In ancient China, Japan was called Wo 倭 (pronounced Wa in Japanese). Wo/Wa is mentioned in the third century Chinese historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms in the section for the Wei kingdom, which is based on the earlier work Weilüe. Wa means obedient, gentle, or meek. Japanese dislike the name because it resembles the character 矮, meaning ‘dwarf’. The 倭 kanji has been replaced with the homophone 和 (Wa) which means “harmony”.In ancient China, Japan was called Wo 倭 (pronounced Wa in Japanese). Wo/Wa is mentioned in the third century Chinese historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms in the section for the Wei kingdom, which is based on the earlier work Weilüe. Wa means obedient, gentle, or meek. Japanese dislike the name because it resembles the character 矮, meaning ‘dwarf’. The 倭 kanji has been replaced with the homophone 和 (Wa) which means “harmony”. [wikipedia]

Places to Meet People

Places to Meet People

Coffee and Tea Surfing Tokyo – We are a group for coffee and tea lovers and people interested in English language exchange over coffee with Japanese and non-Japanese people. We’ll explore the different cafes in Tokyo so we will ‘surf’ the cafes, so to speak. [meetup]

Coffee Chat 茨木市 Cafe No Border – Friendly English chat in a casual setting. Enjoy board games and coffee. New meetups will be starting soon which encourage language learning and new friendships. [meetup]

Find new friends in Nagoya – This is a new meetup group for people who want to find new friends and your people. We are planning to hold many different events in Nagoya. You can enjoy lunch, sports, going to power spots at reasonable prices. If you want to make new friends or are interested in other languages and cultures, come and join us! [meetup]

Kulture Kyoto – A group for travelers and expats alike who wish to experience a variety of Japanese cultural activities including tea ceremony, calligraphy, flower arranging and much more. [meetup]

Kyoto Yoga & Meditation Meetup – This group is for anyone who is interested in yoga and/ or meditation (in English). We hold a regular yoga class (which includes some meditation) every Monday evening from 7 pm. [meetup]

Nagoya Explorers – Nagoya Explorers is a group for people who are wanting to try new things, making new friends and most importantly creating memorable experiences with exploring Nagoya and outside of Nagoya. We will organize dinner, drinking, excursion, outdoor sports or just simple hanging out! [meetup]

Nagoya Friends – Hello and welcome! This is a  group for anyone and everyone who wants to make friends and is interested in other cultures. Thank you for stopping by! We are looking forward to meeting you soon! [meetup]

Nagoya Hangout! 「名古屋しゃべり場」 – Come along to a regular casual meetup, where we will meet people for language exchange and to chill out. If you want to meet some people to practice your foreign language skills then you’ve come to the right place. [meetup]

Tokyo Parties and Events – Our goal is to provide a place in Tokyo where people can connect with each other, build relationships and organize gatherings. Let’s find some parties!. [meetup]

Tokyo Pub & Bar Friends – is a place where friendly people can come out and enjoy good company with other easy-going, receptive people for drinks, eats, socializing, and making new friends at pub and bars in Tokyo! [meetup]

How to Find a Date

How to Find a Date

Japan Cupid – Japancupid.com is available in several languages, of course, Japanese being one of them. Japan Cupid is not just for Japanese people, it is for anyone who wants to meet and date Japanese woman, or just wants to make friends. It is not an exclusive site; the site is owned by well-established Australia-based Cupid Media Network. [lovely pandas]

Japan Match – Japan Match  is Japanese version of the match.com. It was fine but a little expensive. Users must pay some money to contact other members. Match Japanese is in Japanese language only, which means most of its members are local Japanese. So it is  probably a more likely site to meet Japanese people. [lovely pandas]

Ok Cupid – Okcupid Japan is a fun, interactive and very entertaining dating site. Members are allowed to browse others’ profiles directly on its friendly-designed interface. This site is very good for foreigners living in Japan or traveling to Japan. [lovely pandas]

Soulmates Japan – Soulmates Japan is a free leading Japanese dating and friendship platform for those who seek romance, relationships and friendship with Japanese singles. The company is based in Tokyo and employs Japanese and native English speaking guys to monitor membership abuse, which guarantees almost all of its members are real. [lovely pandas]

Worldfriends – Worldfriends is social network mainly advertised as a friendship and language exchange site, but large numbers of its subscribers, male and female use it as a dating platform. It is one of the best places for people living in Japan or English-speaking foreigners who hope to meet Japanese girls. [lovely pandas]

Walking Tours

Walking Tours

Japan Walking & Hiking Tour – For 37 years, Backroads has been perfecting the art of active travel. We are the Japan tour experts. See our award-winning Asia & the Pacific walking tours and hiking tours, Asia & the Pacific biking tours and Asia & the Pacific multisport tours. [backroads]

