Once a year or so I think it's a good idea to remind everyone how our group works. Please help me out by reading our Q&A below. Feel free to email me privately if you have any questions. Thanks.
What are the group rules? Please be polite and respectful to others. And don't be creepy. Thanks. (Please note: if you have any experiences that violate the spirit of these guidelines, inform Jason).
Which organizer should I contact if I have a question/suggestion?
For suggestions, concerns, or complaints, you can always contact Jason. For specific events, you can email the event organizer. Jason allows members to contact him during sane hours and during events by cell phone, but not all organizers are comfortable with this, so please us the "contact" link on each organizer's profile, or their email address. Please remember that organizers are volunteers for the group and remember to respect their time and privacy.
What should I do if my plans suddenly change and I'm unable to attend an event?
If you RSVPed "Yes" or "Maybe", please try to change your RSVP to "No" as soon as you know. We usually need to make reservations for our group so it's always helpful, and often important, to have an accurate count of people attending. If you make a habit of missing events that you say "Yes" to, we may not hold a seat for you. If you are unsure you can attend, please reply "maybe" or "no" with an explanation.
If you are RSVPing for a space-limited event, we consider it bad form to cancel with less than 24 hours notice. If there's a fee for materials, admission, carpooling, or other costs, and you're canceling with less than 24 hours notice, you'll be expected to contribute that amount to the event organizer if we cannot find someone to take your spot.
Are there any formal lesson plans? No, we think most people will prefer a more casual environment. If there's something specific you're working on mastering, you're welcome to bring any textbooks or references you need. Most everyone is glad to help.
What levels of Japanese skill are welcome? Every level is welcome. Many of the non-native Japanese speakers have an intermediate or advanced level of Japanese, but beginners are welcome as well. If you're a complete beginner, you'll probably find people most hospitable if you're making an earnest effort to learn Japanese.
I just started learning Japanese. How can I get the most out of this meetup? If you're trying to learn Japanese in a structured way, you'll need to take some initiative and bring some learning materials and ask questions. We aren't running a classroom, and our Japanese members are usually not trained as teachers, so it's not the place to do grammar drills, but you're always welcome to ask clarifying questions.
I can't attend events. Can I just email people and try to meet them directly?
Most members will consider this kind of behavior awkward or creepy. If you aren't motivated to come to events, this isn't the group for you. It's important to develop a rapport in the group setting before you contact someone you meet privately. We don't have a problem with people developing friendships outside the group, but you should expect basic social norms to apply. Aggressive or inappropriate contact with people in the group is not welcome. You're welcome to contact organizers with general questions about the group or about specific events.
I don't want to receive emails from the group anymore. Remove me from your list! You manage which groups you are a member of. You originally signed up for the group by yourself; you can edit your email preferences by clicking on "Account" at the top of the meetup site. Please don't send email to the entire list asking to be removed; nobody can do this unless they know your member ID. If you send such an email to the group, you authorize us to execute you by firing squad, but you'll still be on the mailing list. Sorry. That's why you have an "Account" page when you sign in to Meetup.com.
I want to attend the dinner events but I have special dietary needs. How does that work?
Most dinner events involve a shared order and we divide the food bill equally among all attendees, and drinks are generally handled based on what each person orders. On occasion, we'll go to a place where ordering separately is allowed, but this creates a lot of extra work for the organizer unless the restaurant is cooperative about such things, and most restaurants are less flexible after 6 or so people are in the group, which makes special orders your organizer's problem. So shared meals are far more likely. We understand that not everyone will eat every dish that comes out, which is why we consider this system fair.
If you have special dietary needs and you note them in your RSVP, we will do our best to accommodate them and your host will direct the staff to place things especially meant for you near where you sit. You'll still be expected to pay an equal share of the food bill. Jason is vegetarian, and shared meals nearly always include plenty of vegetarian options. If it's not practical to accommodate the requests in your RSVP, the event host will contact you as quickly as possible; however, it's always best to RSVP early.
In general, when you go out to a restaurant, you are spending more on the restaurant's rent, utilities and staffing costs than on food, so please remember that you are paying for the experience of enjoying time and food with a nice group of people, rather than buying groceries.
Which events should I attend?
We now typically have a large number of events each month. Most are open to everyone, though you'll occasionally see exceptions like "Girls' Night" or sometimes venue-enforced restrictions such as age 21 and up. Come to the ones that are most appealing to you. The regular events include:
Why don't you have a specific agenda for each event? Well, it's a lot to ask with such a diverse group. Most of us aren't teachers. We don't know what you don't know. We're all at different levels of Japanese skill; some people want to keep using Japanese so they don't forget it, some Japanese members mostly want to practice their English, and some people just want to learn a phrase or two now and then over coffee or a beer. We try to create an environment which is comfortable for everyone, but for which the burden of learning (or not) is squarely on each individual.Can you create a more structured study group?In principal, yes. However, this will take some initiative from members:
- Weekly dinner at what is generally an inexpensive-to-moderately priced restaurant on Thursdays. This is every week, except on major family holidays. Usually 15-25 people attend. Sometimes there's a "nijikai" or second gathering afterward at a bar, cocktail spot or another restaurant.
