Meeting peole in a foreign country (Especially Japan)

I’m currently in Japan for business and will be here until at least February. Originally, I’m from the U.S. I’ve spent several years learning the language (although it was back in my college days, so I’m a bit rusty), so I don’t have many barriers there.

The one thing I’m having difficulty doing is meeting some locals. Tokyo seems to be a bustling place full of people that are busy minding their own business (which really, is probably a good thing for the most part). But I do feel a little isolated and would love to get out and get a chance to practice my speaking skills and experience some of the culture first hand.

I know the first thing people think of to meet others is a bar/pub. Well, that’s fine and all, but I don’t drink, and I have a hard enough understanding people in large, crowded places when chatting in English, so it’s near impossible in Japanese.

I’ve had a bit of success since I’ve been joining a local ice hockey club for their practices once a week, but there’s limited interaction there due to the physical activity, and the fact that I’m scattering as quickly as I can afterward so I don’t miss the last train that night back to my apartment.

So, what are some good things to do? Are there cultural exchange clubs for people like me? (I’m not so interested in meeting other ex-pats here, but certainly not against it) Community activities? Other sports to try out as a complete newbie? I’ve searched the web a bit, but am overwhelmed with all the stuff that goes on here, so I thought I’d throw out the idea to the SDMB and see what people have to say.

Are people here amenable to random strangers chatting with them on the train? (I get the impression that’s not a common thing…) I get to go out with my co-workers occasionally, but I get enough of them in the office through the week :slight_smile:

I’m sure some of the Tokyo people will be along shortly to give you more specific advice about groups/activities in the area, but I just wanted to point out that there are plenty of small quiet bars that you can go to and have a conversation in easily. Asakusa for one, has a bunch. I would think that anywhere outside the hugely popular night districts (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, etc) would work. And I don’t think anyone would care if you drank coke or oolong cha all night.

Ain’t that last train thing a bitch? One of the biggest cities in the world and they shut down the damn subway at 12. I think it’s a holdover from when people had good morals and went home early, whenever that was.