Making New Friends in Japan: Next to Impossible

August 24, 2017

I haven’t written anything here for a while. It’s not as though things aren’t going well. In fact, aside from one monumentally important issue which I will discuss, everything is great in Japan. I’m exempt from most of the BS gripping the US right now as Confederate statues are finally torn down across the South, laws concerning hate speech are debated, and just left to wonder whether Tokyo will be North Korea’s first strike.

Honestly, though I’ve been keeping a close eye on politics, it hasn’t been dominating my life over here (as much as I may appear to do so online). I’m just finishing up summer holidays, and for one of the first times in my life when I had both the means and the time to take a random adventure, I didn’t have the drive. Solo travel still holds no thrill for me.

It’s difficult to explain this to those for whom solo travel is the only way to go. I get it: no one deciding your schedule, more flexibility, more opportunities to meet people as you’re not leaning on your travel partner. However, all I can see is time wasted on experiences for myself rather than developing a friendship or relationship with them. Travel is a privileged and selfish act in and of itself. For a time, I was content being that selfish when it meant I could see things I had never dreamed of. Now I just want someone with whom I can share my time.

Aside from that, there is little to no stress in my Japanese experience. My apartment is incredibly large by Japan standards (helps being in Tochigi Prefecture). I used the vacation time to build up my mileage; I’ll be running the Ashikaga Half Marathon in November and the Sano Marathon in December. Splurging on luxury food from iHerb, Kaldi, and The Meat Guy is no problem with my online income. I was even able to host a few Couchsurfers for the first time from the UK, France, and The Netherlands.

My renewal – or lack thereof – will be coming up next month and I’m uncertain as to which way I’m leaning. Financially, it would be smarter to stay longer to finish paying off debts. I’m also rather comfortable here, not settling for a mere room if I were to return to San Francisco or bouncing between hostels and couches as a digital nomad elsewhere. I try to remember those days not too long ago, and though I was far from miserable, there’s one aspect of life that has eluded me for a number of years.


I don’t know how it works with other people, but with the exception of childhood, I’ve never had a best friend or a consistent – more than a year – group of friends. Part of this, at least at the beginning, was my own stubborn insistence on being independent. I still dated, so who cared if I was on my own most of the time?

Of course, this was a tad foolish in retrospect. Though friendships and how we form them change over time, making new ones as you get older becomes increasingly difficult: you won’t always be around those your own age by default as you would in high school or university; those you work with may not want to mix their professional and personal lives; even when you do meet someone compatible, they may already be in a comfortable place with their group and not in the mood to add another friend.

As a result, I’m not one of those people who has childhood or school friends with whom he’s stayed in the same area and built the foundation for a lifetime. I don’t know whom I would invite to my hypothetical wedding, or who would bother to attend my funeral. I have friends across the globe. We do catch up from time to time, but we’re not a part of each other’s lives, nor is it likely we will ever be.

I tried to solve this problem pretty much everywhere I’ve traveled since 2012 when I realized how hollow solo travel was becoming for me. I’ve added a few people to my circle, but there’s no one with whom I can share my experiences in Japan, as a friend or otherwise. Some are busy. Some have personal issues, e.g. socially awkward or way too into anime. Some already have their friends, wives, husbands, and lives. I’ve rejected plenty.

This will be the deciding factor as to whether I will renew my contract in Japan. Not money. Not adventure. People. At this point, one friend or relationship would be enough, but I don’t even have that.

Note to those commenting: Don’t offer advice. I’ve heard it all.

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