence taken, and you raise a good point - why did I marry him??!

The fact is, the good stuff outweighs the bad! But no marriage and no person is ever perfect - this is just one aspect of his character that bugs me, thats all - that he acts so snooty around people he considers "beneath" him. And its a common Japanese trait. I married HIM, not Japan. I have to live with it - doesnt mean I have to like it and I am always telling him to treat them with more respect - todays uni-student waiter is tomorrows brain surgeon, etc etc

Im also with you on the alcohol thing - which is why I didnt comment on that before - I`m from the UK and drunks there make drunks here look like saints!

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Great posts. Time flies.. My Japanese wife is wonderful. She is my best friend and our differences are probably more gender related than anything else... As for friends after Mom and Dad stop taking care of us? People will be there for you. Everyone likes to help. But with families to take care of and all the rest, there just is not enough time in a day to do what...be a friend. Well I might say that we are. Life is rough and just a nod does wonders. Peace is a fine thing. It all may seem cold... perhaps it is just shy, not wanting to cause trouble...having a very loving soul enjoying the gifts of all creation. Of course, the opposite may be true and the difference may only be a state of being. We ourselves may be guilty at times of misperceiving the other...I do enjoy the benefit of the doubt most people here give me...and in return we can give. Recognize the other with joy, just for a moment, may change the whole world.

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correction: But when you live in a multicultural city like Sydney for example that has 200 different nationalities of people you cannot expect everyone to accept your definitions of friendship.

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5SpeedRacer5 at 08:45 PM JST - 11th March - funny - all with a grain of salt I am sure. Boy I would love to hear the Japanese comments about us. Done well on both sides and we could have a very funny act. It surely would bring us together which is actually the goal of all...

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Hmmm...thinking about this some more and I realize that I actually have made a lot more friends in my seven and a half years here than I did back in my country. Perhaps it's mostly because of my personality and my hobby, but I've never found it very difficult to find friends in Japan.

Of course not everyone I meet becomes a best buddy but by meeting tons of people my chances for developing close friendships went way up, I think. Finding a true friend is a bit like finding true love: as my mom always said, 'You gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince!'

However I do think that close friends are hard to come by in any country. It's rare to find someone who you really click with and who you can trust. So when you do find that person, it's vital to nurture that friendship so it continues to grow.

My husband has work friends but no close friends and I always thought it was more because of his kind of aloof, independent personality than anything else but with all this discussion I am now curious to ask him and find out exactly why. Hmmm...

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@space monkey - great list. I would go along with everything on it.

It is NOT that I dont like the Japanese - not at all! I desperately want to find people to connect with here, but I find it incredibly difficult. For a long time I thought it was just me, and a cultural thing, and that I cant impose my idea of friendship on a completely different culture. But now I find it is not just me, and that Japanese have a hard time opening up to other Japanese too, and finding good friends.

I think the definition of "friend" is important too. I have a lot of Japanese acquaintances. People to have coffee and a chat with. My friends know more about my personal life and what is going on with me and few if any of them are Japanese, becaue they don`t seem remotely interested in me, my life, my background or my culture - unless as I said, they need something from me. My best friends here are western, including my absolute best friend, who I would do anything for anytime day or night and I know she would for me. She is my rock. My husband hates her! He knows she knows everything! I call her my "wife" - she came with me to all my ante-natal appointments (unlike my husband) and I introduced her to my doctor as my "wife" - never has a Japanese guys face lit up so fast and so bright!!! HE wanted to be friends with us!!!

Living here long term like we do, usually with no family close by, my best friends and I all agree that your friends become like your family. We are always there for each other, and other Japanese acquaintances who have had experience of our group and met my friends have commented in the past that they are envious of us and our closeness. I think a lot of them WANT that kind of relationship too, but just don`t know how to go about it.

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Why be friends with someone with no personality?

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in order to have friends, you have to be a friend.

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One of my mates in university gave me the best pieces of advice ever; Life is short; don't waste your time with people who waste yours. This has probably helped me filter out the good from the useless with a lot of ease and has come in really handy here. One good example is a mate who stayed at my place for a couple of days to hang out and look around the area. He brought his laptop and spent the vast majority of the time getting me to translate and write up an English essay for someone he hardly knew. That was a quick deletion from my phonebook. So many stories, so little time, hehe.

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It seeanymoreany friendless people here at JT :) Luckily I'm not one of them. Open yourself to friendship first.

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Trying to make genuine friends in Japan is a lot like trying to go fishing in a sea full of fish that aren't really hungry.

Whoever said the thing about zombies was right on the money. I think almost nobody in Japan sleeps enough, so that might be part of it. At least 10%. But there does seem to be just a natural lack of curiosity as well. I always ask, "How are you?" and unless they regurgitate the "I'm fine thank you and you?" structure, the conversation ends at, "Fine." I'm just a stranger--no sense in asking me about MY day or how I am, right?

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"Saying sorry instead of thank you"space monkey i'm not good at japanese but we can't translate GOMEN NE as sorry.Not always.It has an envelope with inside contents of thank you.

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It's true there are many intercultural problems in making friends whenever you live abroad, but this problem does seem worse in Japan. As a western male I find it's quite easy to make friends with women - they are open-minded and often keen to meet foreign men. My girlfriend and are very close and share a lot of intimacy and thoughts.

But when it comes to Japanese men...hmm! To be honest they are very dull and conservative with poor social skills. Next time you are at a party of westerners in Japan, ask, "Hands up who's got a close Japanese male friend?" I guarantee not many hands will go up.

