“When I was a student, I joined a government scholarship program to learn English in the UK. I met a Japanese girl there who was studying flower arrangement. We became friends and she even visited me when I returned home to Kassel, Germany. I wanted so bad to be together with her so I moved to the UK. And then once she finished her studies, we moved to Japan. She’s now my wife and that was 18 years ago.”

Yoyogi Park

“Women sometimes come to me, asking me for help to find a potential marriage partner because they know I organize events and activities for the expat community. They say, ‘Hey I have a friend who’s now 34 and needs to get married by 35. Can you help her find a boyfriend?’ I tell them it’s not going to be easy. Everybody works until very late in Japan. People usually don’t leave the office before the manager does. But this doesn’t mean they are more productive. They’re just physically present. And I guess it’s out of respect for hierarchy. But it’s one reason Japan is having fewer babies. Working long hours means less time to go out, socialize, and make friends, which is how you meet an eligible guy and hopefully start a family. I think the government recognizes this problem, but the pace of change is glacial.

“That’s why I also see a lot of depressed people. Stress from work is too much. So I try to make a difference by hosting activities, especially outdoor ones like hiking. Although I notice that some people prefer drinking events, instead, which is perfectly normal since it’s fun. I’m German so I like to drink myself. Problem is there’s not enough time to mingle and get to know people well enough to establish a real connection. Outdoor activities, on the other hand, are much longer in duration and allow people to put their guards down after a day of interaction. I do this because after years of studying engineering and working in automation technology, I’d rather spend time with human beings than machines. Wanna know a secret? Setup events on a rainy day. You’ll have a higher chance of meeting real people who still attend despite the inconvenience. You also eliminate fair-weather friends.”

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Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

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