I've been living in Kanagawa for the past 6 months and I have been lucky enough to make some Japanese friends. I'm finding it awkward to bring catch-ups with friends to a close, however, and I'm worried it's making my friends uncomfortable too.
For example, I've been meeting a new Japanese friend around once a week in his cafe for a language exchange. Last week, we started working on some textbook exercises together, and when I next noticed the time, I realised about four hours had passed. I noticed my friend had also started to look a bit bored, and was periodically looking around the cafe like he wanted to do something else. I felt embarrassed that I hadn't been more aware of the time, and I immediately said that I should start heading home (I supplemented my English with a 'sorosoro kaeranai to', which is what my Japanese teacher told me I should say in these situations), - but then he started asking follow-up questions about what I planned to cook for dinner etc ,which I felt was a bit of a mixed-message. The next time we spoke to arrange our language exchange, he said "I have to prepare for a party that day, so I only have two or three hours". I was much more aware of the time at that meeting, and after 2 hours I said "I have a final question, and then I should go home and let you prepare for the party", but after he answered my question he continued making conversation. I said again "ok, this was fun - thank you! I should go home" and packed up my things - but again he made more conversation. Our conversation went on for another hour, and then he looked uncomfortable and apologetic said "I need to get ready for the party." Can anyone offer any insight into what is happening here? I'm worried I'm getting a bit of a reputation for 'hanging around too long', but my best efforts to close the meetings at a reasonable time haven't worked. How do people do this in Japanese? Are there cultural cues that I'm missing here? How do I know when someone wants to end the meeting?
Similarly, on the weekend I hosted a party and four of my Japanese friends came. They had earlier stated they needed to leave at 8pm, but 8pm arrived and no one said anything, nothing happened. I asked if the time was ok and they said yes, but at 8:30 when my Australian friend said "I'm going to head home", everyone leapt out of their seats, as though that was the cue they'd been waiting for and they all left together. I'm very confused! I've been reading etiquette books and doing internet research to try and figure out what I'm missing / what I should be doing differently but so much of the information seems to relate to business meetings, and not casual parties or meetings with friends.
I really treasure the friends I've made here and I hate to think that I'm causing embarrassment or discomfort. If anyone can offer any insight into what might be happening here, what I might be missing, or even just how I could manage these situations better, I would really appreciate it.