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How/where to meet young Japanese people for a 17yo

Jaydon

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I'm 17, learning Japanese and wanting to travel to Japan next year (if possible).

This is only asking about meeting Japanese people in Japan as an 18yo :)

I don't personally know anyone who lives in Japan and I'm wanting to meet some Japanese people while I'm there (should be easy enough to find non Japanese people, if I want)

I'm usually a bit shy so would rather not talk to random strangers to make friends... Is there a good way to meet up with younger Japanese people?(I don't mind if they aren't exactly the same age)

I was thinking the easiest way could be with a school by becoming an exchange student however I'm not currently at school as I've been doing other things instead.

I haven't planned the trip at all... yet, however I'm thinking of staying at a Home Stay because thats an easy way to meet at least some Japanese people + it would be fun.

If you know/can think of ways to meet younger Japanese people please let me know, even if there's something else you would like to say please do as I would love to hear from you!!!

Thanks so much
-jay
 

mdchachi

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I would start by making some friends online that you may be able to meet in real life some day. There are many people interested in improving their English. Once you settle on a location you could target your online relationships towards that place.

You could try to finding a language program even a short one. My first trip to Japan was for a month-long language course in the summer at a university which included two weeks in a dorm and two weeks home stay and a lot of activities with other young people. It's still one of the best trips of my life. It wasn't an exchange program. I don't think there was any special requirement to get in. Just money.
 

nice gaijin

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As a not-young-anymore person I don't really know what they get up to, I think a challenge in meeting "young people" is that they seem to have most of their time spoken for, are still in school or working towards exams which are stressful and demanding. Oftentimes kids will have a narrow or single major interest that their life revolves around, so unless you share the same interest there's little chance of spending more time together. Meeting people in their 20's is maybe a little easier, as I've met people staying in hostels and hung out with them for a while; the clientele for Japanese inns and hostels is (or was, pre-covid) pretty evenly split between native and foreign travelers. Aside from a very specific hobby, your best bet to connect with a young Japanese person is if they have a burning desire to practice English. Maybe one of those language exchange sites that connect you with people would be a good start to at least get practice talking to Japanese people, and give you a better feel.

Most Japanese folks seem to maintain friend groups from their school days, and tend to bond through shared experiences--or trauma, if you will. I've always found programs that brought people together, even briefly, have proven to be a good recipe for making new friends. Organized trips, especially around a shared interest like hiking, diving, biking, skiing, etc, can be a good way to find people you click with, and let friendship develop more naturally. I was in a college exchange program and it had a profound effect on my life and gave me several lasting friendships. There was a short gasshuku-style trip organized by a school group that also introduced me to a variety of folks from around the world.

In the adult world in general but especially in Japan it seems that everyone has their own lives and their own stuff going on, and don't generally have or make the time for new friends; people don't really reach outside of their bubbles to expand them for a number of reasons. Language barriers are an added layer to that hesitancy, unless you find someone who is also seeking to break through it. Start with your own hobbies and interests, especially in language exchange as a baseline, and from there you can come up with ways to connect with Japanese people online, so you have some pre-established connections before you head over. At any rate, don't rely too much on tenuous connections you make, things fall through and when you travel you have to be flexible and willing to go it alone if needed.
 

Jaydon

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I would start by making some friends online that you may be able to meet in real life some day. There are many people interested in improving their English. Once you settle on a location you could target your online relationships towards that place.

You could try to finding a language program even a short one. My first trip to Japan was for a month-long language course in the summer at a university which included two weeks in a dorm and two weeks home stay and a lot of activities with other young people. It's still one of the best trips of my life. It wasn't an exchange program. I don't think there was any special requirement to get in. Just money.
Making friend online is a great idea! it came across my mind but i didn't really think more about it for some reason... I'll look into it more! and yeah I haven't really thought about where I should go as I was thinking I would go wherever was best to meet people or something like that.

I'll also look into language programs! When you went on yours how much freedom did you have? were you mostly with your group or could you go off by yourself a bit?

And Thanks so much for replying!!! :)
 

mdchachi

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When you went on yours how much freedom did you have? were you mostly with your group or could you go off by yourself a bit?
Everything was more or less scheduled but there was plenty of free time built in. So I had time to walk around the school neighborhood. Go to the shopping center and local stores. Go out with classmates, and not just the foreign ones as there were normal Japanese students there. One weekend evening most of us summer students went into Tokyo (from Chiba) to go to a club. Went on hikes and various places with my hostmom. Commuted from her home to the school via train just as a local would. Of course the week days were mainly taken up with the schooling. That part I don't remember hardly any of it except having to remember and recite a haiku. That particular program is long shut down otherwise I'd give you more details but I'm sure there are plenty of other options out there. Then after the school thing I traveled a little bit down to Osaka and Kyoto. This was all 30 years ago.

