I think most people are not aware of it yet. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, most of the “Meetup” language exchange groups in Japan have switched to the online version.
Ok, let me explain what’s “Meetup”!
Please check out their website. Essentially, it’s an app/ website that let you hold an event and meet people of similar interest. How is it related to Japanese studies? There are many events in Japan that are tailored towards foreigners wanting to practice Japanese and the Japanese people who want to meet with foreign people and exchange ideas. And, most of these events are held at cafes in Japan, where the organizer of the event might charge some fees, or they might ask you to buy some drinks from the place of the event.
Now, what’s changed because of the Coronavirus pandemic?
The Japanese government has announced the emergency declaration 緊急事態宣言 forcing the events to be held online. That means everyone anywhere in the world with internet access can join these events. This means that this is an opportunity for people living outside of Japan to meet and talk with Japanese people. Just go to the event page, book for the event, and join the event online.
How can I search for these events?
Usually, Meetup shows the events held at your location. But, there is a trick! You can change your location! You can set your location to anywhere in Japan. Switch to big cities in Japan, such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Kyoto, and many events will pop up on your screen.
How should I choose which events to attend?
I have been going to those events for more than a year and I’ll tell you that you need to choose carefully. Generally, don’t go to events that just say “language exchange” without any specific rules. The Japanese people’s will to speak English will overwhelm your desire to speak Japanese. Usually, most events will state that the conversation will “entirely be in Japanese” or “half of the time it’ll be in Japanese and half in English”, for example, 4 sessions with 15 min in Japanese and 15 min in English in each session.
I don’t hold any of these language exchange events.