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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Some observations on food after eight years living in Japan:
Japanese food in restaurants is usually good and often outstanding. It's rare to be served food which is poor for its price range. Obviously the more you pay, the better the food - Tokyo has more Michelin restaurants than Paris. Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima all have thriving and enjoyable culinary scenes.
Japanese are justifiably proud of their food. You can usually get a great izakaya dinner wherever you go and often it's very good value. Naturally sushi is outstanding and the selection of izakaya food is far more varied than the first time visitor might expect.
Having said that, the category where the Japanese often fail, I think, is in the area of foreign food. Once you exclude the higher price ranges, it compares very poorly with what is available in China, Thailand and Vietnam. It's very hard to find authentic foreign food since they do tend to 'Japanify' everything to satisfy bland Japanese tastes. Also the Japanese tendency toward protectionism means it's often difficult to obtain foreign ingredients at reasonable prices.
It's more or less impossible to find good Indian or Mexican food here, and Italian food in most places (I'm talking about the median price range) is the usual predictable fare with the same old piddly, characterless salad to accompany it. Come to think of it, creative, satisfying salads are fairly rare in Japan, and try getting a decent sandwich - close to impossible outside Tokyo!
However there are exceptions - here in Kyoto there are a few very decent Italian places and the pizza scene has improved vastly in recent years. The Japanese love fads and the present one seems to be Spanish - you can track down passable though not entirely authentic tapas and paella. The Japanese seem never to have heard of good olives!
Considering how close we are to Asia, decent Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food is surprisingly rare though not impossible to find.
Someone on this thread mentioned beer - there have been recent signs of a mini microbrew scene which are encouraging. It's pretty easy to get good wine at completive prices in the major cities.
In terms of service, Japanese restaurants compare favorably. Waiters are polite and helpful, food is usually served up quite quickly. However you generally don't get the cosmopolitan service you'll encounter in Shanghai or Bangkok. This reflects the famous Japanese reserve and the mild xenophobia which characterizes Japanese society (as a default setting, though this is by no means universal).
You're unlikely ever to be invited to a Japanese person's home for a meal, which is probably just as well. In my experience Japanese home cooking is overwhelmingly bland and dreary, though I have encountered one exception to this in eight years - an artist couple who served superb 'shojin ryori'!
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