There is Docomo and there is SoftBank. Docomo is more for Blackberry users and people who plan to travel a lot (they seem to have plenty of towers all over the place). Softbank is for iPhone users and people who are primarily city dwellers. Their connectivity can be patchy at times but this may be offset by the cost savings since SoftBank tends to be less expensive. I have opted to keep my Blackberry US phone active although not turned on so I can have a phone when I travel back and a local number so I don’t scare people with a phone number that is obviously international even though I am in the country when I visit. When you enter the Softbank store, take a number then take a seat. It is the Japanese version of an Apple store and it is very organized and busy but if you wait patiently and long enough your number will come up eventually. Let me just say that it was 3 hours of my life I will not get back, however, Chase was extremely accommodating since there were free iPad2′s around for him to play on and we were in an air-conditioned room. I must also admit that the sales lady escorted us to the most fantastic Ramen place and let me tell you, the Ichiban Ramen you eat in the States and cook in 3 minutes is a far cry from true authentic ramen made in this place. I swear, Chase and I can’t stop thinking and talking about it… but I digress. I must also emphasize that one must be prepared with lots of cash. For one, the Japanese pay for everything in cash and it isn’t unusual to just carry wads of it all the time. I decided that I wanted to buy my phones (one for me and one for Chase) outright. I really didn’t want to think about payment plans or try to decipher all the schedules. I decided to get an iPhone 4 (which is what I was told all the expat women do) and picked out a phone for Chase that isn’t an iPhone, but something to make calls, texts, emails, and track him by GPS if he was lost. I also believe I opted for the easiest and simplest of plans. You also have to buy a charger because that’s just how they roll in Japan. All in all, 3hrs and 70,755 Yen ($920.81) later we were walking out with our new handy dandys. As a side note: right before the lady escorted us to the ramen restaurant, I had just plunked down in our booth the yen/cash on the counter and she didn’t even put it away before we left! It was just out there on the counter and as we were walking to the restaurant I asked her if it was okay and she just smiled and said no problem, like people just leave money unattended all the time! We’ll when we came back from stuffing our faces with the awesomest ramen EVER! the phones were all set and she gave me the change I had coming.
So Cliff and I went to the CitiBank to get a supplemental card for me. Ladies, don’t even think for one second that you are going to get your own account without a blood-letting and animal sacrifice. As “modern” as Japan is, it is very much the male dominated society. The only women who are working are single ones and they only get to stick around until they find a husband. Once the ladies at Citibank realized it was just a supplement card we were asking for there was a huge sigh of “ok…” It was a little off-putting because as the spouse, you are sort of talked about in front of your face while your husband speaks and writes. We got to the “see your papers” part of the meeting and when I handed them my temporary alien papers (which worked fine for Cliff) they said it was not enough because I was missing 1 sheet. So after much huffing and puffing from my husband, we had to admit defeat and promise to come back after I had proper documentation.
I am sorry but I just don’t have the energy to break down our trips to Karuizawa and Kyoto. I have inserted a slideshow with photos from the trips as well as a photo of Chase doing what we now refer to as “The Tide 300″. This is when you have to carry a big container of Tide through subways and streets because your mom is too cheap to just hail a cab.
Until next time…