20 ways to make friends in Tokyo

Find some new pals at these Tokyo classes, activities and social groups

20 ways to make friends in Tokyo

When you're starting a new life in any country, the first thing you need to arm yourself with is a new set of friends (once all that apartment/job/visa nonsense is out of the way, of course). Tokyo definitely isn’t short of people – there are nearly 13 million to choose from – but how do you turn these friends-you-haven’t-met-yet into friends you have? It’s been said that the best way to meet people is to leave your house and just ‘get out there’, but you also need somewhere to go, right? Here are 20 Tokyo groups, classes and activities that should help you make some new mates – and have fun at the same time, of course.

Night Pedal Cruising: for riding through the city at night
If you enjoy feeling the evening breeze in your hair as you zip through the streets of Tokyo, then Night Pedal Cruising could be for you. This cycling group gets out and about in the city on the third Saturday of every month, offering the chance to explore another side of the capital, get fit and meet a few people in the process. Just be sure to brush up on the rules of the road before you set out. www.facebook.com/pedalcruising

Miyake Taiko: for drumming up your own entertainment
If you're musically minded, or just interested in trying something quintessentially Japanese, this group could fit the bill. Miyake Taiko teaches Japanese drumming the way they do it on the Izu island of Miyake-jima, meaning there's just three core rhythm patterns to master. You don't need to have any musical experience to join, but be prepared for an energetic workout. Foreigner-friendly classes welcome people of all ages, and are held every day of the week in nine locations around the Tokyo area, including Shinjuku, Meguro and Yokohama. www.miyaketaiko.com/en/

Wine tasting: for boozing and schmoozing
Want to meet friends through a shared passion for drink, but worried that chugging 16 pints and then falling over will make you seem unrefined? There’s always wine tasting – the perfect drinking party for the sophisticated boozer. Each of these monthly get-togethers is dedicated to a particular region (like this month's standoff between Californian and French plonk), and the cost includes all the wines, a four-course meal and English instruction from a professional taster. www.wineandcooking.info

Tokyo Gaijins: for extreme sports, team sports and parties
The name's a little misleading – you don’t actually have to be a foreigner to join, and Tokyo Gaijins has its fair share of Japanese members. The group offers a variety of activities all year round: white water rafting, snowboarding and paragliding should satisfy your adrenaline cravings, while the hanami parties should calm your nerves again. The group's ski and snowboarding faction schedules frequent trips to the mountains during the snowier months, and there are also regular futsal, basketball, tennis and volleyball matches. www.tokyogaijins.com

Tokyo Mothers Group: for building a support network
This circle of Tokyo mums provides support, information and practical advice through regular meet-ups, although they also make time for fun events such as zoo visits and cinema trips. It’s an English-speaking group, but all nationalities are welcome to join, and it boasts members from all corners of the globe. Meetings take place several times a month on Wednesdays in central Tokyo. www.tokyomothersgroup.com

Photo: Michael Holmes (michaelholmesphoto.com)

PechaKucha Nights: for a spot of show and tell
Sometimes all you need is a good concept. In the ten years since SuperDeluxe hosted its first PechaKucha night – an informal gathering where each speaker gets 20 seconds to show each of their 20 slides – the event has spread to over 600 other cities worldwide. The Tokyo edition falls on the last Wednesday of every month, and is a great place to rub shoulders with the city's creative community. www.pechakucha.org/cities/tokyo

Stitch ’n Bitch: for stitching and, er, bitching
Spurred on by the likes of Kirstie Allsopp, crafting has had something of a revival of late. No longer associated with cardigan-wearing recluses or Stepford wives, communities of crafters, sewers, knitters and everything in between have sprung up around the city. Gather up your yarn and head to the fortnightly Stitch ’n Bitch meet-up for a chance to chat as you craft a new jumper... just in time for Tokyo’s baking hot summer months. www.meetup.com/TokyoStitchandBitch

Zumba: for people who use party as a verb
It’s all the rage, don’t you know? Zumba is about getting fit while you have fun, and this party group will help you do both. There are classes to cater to all levels – from absolute beginners to the more advanced – and all ages are welcome. Classes take place several times a week at the Next fitness studio in Asakusa. zumba.jpn.com

Tokyo Street Hockey Association: for getting fancy with a stick
The Canadians invented street hockey as a summertime alternative to their favourite winter sport, but in Japan it's a year-round pursuit. The Tokyo Street Hockey Association holds informal games most weeks of the month, with teams decided on the day. You can even rent a stick from them if you're new to the game and not sure whether to make the investment just yet. www.tokyohockey.com

Tokyo Book Club: for a lively discussion
If you want to increase your circle of friends from fictional characters to real-life people, reading can still have its place in the form of a book club. There are plenty scattered around the Tokyo area, including this Shibuya-based group, which has been running for around five years and covered everything from The Hunger Games to The Great Gatsby. Small, casual gatherings are held at 2pm on the third Sunday of the month at Gonpachi and are open to everyone – you just have to read the book and show up. jessoch.wordpress.com/tokyo-book-club/

Namban Rengo: for making friends on the run
Japan is the place of never having enough time, so what better way to multi-task than by widening your social circle while you work up a sweat? This informal club welcomes runners of all levels, though it helps if you're serious: most of the members are training towards road races, trail races, ekidens and triathlons. Aside from the running part, they also hold social gatherings so you can get to know your fellow joggers. Training is held on Wednesdays at 7.25pm, at the Oda track near Yoyogi Park. www.namban.org