Oku Japan – A focus on getting away from the crowds and into the real Japan, carefully selected accommodations with superb service and exquisite regional cuisine, expert bilingual guides, thoughtfully-created itineraries by those with a passion for Japan. [oku japan]

Quest Japan – Our guided walking holidays are designed for travellers who are naturally active. We explore extraordinary landscapes – sites of special cultural and environmental interest and beauty. The sacred Kumano mountains of the Kii Peninsula (World Heritage site status in 2004), Hakusan – the ‘White Mountain’, the North Alps in Central Japan, the mountains of Hokkaido, pilgrimage routes in Shikoku, the Sanin Kaigan National Park on the Japan Sea Coast, Kyushu, Yakushima island, and the ancient capitals of Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto, to name but a few. [hike japan]

Tokyo Walking Tours – First private walking tour agent in Tokyo to specialize in providing high-quality English-supported guided walking tour catering hundreds of destinations to the diversifying needs of individuals coming to Japan. It is operated by EXPLORERS Japan Inc. founded in 2008 by Taro Okano and Koichiro Akahori after nearly 20 years of experience in international business in consulting firm or of airline industry. [tokyo walking tours]

Walk Japan – The Tokyo Tour is a fully guided, Level 2 walk suitable for anyone who is an occasional walker and can walk for more than one to two hours in comfort. [walk japan]

Free Things to Do

Free Things to Do

Be mesmerized by Fushimi Inari Shrine – If you’ve seen “Memoirs of a Geisha”, you’ll recognize these famous orange gates. Though I’d learned about these extensively in art history during university, they were far more spectacular in person than I could have imagined. [two wandering soles]

Cross Shibuya Intersection – Known as the busiest intersection in the world, the Shibuya crossing is everything I imagined Tokyo to be. Neon lights aglow and people walking in all directions in organized chaos. This spot, where five intersections converge is known famously as “the scramble” and should be a must on your Tokyo itinerary. [two wandering soles]

Eat Ramen in Tokyo – Typically, you’ll buy a ticket from a vending machine and present the ticket to an employee. Watching them prepare the steaming bowls of noodles is as much a part of the experience as eating the dish itself. And if you’re a long-haired lad or lass (like me), they may just offer you a (new) hair tie to prevent your locks from dipping in your soup. How thoughtful. [two wandering soles]

Eat Sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market – Although the market itself closes down well before noon, there are plenty of shops still serving the freshest rolls in all of Japan throughout the lunch hour. We had to wait in a queue before entering, and were sat at a table along with another couple because the small restaurant was packed. I guess that’s how you know it’s good, right? The exquisite, yet affordable fish was well worth it. [two wandering soles]

Experience the craziness of the famous Robot Restaurant – Join Anthony Bourdain, Katy Perry, and countless others who have been audience members of this illustriously wild show. Although it’s known as a restaurant, one doesn’t come for the food. The scantily-clad dancers, pulsating lights and giant robots are what draw large crowds of tipsy tourists and Japanese businessmen each night. [two wandering soles]

Glimpse (hopefully) Mount Fuji – This iconic mountain is known for being shy. And as it turns out, she was hiding in the clouds during our visit. We took a cable car and a ship to places that are stunning viewpoints on a clear day. Too bad for us, we only saw a thick, never-ending white fog instead. [two wandering soles]

Go Geisha Hunting – Take a stroll around the lantern-lit Pontocho Alley at dusk and you may just be rewarded with a rare sighting of a geisha or maiko (geisha’s apprentice). The evening hours are when they make their way to one of the many traditional restaurants on this street in the Gion district, and will be your best chance at seeing their exquisite silk kimonos and painted faces up close. [two wandering soles]

Monkey around at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park – The path leading to the monkey park is lined with towering pines, and when we visited in February they were frosted with snow. We finally made it to a river valley and we knew we were close when we spotted a monkey in the middle of the path. As we ventured further, they were everywhere. The monkeys brushed past us as if we weren’t there at all. [two wandering soles]

Spend the night at a Ryokan – This type of traditional Japanese inn is characterized by tatami-matted rooms and exceptional hospitality. Often times guests are provided with yukata robes and access to private on-site onsen. Staying at a ryokan can be very expensive, but if you search, you can find some good deals. [two wandering soles]

Stroll through Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – This enchanting pathway through a bamboo forest will transport you out of the city streets and to a fairy tale land. The grove of giant, swaying bamboo stalks is beautiful year-round and emanates tranquility. If you have time, stop in some of the cute (albeit touristy) shops near the entrance and visit the neighboring temples. [two wandering soles]

Take a Cooking Class – One of our very favorite things to do while traveling is to take a cooking class to learn about the local cuisine. Past cooking classes we’ve taken abroad have included Italy, Peru, Korea, Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, and India (and we’re looking forward to adding more to that list soon!). We are both self-proclaimed sushi addicts, and we couldn’t have picked a better place to learn than Japan. [two wandering soles]

