An Expat’s Guide to finding your path in the City and Beyond…

by Jennifer Hallowell

You’ve arrived in Japan, now what? Normally the first few months are filled with miscommunication, cultural differences, and a general feeling of confusion and isolation. Luckily help has arrived in the form of a very comprehensive book called Tokyo: Here and How. Take advantage of the information collected from those who have already gone through it—the hard way.

The Women’s Group (WG) at Tokyo American Club is responsible for this comprehensive collection of information. The WG was formed in 1949 and is a volunteer-based organization that orchestrates various events for its members and the public, including its very popular three-day orientation program called Tokyo: Here and Now.

The book was inspired by the aforementioned three-day orientation in 2005, when after a very informative program the organizers realized there was no comprehensive hand-out for all the participants. But don’t let the name fool you, this book isn’t written specifically for women or wealthy expatriates, it is for anyone who finds him or herself in Tokyo for whatever the reason.

Betty Noguchi, a member of the WG and large voluntary contributor (think writer/photographer/organizer) to the book, said, “We all had the standard guide books and random helpful websites, but had nothing that was comprehensive. We wanted to create a book we all wished we had when we first arrived in Tokyo. We had a very clear vision of what we wanted to create, and all worked towards our common goal. We wanted to offer something that was nothing like anything else on the market.”

As Betty and the rest of the Tokyo: Here and How team quickly realized, it was easier said than done. The first real meeting regarding the book was in January 2006, with an estimated completion date of February 2006, well one year later, after much research, the book is finally finished.

The Tokyo: Here and How team hopes that the book will be “an invaluable sidekick while you establish yourself in Tokyo, and the first resource you reach for when you need ideas or information.”

I think the Ladies’ of the WG can rest assured because this book is chockfull of useful information. The Table of Contents makes this expat sigh with relief, and I am not even a new transplant. The book covers everything from the much needed ‘Settling In’ section to the very helpful ‘Dining Assistant’ (see below) complete with photos, helpful phrases to use during restaurant dining, and listings of restaurants by neighborhood, to places to shop, reliable movers, entertaining guests, and much more. I personally took special interest in the ‘Weekend Getaway’ section, which provided me with new ideas about where to go and the easiest way to get there. The book’s specially highlighted Tip and Note boxes make navigating the different sections quite easy and the sheer girth of information in each section is astounding.

This book shouldn’t only be thought of as a research and resource book though; it also has dashes of fun and interesting facts spattered throughout.

The ‘What the Heck is That?’ sections, written by Alice Gordenker, a Japan Times columnist, are interesting and whimsical answers to many of our pressing questions. Ever wondered why many of the Japanese Alley Cats have stumpy tails? Or why there is a giant sculpture of a spider in Roppongi Hills? Alice answers these questions and more.

Newcomers and long-term residents alike will have much to take away from this extremely comprehensive guide. Even if you think you know all there is to know about this thriving Metropolis, I guarantee that Tokyo: Here and How will uncover something you didn’t already know.

Tokyo: Here and How, An expat’s guide to finding your path in the city and beyond… was published by Alexandra Press and is currently being sold at the Tokyo American Club (For inquiries, volume orders and shipping, e-mail [email protected]), The American School in Japan Early Learning Center in Roppongi Hills, and the Foreign Buyer’s Club

New distribution points are to be added in due course, please see the Women’s Group website for updated information at