A couple years later I found a job in Japan and went there to work and even back then I made a couple friends online before I went. (Of course "online" back then didn't mean quite the same thing. It was probably via USENET.) Although they weren't natives after we met in person they introduced me to a lot of other people and I met a lot of local Japanese people and made a lot of friends that way.

The point being once you know a couple of people, start going to events or interest-based activities it will all quickly snowball from there.
 

Jaydon

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Everything was more or less scheduled but there was plenty of free time built in. So I had time to walk around the school neighborhood. Go to the shopping center and local stores. Go out with classmates, and not just the foreign ones as there were normal Japanese students there. One weekend evening most of us summer students went into Tokyo (from Chiba) to go to a club. Went on hikes and various places with my hostmom. Commuted from her home to the school via train just as a local would. Of course the week days were mainly taken up with the schooling. That part I don't remember hardly any of it except having to remember and recite a haiku. That particular program is long shut down otherwise I'd give you more details but I'm sure there are plenty of other options out there. Then after the school thing I traveled a little bit down to Osaka and Kyoto. This was all 30 years ago.

A couple years later I found a job in Japan and went there to work and even back then I made a couple friends online before I went. (Of course "online" back then didn't mean quite the same thing. It was probably via USENET.) Although they weren't natives after we met in person they introduced me to a lot of other people and I met a lot of local Japanese people and made a lot of friends that way.

The point being once you know a couple of people, start going to events or interest-based activities it will all quickly snowball from there.
Thanks so much for your replies they've been very helpful! It was good to hear you experience even if it was 30 years ago!(I think its super cool you went that long ago) and it sounds like these programs shouldn't be to different from back then, I'll continue to look into it further and I think your right once I find some people I can be introduced to more people :)
 

Jaydon

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First off, Thank you so much for you reply I really enjoyed reading it and it was quite helpful, now then.. I shall do my replies… hopefully you’ll read them as all together it’s a bit of text :)
 

Jaydon

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As a not-young-anymore person I don't really know what they get up to, I think a challenge in meeting "young people" is that they seem to have most of their time spoken for, are still in school or working towards exams which are stressful and demanding. Oftentimes kids will have a narrow or single major interest that their life revolves around, so unless you share the same interest there's little chance of spending more time together.
I agree, a lot of people are focused on studies and thigs like that, if I travel to japan with a language program hopefully that can help a bit, tho there are a lot of people and I’ve and I’m sure some would be interested in doing somethings, but yes that’s a good thing to think about.
 

Jaydon

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Meeting people in their 20's is maybe a little easier, as I've met people staying in hostels and hung out with them for a while; the clientele for Japanese inns and hostels is (or was, pre-covid) pretty evenly split between native and foreign travelers.
I think I might also stay in a hostel like you said (maybe after doing some language program that takes me over to japan with other people) and meet some people a little older than me, some of my Swedish relatives recently came over to AUS, I traveled around with them a bit, it worked well as a few years age gap now isn’t such a difference compared to when your 13 and two years a bigger gap (plus I look older than I am and probably slightly more mature than the av 17yo)
 

Jaydon

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Maybe one of those language exchange sites that connect you with people would be a good start to at least get practice talking to Japanese people, and give you a better feel.

Most Japanese folks seem to maintain friend groups from their school days, and tend to bond through shared experiences--or trauma, if you will. I've always found programs that brought people together, even briefly, have proven to be a good recipe for making new friends. Organized trips, especially around a shared interest like hiking, diving, biking, skiing, etc, can be a good way to find people you click with, and let friendship develop more naturally. I was in a college exchange program and it had a profound effect on my life and gave me several lasting friendships. There was a short gasshuku-style trip organized by a school group that also introduced me to a variety of folks from around the world.
Good idea, I’ll be sure to check out some language exchange sites, a little familiarization with Japanese people would be good before going

Yes after some replies from people I think going with some language program that takes me over there with other people would be good. Now with organized trips… could you talk about that a bit more? do you know where to join them/where there organized or anything like that? I snowboard and mtb plus I like hiking and live near the coast so diving is possible too (I’ve never thought about diving in japan or anything to do with getting in water… except onsens… I love thermal springs :) now I’m very curious about japan’s waters.. off I go to research, tho I probably wont go diving in japan, at least not this time) I haven’t actually thought about it other organized groups before that are unrelated to school, apart from thinking I could join some random class that I’m interested in (not associated with a school) and ask the teach/instructor if I could join in.
 

