Japan has a reputation for being one of the loneliest countries in the world. And with many employees working overtime on a daily basis, it’s easy to understand why. The first time I lived in Japan, I got a contract playing piano and singing six nights a week at a Hakone resort. Although I continually met people who were kind and thoughtful, my work hours and then non-existent Japanese language skills made it difficult to connect with others in my day-to-day life.
Loneliness is a powerful emotion. So much so that it is starting to be considered a public health problem in many countries In fact, both Australia and the UK have recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness. Here, the government has yet to implement any concrete policies to tackle the problem, but the issue of loneliness is just as potent. Take this stat for example: Around 15 percent of Japanese people have admitted that they do not have any social interaction outside of their family, according to recent OECD data.
In other words, you’re not alone in feeling alone.
The good news is that it only takes a little bit of effort to turn things around for the better. Here are my personal tips for making new friends, finding community ties, and enjoying all the amazing things Tokyo has to offer.
1. Invite your co-workers out after work
The joy of being in Tokyo is that there are endless opportunities for fun—and everything is open late. Getting the chance to get to know your co-workers outside of work is undoubtedly a great way to create, strengthen, and maintain new friendships. The good news is that in Japan, post-work drinks, or nomikai, are practically a part of the job so you shouldn’t have much trouble persuading your colleagues to join you.
If you work around the Shibuya area, check out Tsukuyomi Coffee for a post-work catch-up. It’s a small establishment serving light meals, coffee, cake, and adult coffee (yes, I’m talking coffee spiked with alcohol). Music lovers should head to Dogenzaka on a Tuesday night for Ruby Room’s famed open mic night where you’ll be entertained by a mixture of locals, ex-pats, and travelers. Given the intimate setting of the bar, it’s a golden opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone—if they don’t beat you to it! You should check out Savvy Tokyo’s Food and Drink archives for more cool places to visit after dark with your (hopefully) new friends.
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