Woman using laptop on couch
Photo: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

How to hang out with your friends online for free

Self-isolating and in quarantine? Play games, watch movies together, sing karaoke and admire cherry blossoms with your pals online

By Kasey Furutani

Let’s face it, we’re stuck at home. Covid-19 coronavirus is making its scary rounds and the one thing we can do to help flatten the curve is stay inside. By no means are we bored, though – we’re busy stimulating our minds by learning Japanese and ticking books off our never-ending reading list.

Admittedly, being in quarantine can be lonely without our coworkers, friends and family to talk to. That's where the internet comes in to help – these are some of the best ways to hang out with your favourite people without having to leave your house. 

RECOMMENDED: Pamper yourself at home with these Japanese drugstore beauty products

Catch up from your couch

board game arena hang online
Photo: Remote Insensitivity

Remote Insensitivity

Remember those uni days when you’d drink out of a red solo cup, play Cards Against Humanity and think you’re the coolest person in the room? Well, it’s time to relive your glory days with this open source, unlicensed online version of the racy card game. Gather your funniest, least sensitive pals and be glad you don’t have to see each other’s faces when you accidentally offend someone. 

board game arena hang online
Photo: Board Game Arena

Online board games

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned board game? Board Game Arena offers digital versions of board games, from classics like chess and checkers to party games like Sushi Go and advanced medieval world-building games like Carcassonne. The site has over 20 language options, creating an account is free and the games don’t require a download, you just play from your browser. To play with your friends, make sure they have an account and then click ‘play with friend’ at the top of the lobby page. We’re intrigued by the Japan-inspired game Tokaido, which lets you eat, sightsee and travel through Japan.

Man watching Netflix on tablet
Photo: YTCount/Unsplash

Netflix Party

Missing movie night with your fave folks? Netflix Party is a web browser extension that lets you group chat while you and your pals watch the same movie or TV show in sync. Perhaps the best part is socialising without any of the physical effort – curl up on the couch in your pyjamas while you watch and chat. Here are some of our favourite English-subtitled Japanese shows and movies on Netflix.

Mic generic
Photo: Unsplash


Missing your weekend karaoke nights? Thanks to the beauty of video chat and the internet, you can have your own virtual karaoke night. Any video chat app will do, but with Skype or Zoom, you can share your computer screen, so everyone can see the lyrics and song queue. Best of all, Spotify and YouTube aren’t just limited to the random assortment of songs offered on karaoke machines.

Cherry blossoms, sakura, Meguro River, Nakameguro
Photo: Jenna Neal/Unsplash

Virtual hanami

Hanami, or flower viewing, is a big part of Japanese culture, especially in sakura season, when hanami is synonymous with having a boozy picnic party under the cherry blossom trees. We have to stay indoors this spring, but that’s no reason to miss out on the gorgeous blooms. Put on one of these 360 degree cherry blossom videos, grab your favorite drinks, and video chat your friends – now you’ve got yourself a proper on-nomi party (that’s Japanese for drinking online) with a beautiful floral backdrop. 

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