- Occasional events at coffee shops. Usually 20-30 people attend. These are inexpensive and it's generally easy to come and go at your leisure, since most coffee shops ask for prepayment. Depending on the organizer's schedule, these will usually happen once or twice a month.
- Monthly movie nights. It's best to RSVP early for these, as space is limited, and it's usually at a private home.
- Karaoke nights. These can be at a public or private venue.
- Irregular events at an organizer's or member's home.
- Oshare shi naito: Girls' night, women only, usually at a more luxurious restaurant or lounge, or spa.
I'm Japanese. Can I practice English? You're always welcome to practice English. Most of the conversations in our group bounce between English and Japanese.May I bring other people to the Meetup? For any of the public place Meetups, yes. We like to see new members. For "private home" events, please be kind enough to ask the event host. Either way, please make sure to enter the number of additional guests in the box next that says "and I'm bringing  guests" in the RSVP tool.How can I introduce my friends to this meetup?Send them a link to japanese.meetup.com/469/ or bring them along to the next meetup.How can I find the group when I arrive at the Meetup Location?Please see How To Find The GroupAre there membership fees? We have a suggested contribution to cover Meetup.com charges, booking fees for certain locations, and the occasional shortage that we run into. It's not required if you're unable to pay, but if you can afford to make a contribution and you get some value out of the group, we appreciate it. You can contribute using Paypal or just provide cash to an organizer at the Meetup itself. If you're a starving student, don't worry about it. Another option is to pay a little more than is required to settle your bill when we are eating out. Leftover money goes toward Meetup.com fees.Can I arrive late? It's fine to show up after the start time; everyone has different schedules and lifestyle demands. Keep in mind that many of our venues close after 9pm or so. We may move to another location when people want to continue chatting. If you expect to be late, please make a note of it in your RSVP, as we are now large enough that the organizer must generally make reservations at our Meetup locations.What are the terms of membership?In principal, membership is open to anyone who speaks Japanese, is learning Japanese or is curious about Japan. However, retaining membership is a privilege. The organizers reserve the right to remove people who behave inappropriately or cause discomfort to other members, or those who abuse the trust and goodwill of the group. The discretion of the organizers is the sole and final authority for decisions about membership.Why are the events always in a different place?Jason gets bored going to the same restaurant all the time. Also, a number of people in our group want to get to know Seattle better; changing neighborhoods and trying different places is a good way to get people to explore the city. Additionally, rotating the neighborhood makes it possible for some people to attend who otherwise might not make it.Can you arrange some events in South King County, North of Seattle, or on the Eastside?We have a number of members living North or South of Seattle, and we'd be happy to schedule occasional or even regular events outside of city limits, but only rarely have we had people volunteer to organize such events. If you're interested in coordinating events from time to time, please come to one of our Meetups and talk with Jason. There is also a Bellevue-based Japanese meetup, although the style is a bit different than ours.How do I convince you to meet in my neighborhood?Jason is happy to take suggestions for restaurants for our Thursday night meetups anywhere in Seattle city limits; the main criteria are: 1) the restaurant must accept reservations for groups of 25-35 people. 2) it should be possible to eat for under $20/person, not counting drinks. 3) The location should have reasonable bus or light rail access for members dependent on public transportation. If your suggested location doesn't meet these criteria, we may be still be able to schedule a side event on another day.For the Tuesday night Traveling Kissaten events, the requirements are: 1) Adequate space for 15-25 people. 2) Serves coffee and/or tea, preferably with counter service or willingness to split checks 3) Reasonable bus/light rail access. The coffee shop needs to be open until at least 9:30.What should I do if an event is full?You can make a note in your RSVP that you'd like to participate in the nijikai; contact Jason to find out where the nijikai will occur. In some cases, the limits are "soft" and are extended when we know we can get more room, so you may want to check in again as the event approaches to see if the limit has changed.What kinds of events do you do other than the Thursday night gathering?We've recently started to plan events on occasional Mondays, Tuesdays, and weekends. During the summer festival season, we'll also try to keep you up to date on what's going on around Seattle, so check your email and look at the calendar regularly.How did this get started?From ~2004 to early 2006, a group of people met weekly on Tuesday nights at Uptown Espresso in Belltown. The original organizers listed the group on Meetup.com until perhaps mid-2005, when Meetup started charging organizers a fee to maintain their groups. Over time, many Japanese members moved back home and other members found themselves working elsewhere, so the groups became smaller and smaller because there was no way to introduce new people to the group. Then, in November 2006, Matt T. and Jason decided to resurrect the group with a slightly different style. We decided it would be best to meet at reasonably priced places that served dinner and maybe a little beer or wine, and we would use each location every four weeks or so. Matt moved to Japan for a year or so. Now Jason and several other people organize 6-12 events a month. The group has grown to nearly 500 members, about 200 of whom are relatively active.
- If you're a native Japanese speaker or qualified as a Japanese teacher, and would be interested in coordinating such events, contact Jason; he can help you create events. You may be able to ask for a reasonable per-event fee to help cover your costs and time.
- If you're just looking for people with a similar level to you as study partners, such as for JLPT tests, come to one of our social events and talk to different people; find people with similar objectives and discuss with them when to meet. Jason will be happy to create formal events if you can agree on the details.
- If you're looking for English study group opportunities, the same basic ideas apply.