Having attended international schools in Tokyo all through childhood, I had many friends who were members of Tokyo American Club. Luckily, they invited me there many times when I was a child. It always felt like a special place to me–bowling at the alley, biting into a massive hot dog and trying Dr. Pepper for the first time in my life (it wasn’t available in Japan at the time). In the summer, we would jump into the outdoor swimming pool and play all day long. I had always dreamt of becoming a member, but I could never afford it. Until one day, I got lucky.
I won the grand prize at the Savvy Tokyo End of Year Party in December 2017–a one-month trial membership at Tokyo American Club. Knowing that the Club had grown so much over the years, I couldn’t wait to start my free trial. Once I did, I couldn’t stay away. I was at TAC pretty much all the time and did everything I could to make use of this lucky chance.
Here’s how I explored the club for a month–and why I would recommend it to anyone who is in Tokyo for a long or short-term stay (yes, now they offer short-term memberships, too!).
It’s a heavenly place to do some work
I planned my schedule meticulously to make the most out of it and I found that I was really able to focus on work. One day I had a business breakfast in a comfortable booth at Café Med, and another day a cup of delicious cappuccino during a coffee meeting at Winter Garden–a stunning lounge filled with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls. When I really needed to focus, I went up to the library that houses 20,000 English books, and worked for a few hours.
Another place I made use of is the hideout cubicle in The Cellar, the small café space in the gift shop on the basement floor. I could help myself to American-size cups of coffee, yummy pastries, and the free-to-use plugs, feeling comfortable enough to stay for as long as I wanted. When I needed a break, I went to the women’s locker room and made use of the free massage chairs to refresh.
Everyone [at TAC] was so welcoming. It was a breath of fresh air and a great feeling I hadn’t had in a long time.
It has a great variety of restaurants for different occasions
For lunch, I frequently visited Rainbow Café, as I fell in love with their salad bar. I don’t think there is any other place in Japan where you could get such a combination of fabulous beets (yes, beets!) and ranch dressing. You can also have endless bowls of power food like quinoa or dried fruits. The salad bar comes with a delicious soup of the day and children under the age of 3 are free to hit both the salad and the drink bar–lucky them.
Above all, however, having a steak at the Club’s famous CHOP Steakhouse was an amazing experience. The restaurant welcomed me with a tall wine cellar that refrigerated around 5,500 bottles. Their wine list has been awarded three stars for three consecutive years by The World of Fine Wine magazine. We tried the restaurant’s special–bone marrow with apple bacon chutney on the side–which is by far the best I’ve ever had. Their 23oz bone-in cowboy rib eye was tender and broiled perfectly. The quality of cuisine and service were top-notch.
On my last day of my membership, I took two of my girlfriends to the Club for lunch. It was the best way to end it. We chose Traders’ Bar, a sports bar that is popular among both businessmen and casual diners. We all had American-portion sandwiches, which for us were quite large. It wasn’t a problem, however. At the end of our two-hour fun lunch, the waiter packed the leftovers and we enjoyed them later for dinner.
It’s a place that helps you get back on your feet
TAC is full of great facilities to fit your needs. Undeniably, one of the best is their swimming pool. The old swimming pool at the Club (the one I remember from my childhood) used to be on the ground floor. The pool now, called the Sky Pool, is located on the top floor of the main building.
The property is built on a hilltop, and there are no high rise skyscrapers surrounding it, so it’s hard to believe you’re only on the fifth floor. The iconic glass dome gives you a great view of the sky and you can easily find yourself going there over and over again, just to get some time for yourself. The pool isn’t crowded during weekday mornings. They host a great variety of classes for kids, starting from babies of just 6 months old. The pool is also, for many, one of the most desirable places to sunbathe in all of Tokyo–and get a few cocktails while you’re at it.
On my last day of the membership, I also went for a head massage at The Spa. The bilingual receptionist kindly guided me into the changing room which was filled with warm light and had an inviting interior. The therapist greeted me and took me to a spacious room across the hallway. My whole body was already totally relaxed as I laid down on the comfortable bed. The head pampering (¥5,400 for 30 minutes) relieved my fatigue and I was utterly rejuvenated.
During my trial, I took my friends a few times, brought my family, had exclusive meals, and practically made the Club my office. I biked there enough times to the point the security guards made small talk with me. I visited restaurants frequently enough that the staff remembered my preferences. Everyone there was so welcoming. It was a breath of fresh air and a great feeling I hadn’t had in a long time.
New options for short-term members
Now that my trial experience is over, I keep thinking of ways to go back. Luckily (again), the Club recently unveiled a brand new Term Regular Membership–an option for potential members who plan on living in Tokyo for a short-term stint. Duration is limited to three years–ideal for those planning to come to Tokyo for the 2019 Rugby World Cup or the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
Furthermore, the Club also offers temporary membership. Under the sponsorship of a present member, visitors to Tokyo can take advantage of the Club’s amenities and services for several weeks depending on their preferences.
Both options offer the same benefits as the full-time membership, providing access to all facilities, restaurants and services. Expats moving to Tokyo for any duration of time will be able to find their home away from home–just as I did.
For more information on Tokyo American Club and membership options, read here.
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