What better way to learn about Japanese culture and practice your language skills than by interacting with Japanese people firsthand? In addition to making friends in person, writing to a pen pal is ideal for people who are busy (or shy!) Plus I personally enjoy receiving “fun” mail rather than strictly bills and ads in my mailbox.
There are numerous websites for meeting pen pals, but these are our favorites:
Postcrossing is a free website that facilitates postcard exchanges between its members. After signing up, the site will randomly give you the address and profile to another member so that you may send him/her a card. Likewise, random members around the world will receive your address and send you cards. One fun feature of the site allows you to upload pictures of the cards you have received and keep them on a virtual wall. I personally have been using the site for years and have had nothing but positive experiences.
While Postcrossing has members from 214 countries rather than specifically Japan, you can find pen pals and direct exchanges on its “Forum” page.
PenPal World is one of the most highly rated free websites for finding letter exchanges. After creating a profile, members can search among over two million members from various countries around the world. We appreciate that the site offers protections such as the ability for minors to block adult profiles, an in-app messaging service without use of a personal e-mail, etc. The basic site allows members to contact up to three people daily, while a paid membership allows for fifty daily contacts.
Rather than a traditional letter exchange, HelloTalk is an app focused on language learning. The free app allows members to instantly connect with individuals or groups and send instant messages in your language of choice. Native speakers can offer feedback to help language learners grow. As more than eight million people use the site, it is easy to connect with Japanese members.
While these sites all offer precautions to protect member privacy, it is still important to be careful when looking for pen pals. We suggest limiting the personal information that you include on profiles and adjusting your privacy settings as needed. Having mail sent to a post office box is another way to exercise caution.
Have fun and be safe!