Build Your Network and Influence: Networking in Japan

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A few years back I was invited to speak at an event in Sakata called Moshieno University (Moshieno is the word for interesting in Shonai dialect). At the Q&A session at the end, I had a very good question, which was: how were you able to extend your network so much while in Japan?

Now, I can’t remember exactly what I answered, and there is no definitive answer to this question, but I will give you my thoughts:

When someone approaches you, it is because they are interested in you. Be interested in them too. Often people will ask me where I’m from, either in Japanese or English. In those cases I give them my answer, and then I ask the same question of them. Most of the time the answer I get is ‘Japan’, showing how often they are asked this question, so I have to ask them again ‘where in Japan are you from?’ Having been all over Japan, except for Hokkaido, parts of western Honshu, and southern Kyushu, I can usually relate a story with their hometown (travel could be one answer?). This is usually enough to break the ice quite well, and the conversation continues.

I also have a few things up my sleeve that I can ask people as well. You could start off with the typical Japanese conversation of food in the area, or weather, but I prefer to be a little more personal and ask why the person is where they are. Then comes the next tip:


Easy. That’s all. Just sit there and listen to their answer, providing responses when necessary. You can use questions like ‘why’, or ask what they like to do in their spare time, quite a bit, and other things to help the conversation tick along. Once you’ve had a little bit of a connection like this, it’s normally enough to become more than a general acquaintance, and you can continue the conversation the next time you see them.

These answers may be good enough for someone who’s outgoing, although they probably would have already developed these skills. Which leads me to my next point: Going out when it’s an option.

Whenever you have the choice to sit at home or go out to an event, go to the event. The old saying don’t mock it till you try it comes in here. I always try to try new things. You honestly never know what you’ll learn. If you go, and you find out it’s not for you, that’s fine too. You’ll never know if you’ll like something until you try it. But also, you never know who you’ll meet, and they just might be (hint: they will be) someone who you want to meet too.



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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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