Book Reviews

Special A.C.E. Stories

Online Paper (PDF)

Bids & Public Notices

NW Job Market


Special Sections


The Asian Reporter 19th Annual Scholarship & Awards Banquet -
Thursday, April 20, 2017 

Asian Reporter Info

About Us

Advertising Info.

Contact Us
Subscription Info. & Back Issues



Currency Exchange

Time Zones
More Asian Links

Copyright © 1990 - 2016
AR Home




From The Asian Reporter, V13, #1 (December 31, 2002 - January 6, 2003), page 16.

New guide to Japan boon to foreign residents

A Practical Guide to Living in Japan:
Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Settle In

By Jarrell D. Sieff

Stone Bridge Press, 2002

Paperback, 220 pages, $16.95

By Oscar Johnson

Thanks to all the books I read, I knew how to properly present a business card and catch a taxi when my jetlag and I arrived in Tokyo. But using a simple payphone was my first challenge in this ultramodern city where sleek rice cookers resemble CD players and upscale toilet seats are electric with an array of buttons to push.

"How do the countless English-speaking immigrants that trickle into this country manage," I thought, "especially if they don’t have any contacts here?"

No doubt, the plight of other so-called "gaijin" — many of whom hope to live and work in the Land of the Rising Sun — has become more palatable with Jarrell Sieff’s A Practical Guide to Living in Japan.

I was lucky. My Japanese wife, Miwa, helped me with the basics: paying utility bills at convenience stores, applying for an alien registration card, translating my résumé, and convincing me that the often mandatory photo, at best, was a necessary evil in a society not exactly known for its equal-opportunity employers.

But Sieff’s Practical Guide is a long-overdue work with answers that even most Japanese nationals may not know. This is particularly true of rules that apply only to foreigners planning an extended stay.

From job hunting and renting or buying a home, and navigating the maze of immigration laws, to getting a Japanese drivers license or purchasing a car, the book packs invaluable information for expatriates — both new and old — within 220 pages of straightforward detail.

Guides and books abound for the would-be tourist in Japan. But many wishing to join the ranks of expatriates often have to decipher deceptive legal similarities and blatant cultural differences between their native land and new home largely on their own.

(Those transferred, relocated, or otherwise sponsored by corporate employers will likely have a wealth of high-end services to choose from. This book is for the rest of us.)

It’s a challenge that all international travelers face. What is an embarrassing gaffe for a tourist, however, can for an immigrant mean whether you get the job, or have an honest mistake forgiven following the visa process.

Complete with a glossary of useful Japanese words and phrases, this survival guide offers steps for acquiring mandatory health insurance and explaining to a physician — many of whom may not speak English — that it is not the obvious possession of a buttocks (shiri), which ails you, but the diarrhea (geri) by which you are possessed.

That’s not all. Tokyo, and to a lesser degree the rest of Japan, has a public transportation system that puts those of New York and London to shame. (It is massive, well-kept, and impeccably punctual.) Japan’s immigration system favors its political allies to the West, and foreigners are often forgiven for not mastering the complexity of cultural niceties.

Sure, there are plenty of cursory texts on Japanese etiquette to choose from. But this manual’s lists of payment options for regular train commuters, and details on how to extend or change your visa, are rare and required reading for those bent on more than just passing through.

A Practical Guide also sports an impressive list of important phone numbers such as postal and international phone services, embassies, consulates, and immigration offices. National holidays, traffic sign definitions, religious organizations, and universities with foreign programs also are among the book’s notable lists.

Sieff has even added a handful of brief anecdotal stories in the rear of the book so as to make it complete. As thorough as it is, however, it says nothing about how to operate those electric toilet seats.