Jaydon

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In the adult world in general but especially in Japan it seems that everyone has their own lives and their own stuff going on, and don't generally have or make the time for new friends; people don't really reach outside of their bubbles to expand them for a number of reasons. Language barriers are an added layer to that hesitancy, unless you find someone who is also seeking to break through it. Start with your own hobbies and interests, especially in language exchange as a baseline, and from there you can come up with ways to connect with Japanese people online, so you have some pre-established connections before you head over. At any rate, don't rely too much on tenuous connections you make, things fall through and when you travel you have to be flexible and willing to go it alone if needed.
Yes, as you get older you have your friends and you work so you kinda stay inside your bubbles as you said, and the language barrier is another thing, hopefully my level of proficiency in Japanese will be good enough to communicate well, but as the people I’m looking to connect with will be young hopefully the difference in culture and language will also be something fun and interesting to some, I mean when an exchange student comes to your school from another country (not that that ever happened with me…) you expect a bit of a language barrier and it’s always fun to talk to them or do something with them (right!?) hopefully me being a foreigner will be a subject of interest, tho I’m not totally relying on that :) . And I’ll try talking with some Japanese people before I go :)
 

Jaydon

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Thank you all so much for the replies I've loved them, like two years ago I posted a question on some other forum as well as Reddit when i couldn't find any answers... I never got any replies :( I didn't really expect to get replies from this, I posted on two Japanese related forums and have already gotten eight replies in total!!! was super stocked as I posted it last night and there were that many replies in the morning!, so Thank You! :)
 

nice gaijin

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Good idea, I’ll be sure to check out some language exchange sites, a little familiarization with Japanese people would be good before going

Yes after some replies from people I think going with some language program that takes me over there with other people would be good. Now with organized trips… could you talk about that a bit more? do you know where to join them/where there organized or anything like that? I snowboard and mtb plus I like hiking and live near the coast so diving is possible too (I’ve never thought about diving in japan or anything to do with getting in water… except onsens… I love thermal springs :) now I’m very curious about japan’s waters.. off I go to research, tho I probably wont go diving in japan, at least not this time) I haven’t actually thought about it other organized groups before that are unrelated to school, apart from thinking I could join some random class that I’m interested in (not associated with a school) and ask the teach/instructor if I could join in.
Well, it really depends on the hobbies in question, where you are, and what organizations around you cater to that crowd. If you are in a program of some sort, they'll usually have partnerships or their own organized trips. When I was an exchange student, there were several arranged trips with my peers in the program, which were baked into the schedule. The smaller gasshuku-style trip I mentioned was organized by a dorm at my school that hosted international students (I didn't stay in the dorm, but I was still able to participate). Other groups within the school like clubs and circles and student organizations also had their own events and outings; you didn't have to go far to find groups to participate in, which is why I recommend starting with your interests.

If you aren't in any kind of organized program, hostels sometimes run little tours (I went on a nice walking tour in Nagasaki that was put on by my hostel), or have a whole bunch of pamphlets for possible activities in the area. At the very least, the desk staff should have some good suggestions.

There are also possible options on Facebook groups, or sites like Tripadvisor or Meetup, or you can try doing an internet search for your hobby/interest+place, and you may find some independent groups or organizers. I had some great trips with the Beijing Hikers, which I found this way... I even have a friend who met her fiancé through a Tokyo snowboarding shuttle trip (bunch of folks get picked up and taken to a resort for a day/weekend). I don't know if Couchsurfing still works the way it did ten years ago, but that was another way I met people. If you are friendly, you're bound to make friends.

Yes, as you get older you have your friends and you work so you kinda stay inside your bubbles as you said, and the language barrier is another thing, hopefully my level of proficiency in Japanese will be good enough to communicate well, but as the people I’m looking to connect with will be young hopefully the difference in culture and language will also be something fun and interesting to some, I mean when an exchange student comes to your school from another country (not that that ever happened with me…) you expect a bit of a language barrier and it’s always fun to talk to them or do something with them (right!?) hopefully me being a foreigner will be a subject of interest, tho I’m not totally relying on that :) . And I’ll try talking with some Japanese people before I go :)
Japanese proficiency will go a long way to helping melt that barrier... I actually prefer to call it a hurdle, as it's totally surmountable--no matter how high--if both parties are willing. Your identity as a foreigner will undoubtedly be an element in your interaction, as it can be a novelty to some extent: much in the same way you're seeking Japanese friends, there are Japanese people who wish to make more foreign friends and expand their own world. This can be a good starting point, but deeper connections will come from sharing more than a common interest in foreign cultures, or just wanting to learn each other's language.
 

mdchachi

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There's some good scuba diving in Japan. Near Tokyo most people go to Atami. I went there a several times. That's where I earned my PADI advanced.
There's also plenty of skiing & snowboarding. From Tokyo that requires shinkansen ride usually.
For those kinds of activities all you really need is time and money. Of course there are plenty of free things to do too.
 

Jaydon

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There's some good scuba diving in Japan. Near Tokyo most people go to Atami. I went there a several times. That's where I earned my PADI advanced.
There's also plenty of skiing & snowboarding. From Tokyo that requires shinkansen ride usually.
For those kinds of activities all you really need is time and money. Of course there are plenty of free things to do too.
Thanks mdchachi, appreciate your replies :)
 
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