Tokyo is host to an amorphous group of foreigners who have left their homes for the East hoping to find, in a modern empire that still seems exotic, something they want, something they need. They form a loose-knit community, a world parallel to but somewhat apart from that of their neighbours. Some depart quickly, others stay on, and then, there are those that remain.
Elaine is American; she's been in Tokyo for years studying an aspect of Japanese Buddhism for her thesis while she ekes out a living teaching English.
Cathy is Australian; she, too, teaches English while she pursues her love of Japanese crafts.
Liz has just arrived, escaping from an unhappy upbringing, wanting to find that she is a scholar, longing to become someone else.
Their lives intertwine with those of other expatriates who have come for business reasons, or to study, or even for the pleasure of being outsiders, as well as with the Japanese amongst whom - and sometimes with whom - they live.