Tokyo International Players: for dramatic flourishes
Ah, the theatre. Where Shakespeare’s words are brought to life, emotions run high, and telling someone to break a leg doesn’t make you sound threatening. If you've got a penchant for the dramatic, the Tokyo International Players is always looking for budding actors, as well as volunteers to help out with promotions and front-of-house duties. Recent productions have ranged from the highbrow (Metamorphosis) to crowd-pleasing (Alice), so there's something for serious thesps and hams alike. www.tokyoplayers.org

Photo: Drew Wertheimer

Night Photography in Tokyo: for seeing another side of the city
If your days are filled with work and you're looking for some after-hours activities to keep you entertained, you could join these late-night snappers on one of their outings. Just arm yourself with a camera and a passion for photography, and you’re good to go. Everyone is welcome – whether you’re a professional or an absolute beginner – and if you’re hoping to improve your skills you could pick up a few tricks from these wise old night owls. Sign up for details of their next meet-up. www.meetup.com/NightPhotography_Tokyo

Cooking with Mari: for getting cultured in the kitchen
Nearly every foreign visitor to Japan raves about the food, but how many actually know how to cook it? English-speaking culinary whiz Mari Nameshida teaches everyday cooking with a side-order of Japanese hospitality at her home in Tsukiji. Learn how to make proper maki-zushi, tempura and karaage, or plump for vegetarian options like teriyai tofu steak. Class sizes vary, but rarely go beyond eight people, meaning the atmosphere is always warm and friendly. mari-cooking.p1.bindsite.jp

Tokyo Comedy Store: for the jokers in the pack
Everybody likes to laugh, so if you’ve got a smattering of new friends already, you could do a lot worse than a trip to the Tokyo Comedy Store for an evening’s entertainment. Aspiring comics can try the stand-up and improv workshops, a great way to meet people while honing your routine (although this could go either way depending on your talent level). They also hold a regular New Material Night at Shibuya's Double Tall Café, where you can get up and tell a joke or two in a relaxed environment, so bring the laughs and you could leave with a few new pals. www.tokyocomedy.com

Photo: Michael Holmes (michaelholmesphoto.com)

Pause Talk: for getting together with like-minded creatives
Are you creative? Do you live in Tokyo? If you answered yes to both these questions, you might like to pop into Café Pause in Minami-Ikebukuro for a chance to share ideas with like-minded people at the monthly Pause Talk events. Turnout for these gatherings varies, but they provide the opportunity to meet a variety of folks from a wide range of backgrounds – from fashion bloggers and journalists to painters, directors and even city gardeners. Get down there and talk about your latest project. pausetalk.org

Castle Tintagel: for saving damsels in distress
Ah, the Middle Ages: an era of plague, non-stop war and noble knights in suits of armour. If you dream of a simpler time when you could get dressed up like an early terminator and ride valiantly into battle, then sign up to Castle Tintagel – Tokyo's ‘only Western martial arts and cultural centre’. Classes include swordsmanship, dance, and crafts and culture, or you could take the ‘Academy of Chivalry’ option and learn how to do battle in a full suit of armour while behaving like a proper knight. www.castletintagel.com

Curious about Shochu in Tokyo: for the hard stuff
It’s not all about saké, don't cha know. Japan’s other national drink deserves some serious attention, too. If you’re interested in heading to distilleries, sampling different brands and learning a bit about this powerful tipple, then sign up to this group organised by Japan Eats' resident lush, Christopher Pellegrini. After all, nothing warms up the social skills like a shot of liquor delivered straight down the gullet. Locations vary, so check the website for details of the next event. www.meetup.com/Curious-About-Shochu-in-Tokyo

The Pink Cow: for those who like a bit of everything
This Roppongi hangout has it all – a self-described ‘restaurant, art bar and funky space’, it’s a chilled out spot where you can drink, eat, be merry, paint a picture and maybe pick up a few new friends. Events are held every night except Mondays, and range from belly dancing shows to jazz nights, film, comedy and more. The relaxed atmosphere helps remove any awkward getting-to-know-you tension, and the events – including the likes of ‘Dr Sketchy’s Burlesque Show and Anti-Art School’ – should ensure you have something to talk about. www.thepinkcow.com

Experience Tokyo: for really getting to know the city
Whether you’re fresh off the plane and not sure which corner of Tokyo to explore first, or are just stuck in a Roppongi rut, this group could be for you. Experience Tokyo's trips to some of the lesser-known parts of the capital are a great way to get to know the city, while they also organise hikes, foodie get-togethers, museum trips and monthly book discussions. Meeting places and dates vary – sign up for details of the next outing. www.meetup.com/ExperienceTokyo

By Becs Morice
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


4 comments Add a comment

Really heplful the artical is. I've dreamed about travelling to Japan!

Posted by Belinda Lin on Jul 08 2013 13:06

Thanks for the addition. You can delete my comments if you like. Keep up the fine site.

Posted by Drew Wertheimer on Apr 08 2013 20:03

Sorry about that, Drew! Just added a credit now.

Posted by James Hadfield on Apr 08 2013 11:22

Fun article. I used to enjoy Tokyo Time Out during my half-year in Japan. I only wanted to ask that you credit my photo of "Night Photography in Tokyo." The tour organizer gave you my permission, but you should credit all photos unless you did it yourself. Thanks and best wishes.

Posted by Drew Wertheimer on Apr 05 2013 20:15

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