Take a Dip in an Onsen in Hakone – If you visit Japan during the winter, taking a dip in an onsen is a must. I’d imagine these traditional Japanese hot springs are nice in other seasons as well, but the immersing in the steaming water while chilly winter air kisses your shoulders is particularly relaxing. [two wandering soles]

View Kinkaku-ji Temple at sunset – Also known as the “Golden Temple” this is one of the most famous sights in Kyoto. As we found out, it is popular for a reason. It’s exterior is completely covered in gold leaf and makes a stunning reflection in the lake beside it. It is definitely worth a visit, but be warned – the grounds are teeming with tour groups at practically all hours. The morning is said to be least busy, but dusk the most beautiful. Viewing the golden temple as the sun starts to set is spectacular. [two wandering soles]

Wander the woods at Meiji Shrine – Not far from downtown Tokyo, Meiji Shrine is an escape from the city’s bustling streets. Unlike many of Japan’s temples, the structures have not been brightly painted. Instead, the wooden gates were left in their natural state, making these forested grounds all the more serene. [two wandering soles]



Awa Odori (Tokushima) – This is the largest traditional dance festival in Japan. Men, women and children dance on almost all of the streets in Tokushima City, from the 12th to the 15th of August.  They wear summer cotton kimono and straw hats. More than a million people get together for this festival, and it is a spectacular sight. You can even join them to dance with the rhythmic music! [tsunagu japan]

Gion Matsuri (Kyoto) – Gion Matsuri is a one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It takes place during the entire month of July, but the highlight is the grand procession of floats called “Yamaboko Junko” on the 17th and 24th. It takes place on the Kawaramachi and Oike Streets. [tsunagu japan]

Hakata Dontaku Matsuri (Fukuoka) – Hakata Dontaku Matsuri is held on the 3rd and the 4th of May in Fukuoka City. People dance and parade through the streets with wooden “Shamoji,” which is a utensil used for serving rice. It is also called Hakata Dontaku Port Festival because there are lots of events held around the Hakata Port. [tsunagu japan]

Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo) – Kanda Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Tokyo and is a festival for the Kanda Myojin Shrine. The main action happens during the middle of May. The portable shrines, called Mikoshi, are  accompanied by about a thousand people, and after they leave the Kanda Myojin Shrine in the morning, the  parade continues through the Kanda district, Nihonbashi and Akihabara and returns to the shrine in the evening. [tsunagu japan]

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Kishiwada, Osaka) – Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri takes place in Kishiwada City, Osaka, during the middle of September. Danjiri are wooden floats, many of which are heavier than 3000 kg. The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is one of the most thrilling festivals in Japan. People pull their huge floats at breakneck speeds, with the team leaders hopping and dancing on top of the floats. [tsunagu japan]

Kochi Yosakoi Matsuri (Kochi) – Kochi Yosakoi festival began in 1954 after local people created the Yosakoi Naruko Dance. The dance is based on their old folk song, called “Yosakoi Bushi.” People dance passionately with the uptempo music, carrying clappers called “Naruko” which make a click-clack sound. It takes place during the middle of August. [tsunagu japan]

Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori) – The Nebuta Matsuri takes place from the 2nd to the 7th of August in Aomori City. Nebuta are lantern floats which depict human figures and are accompanied by thousands of chanting dancers. The parade starts at sunset and continues for hours. [tsunagu japan]

Tanabata Matsuri (Sendai, Miyagi) – Tanabata Matsuri takes place from the 6th to the 8th of August in Sendai City, Miyagi. It is a festival based on the Chinese legend about two stars, Altair and Vega. You will find thousands of huge colourful paper decorations hanging in the streets. [tsunagu japan]

Tenjin Matsuri (Osaka) – Tenjin Matsuri is a festival supported by the Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka, and is held on the 24th and the 25th of July. The highlights are on the second day with both a land procession and a river procession. At the river procession, the illuminated boats reflect off the river the fireworks go off in the sky. [tsunagu japan]

Yuki Matsuri, Snow Festival (Sapporo) – Sapporo’s Yuki Matsuri takes place in February. The origin of this festival was six snow statues built by local high school students in 1950, and now it has become an international contest of gigantic snow sculptures. [tsunagu japan]

Public Transit

Public Transit

Bus – Almost every Japanese city has a bus network, although, with the exception of heavily touristed areas like Tokyo and Kyoto, the stops are often announced only in Japanese. City buses often have a flat fare. Buses can be confusing: in Tokyo you board from the front door and pay the driver upfront, either by scanning an IC card or depositing coins in the fare box, and disembark from the rear door; in Kyoto, it’s the opposite. [lonely planet]

