Finding an Oasis at Tokyo American Club
How globetrotting journalist Carmen Roberts readies herself for the next adventure
The life of a travel writer and television presenter can be a hectic one. Just ask Carmen Roberts.
The Tokyo-based BBC "Travel Show" correspondent helped release an Andean bear into the wilds of a Peruvian animal reserve on one recent assignment and flew in a World War II aircraft over Pearl Harbor on another.
Roberts and her family joined Tokyo American Club two and a half years ago after her husband was transferred to Tokyo from Singapore with his job.
Located in Azabudai, the private members’ club boasts six restaurants, a glass-topped pool, a stunning view of Tokyo Tower, guest rooms and a host of other amenities. It was founded in 1928 and its membership is made up of more of 50 nationalities.
We recently caught up with the 40-year-old at Chop Steakhouse, the club’s home for all-American steaks.
© Photo by Kayo Yamawaki
You’ve bungee jumped from New Zealand’s tallest tower, fed elephants in Myanmar and landed at the world’s most dangerous airstrip in Bhutan. How do you unwind?
Carmen Roberts: I’m constantly tired, so I’m used to it. This time, coming back from the U.K. was pretty hellish because we flew with the kids. We spent time here at TAC using the Sky Pool, playing in the playground, just keeping them busy, so hopefully they sleep at night.
We love the pool. It’s indoor and heated, but because of the glass roof, it feels like it’s outdoors.
Once, when it was snowing, I was swimming laps while my daughter was taking her swimming lesson and there was snow on the roof. It looked so beautiful.
Since both you and your husband work, how are you able to spend quality time as a family?
CR: We’re always at the Rainbow Café family restaurant. It’s just easy. There’s a buffet with so many choices for everyone. My children love the hot dogs! They could enter hot dog-eating championships by the time they’re 5! The café has plenty of high chairs, which you can’t find in Tokyo. We can fit a double stroller through the door. The staff are quite relaxed about kids. There is not a problem if you spill something — the story of my life.
Finding good English-language activities for children can be difficult in Tokyo. How do you keep your kids busy?
CR: My daughter did the toddler soccer and she is starting ballet at the club next week. She is here twice a week for swimming lessons, which she has been doing since we arrived in Tokyo two years ago. I’ve only got two arms. I can’t hold all three of the kids when they’re in the pool, so she needed to learn to swim fairly quickly.
The club has all the facilities.
They have family changing rooms and showers. You have English-speaking teachers. It’s just easy.
© Photo by Kayo Yamawaki
Are you and your husband able to find any alone time?
CR: We will go to Chop Steakhouse for dinner. My husband loves the steak. He works in Kamiyacho and sometimes he’ll text me: “Hey, do you want to meet me for lunch?” So I’ll just rock on over and we’ll go to the American Bar & Grill. I usually have the California rolls or a salad. My husband likes the steaks and the burgers. The food is simply high-standard.
The rigors of your job require a certain level of health and fitness. How do you stay in shape?
CR: I’m a big fan of the club’s group exercise classes, and I usually try to do at least two classes a week. I usually do yoga, but I’m able to mix it up. I do the TRX circuit-training class, which is more high-tempo. It’s really good for your core muscles and strength. There are several indoor cycling classes throughout the week, and I have no trouble finding one that fits my schedule. I can drop the kids off at school, then run to the club, do my class and then stagger home. My husband tries to get to the fitness center in the morning. He likes the golf simulator, as well. I got him a few golf lessons with the club’s pro for Father’s Day.
© Photo by Kayo Yamawaki
Living in Tokyo can have its challenges. How do you navigate the city?
CR: The club has saved me many times. I can usually manage to get by on pidgin Japanese, but sometimes I need the staff at member services to help with translations or things like that. They help me book restaurants.
Or if I’m really stuck somewhere, like the ward office, I’ll just call the club and the staff will explain to them what I need.
I have also been able to book tickets to events like Disney on Ice. The club is usually how I find out about things that otherwise I wouldn’t know.
How has TAC membership helped with your work?
CR: It’s great to be able to network with people and make connections. I was trying to contact someone at one of Japan’s prominent automakers to do a story about its new self-driving car. I knew one of the club members who worked for the company, and they were able to introduce me to their PR person. It’s been a good way to meet other members of the expat community. The club has been invaluable.
© Photo by Benjamin Parks
To arrange a tour of the Tokyo American Club, contact the membership office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 03-4588-0687.
Whether you're transplanting your family to Tokyo for a few years or establishing yourself as a long-term resident, the Tokyo American Club offers a membership plan to suit your needs and lifestyle.