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I like Finbarr's list too, but I wonder how successful his efforts have been?

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dolphingirl.. it is extremely easy for forign/caucasian women to find "friends" among Japanese men I think.. also among Japanese women who don't want pressured by English speaking men.. but this isn't the subject of the article.

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I've lived here for much of my adult life, have good friends, male and female from a wide swath of countries, and I would certainly include my husband who us of a different nationality, color and religion than me, and yet I have a total of two Japanese who I'd call good friends. I know that the subject is male friends but to be perfectly honest I don't find it that easy to make friends with Japanese women either. Not all of course, but an unfortunate majority in my experience are superficial to the extreme, are more interested in my male non-Japanese friends or relations than me, want "western" friends because it's cool or because they did live a few years overseas and claim to be "different", which so many of the Western men here are willingly to incorrectly agree with, they're bitter about their relationships and lives but unwilling to make the changes and sacrifices to get what they claim they want or they just can't be themselves, playing the coy woman with the irritatingly high-pitched voice ad soon as a man enters the room. It took me a long time to accept that of the five countries I've lived in this may be the one where I'd be least likely to make any close friends but now that I've accepted it I'm fine with it. My husband, who is one of the warmest, friendliest people I know, feels the same and has no close Japanese friends. It is a bit sad but it's not as if we haven't tried or are people who otherwise have trouble making friends.

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If you live in Tokyo, forget about it. Move to Kansai where people are much more friendly.

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Zurcrunium: We lived there for three years and up north for two. I'll agree that the people outside Tokyo are "friendlier" but making friends isn't just a matter of people being friendly, which is often just surface. It's a matter of really opening your heart to someone and I haven't found that to be much different throughout Japan. The same "we are unique" educational indoctrination and limited media ensure a certain uniformity in how people deal with each other throughout the country.

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“What if I die and nobody comes to my funeral?"- You won't be here anyway, so don't worry about it.

"What if my wife dies and I’m left all alone in the world?”- Then get off your lazy bum and go meet people.

What is it with people these days???

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I though this unfriendliness is only directed towards foreigners

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You really need a better definition of friend. There is such variety on that. Men tend to form friends around their work, or left-over from school days. The friends and acquaintances that they form during working years only really become friends with time. Allowing relationships to grow rather than push the issue is normal right. I mean who has the time o actually being friendly with everybody, being a good friend often requires some sort of effort, and doing it over a longer span of time I think is more the norm.

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'Allowing relationships to grow rather than push the issue is normal right.'--But relationships don't grow on their own so yes, it does require effort. Of course it takes time too but even if you work with someone for a long time a friendship is not going to magically happen unless you take it out of the context of work and really get to know that person.

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It doesn't matter what education a person has, it is the emotional maturity that allows friendships to grow.. when one has the emotional maturity of the average 12 yr old (selfish) friendships are impossible and relations are impossible unless you are the one giving everything to the other.

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I really can't add much more to this conversation, but thank you all for your input and stories -- I've read everyone of them.

Though I will say that making it through hardships with someone (anyone) is a great way for making long lasting friendsships, but even those require nurturing...

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""I always ask, "How are you?" and unless they regurgitate the "I'm fine thank you and you?" structure, the conversation ends at, "Fine." I'm just a stranger--no sense in asking me about MY day or how I am, right?""

is this a western-only-habit?? i do that too and i get the same reactions. it sucks how selfish people are around here. you try to be friends and go over the superficial conversation of the day-by-day but i just can't cope with it. i don't mean EVERYONE is like this but the great majority is. i think japanese lost it when the guilty/honor/privacy feeling took over their minds.

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I've been in this country for quite a few years now and even I only have about maybe one or two close male friends, I'm a guy btw. My only close Japanese male friend is from college. It seems that if you wanna have close male friends, either Japanese or western, you gotta either A. Drink a lot or B. Smoke a lot or C. Hang out at Roppongi or Kyabakura a lot, none of which I am all that fond of....

So I end up hanging out with my Japanese lady friends most of the time, which can be a little emasculating at times, but it's still fun.

Okay, for you Japanese guys out there, watch the following to get an idea of western (or American at least) friendship in action:

1. Friends, the TV comedy series

2. 40 year old virgin

3. The Tao of Steve

Everyone else, please add to the list! Consider it a cultural exchange!

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Men today dont have friends; they have rivals. Even if you do have friends, you cant count on them forever. They leave; they move; they marry your girlfriend.

Modern men have acquaintances. If they're firemen or policemen, they have partners or buddies, but not friends in the sense of a person close to you. And, this is not just true of Japan but characteristic of modern life. Many men recall the days of WWII fondly because soldiers did bond closely. My father did. In civil life, he was alone to the day he died, as I will be...

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I think the comments by FRIEDgaijin above are accurate enough.

I tried to recall what bonded me with guys in the past when I lived in the West. Common interests? A love of beer? Whatever. But I never had the feeling we were close to the point where either anyone would lend anyone else a lot of money or listen to problems one of us was having. In fact, as soon as anyone had personal problems, like divorce, a wall seemed to go up between us. It was then that I started to question my so-called friendships.

Friendships for men are relationships of convenience or mutual assistance in getting ahead, but they aren't what men really need and wish for. I think men want brothers, but not with the sibling rivalry attached. Blood brothers. Men you can count on, not those who dump you the moment you are out of sight.

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