Taxi – Taxis are ubiquitous in big cities; they can be found in smaller cities and even on tiny islands, too, though usually just at transport hubs (train and bus stations and ferry ports) – otherwise you’ll need to get someone to call one for you. Transit stations and hotels have taxi stands where you are expected to queue. In the absence of a stand, you can hail a cab from the street, by standing on the curb and sticking your arm out. [lonely planet]

Train & Subway – Subway systems operate in Fukuoka, Kōbe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Tokyo and Yokohama. They are usually the fastest and most convenient way to get around the city. The Tokyo metro area and Kansai metro area are further linked by a network of JR and private rail lines. Stops and line names are posted in English. [lonely planet]

Tram – Smaller cities have tram lines. These include Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Kagoshima on Kyūshū; Hiroshima on Honshū; Kōchi and Matsuyama on Shikoku; and Hakodate on Hokkaidō. These usually offer unlimited-travel day tickets. [lonely planet]

Professional Groups & Events

Professional Groups & Events

His Call International Church Young Professionals – His Call International Church Young Professionals is a Meetup group for Japanese and International professionals in Nagoya. Our goal is to connect with new people and have fun together! [meetup]

Kansai Startup Founder 101 – Are you looking to start your own company? Kansai Startup Founder 101 brings together aspiring and experienced tech entrepreneurs to discuss, meet, and collaborate to build great new startups, and to push the local startup ecosystem forward. [meetup]

Tokyo iOs Meet-up – This meetup is primarily for people interested in anything related to programming for the iOS platform (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad). Our members include both professional programmers and interested hobbyists: those who program for a living, those who are working on side projects, and people who are doing it just for fun. [meetup]

Weekend Start Up, Kani – A group for ambitious gatherings and exchanges. Members are targeting people who are actually active as entrepreneurs and those interested in entrepreneurship. We welcome new ideas in exchange and those who want to learn. In addition to the exchange meeting at cafes etc., I would like to plan various events. If you are interested please join us. [meetup]

Language Exchange

Language Exchange

English & Japanese Language Exchange – This group was founded by 3 Brazilians in March 2016, who wanted to teach English to the locals. The group has grown to become a truly international group. The group is now organized by Americans who live in the area. We many members from Brazil, Taiwan, China, Korea, Indonesia, Canada, etc., who attend every week.  [meetup]

Free Language Exchange / Meetup @ “ENGLISH ONLY CAFE” – It is a new sense of cafe that imagines Canadian fashionable and cozy café, a space that allows anyone to easily experience overseas study abroad, money and less time, “Cafe study abroad” concept, “Cafe developed countries”. [meetup]

Kyoto International Dining Club – Do you love dining out and having fun? “Kyoto International Dining Club” is here for you to try new or/and good restaurants in Kyoto. Are you new to Kyoto? Join us to meet new friends who are also passionate about good food! We can enjoy good food, wine and beer with a good conversation as excellent spices. Let’s explore new restaurants in Kyoto! Any suggestions for restaurants are always welcome! [meetup]

Kyoto International Friends Meetup – Kyoto International Friends is held at the Cafe Frosch, close to Kitano-tenmangu shrine, every Saturday evening. Lets get our heads together and enjoy chatting in many languages. If you are interested in meeting new people, making friends from different cultures, practising English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese or any other language, don’t miss out on our events! [meetup]

Kyoto International Language Exchange & Games – We meet to practice language, meet new interesting people, exchange culture and have fun playing games. There are tons of fun games that can help interaction, help create conversation starters and help break the ice. [meetup]

Kyoto Language Lovers – We are club that organizes events in Kyoto for people who are interested in Japanese culture or foreign cultures in general. Anyone who wants to make friends and have fun with people from all over the world are welcome no matter what English speaking level! Let’s meet up to language exchange and cultures. [meetup]

Nagoya International Group – We have a wide range of meetup including casual gathering, hiking, picknick, cultural events, exercise event, sightseeing, and some self developing workshops. The organizer is originally from Nagoyoa but have spent over 10 years outside of Japan, which made her respect other cultures (more about the organizer at the bottom). [meetup]

Nagoya Language Lovers – We are club that organizes events in Nagoya for people who are interested in Japanese culture or foreign cultures in general. Anyone who wants to make friends and have fun with people from all over the world are welcome no matter what English speaking level! Let’s meet up to language exchange and exchange cultures. [meetup]

Nagoya Sunday morning Language exchange! – Is there anyone who wants to improve your Japanese or English? Everyone who wants to talk in English or Japanese, come and join this meeting! [meetup]

LGBT Groups

LGBT Groups

Tokyo LGBTQIAP+ and Supporters – Join us if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, or pansexual. Or join us if you support our rights.  The purpose of this group is simple: to create fellowship amongst the LGBTQIAP community and its supporters. [meetup]



Places in Japan

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