August 04, 2012

I Cannot Be an Example to you but I CAN be a Dreadful Warning

  When transfering between JR and private train lines using a rail pass and a SUICA card it is VERY important that one not do the following.

1:Swipe ones SUICA card as normal when entering the Tobu Tojo line.
2:Realize that you need to take the JR line instead and go to that platform, and use the JR rail pass for that train.

This breaks the system and the next time you try to get on any rail service using the SUICA card it flashes red, a loud buzzer sounds and you are blocked from entering the station.

It took over an hour to figure out what had happened and I think I ended up getting charged for the JR time ( despite the Rail Pass) in order to keep it from registering fraud.

When one is typing ones password into ones E-mail account and one is using a Japanese language program,  turn the Japanese language program off and/or switch to "American English" (or whatever your native alphabet is) You see, some Japanese character programs "romanji" setting is unreadable as a proper font if typed into the password field. I could not figure out why I was getting my password wrong, Then it hit me and I turned off the Japanese character program. Too late. I am now locked out of my E-mail.
Never get into a situation where one needs to call customer support from Japan. 1-800, 1-888 and all other toll free area codes are invalid numbers here. One would think that this issue would have come up before and AOL would have a non toll-free number available or instructions on how to contact them from outside the US that don't involve logging in to the E-mail account that they have locked. One would be wrong.

As an aside: If you've sent me an E-mail, it may be 18-19 days before I can get back to you. AOL tech support

Oh, well...laundry's  done I'm off to explore.

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testity test

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August 03, 2012

Flailing a Bit

This morning I got up, showered and decided to head into Ikebukaro to pick up some supplies. I needed a pillow, house slippers that fit my 295mm feet, shower shoes that did the same, various supplies and most importantly a carrying bag for my rail pass. A JR rail pass is made of very flimsy unwaxed cardstock. It is also irreplaceable, and given its value must be protected. It is slightly larger than a passport and the new one is slightly larger still so it will not fit into the passport wallet I'd bought for the purpose. What I needed was something slightly larger than a passport wallet, preferably that could be attached to my belt and didn't require the rail pass be brought through a zippers teeth. I'd had such a case but it was really ragged looking so I left it at home in favor of the passport wallet, which as mentioned was just too small. I also needed a widget  to get my blackberry to talk to my netbook as well as a data card for the camera I brought.

The trip into Ikebukaro was cut short by the fact that the Tobu-Tojo line broke today. When I arrived they were making an announcement that featured the word dekimasen prominantly. I gleaned from what I understood from the PA system that train travel would resume at 10:20. as it was 8:00 I decided to get breakfast.... 650 yen at a Gusto.

I ambled over too the nearby department store to look for stuff, but the non-grocery section was closed untill 10:30. Since shopping was a bust I wandered around a bit looking for a laundromat and when the trains restarted I ambled back to the station.

The backlog of people who needed to get to Ikebukaro was impressive. So impressive that faces were pressed against the glass as people were being crammed in. I


Instead I went the other way following the line out into the countryside on an almost empty train.

I got off in a random station and wandered a bit.

I enjoyed the scenery and got chirped at by sparrows. Yes,  the station was full of sparrow nests.

I started to head back, got off at a station with an attached shopping center where I found a few of the things I needed and...


Would YOU make a contract with this barber?

Some hairstyles come at too high a cost.

With storm clouds gathering and the umbrella back at the maison, I beat a retreat. Still,  I got most of the things I needed except for indoor shoes and a working USB cable for my blackberry. I'll try Tokyu Hands ( which has some western sizes) tomorrow before setting off farther afield.

My foot still hurts so I turned in a bit early, only to be awakened by this...


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The morning of the first I got up 3 and a half hours prior to my scheduled 7:30 departure. I figgured I'd shower, repack my gear and take the 15 minute cab ride to the airport and be at the head of the line. About a hundred other people had had the same idea and this swamped the 4:40 AM cab capacity to the point that I got there about when I would've if I'd slept in and waited for a shuttle. The line was impressive, but I've been to comiket so lines no longer phase me. What DID phase me was that the line did not move...It seems that the computer was convinced that we had all been happily delivered to our destination and refused to give us boarding passes. Now one might think that the old boarding pass was sufficient, but there's some TSA or FAA regulation involved, so sense is not a factor. Eventually, they got the thing straightened out and we began the long slow process of getting into the now very long line to be poked prodded de-shoed and x-rayed.

With only 10 minutes left before my departure I ran three quarters of the way to the gate, twisting my ankle on an escalator, and hopped the rest of the way. There at the gate I noted people coming OUT.

It seems our poor plane had twisted its ankle at the gate and needed to be taken out back and shot. This meant another plane had to be brought in from the plane farm, which took about an hour. Then they had to go to the glue factory and get our luggage off our dead plane, and they also decided to allow other stranded passengers to use our flight and then they had to refile with ATC...all of which which took about 2 additional hours.

The flight itself was pleasant. I was in seat 22A which is close to the bathroom and practically in the galley, so if one wishes to sleep there one is screwed. However, seat 22A is at the very front of steerage, so a person who is 6'1 can do this.....

legs straight out!

and I did too, until my legs got tired. Even better, the person next to me freaked because he got seat 22B which has a terrible rating as it is practically in the galley and is near the restroom. He demanded to get moved farther back in steerage, so I ended up essentially being in biddness class with cheap food.

The crew of DL9856 was very courteous and professional and handled the situation they'd inherited quite well. The replacement plane was an older model without individual screens or AC outlets but the flight itself was remarkably smooth.

I was scheduled to meet my landlord at 3pm JST and he'd made clear that his schedule was tight so if I was late I'd have to stay in a hotel aother night. The delay put me in at noon which was going to cut it close getting to Saitama from Narita. Fortunately there was only one minor delay...some young American woman went into such a flaming debutante frenzy in the JR office that it required the entire counter staff to deal with her. I'm not sure WHAT her childhood trauma was but I think that she had not believed that you REALLY couldn't purchase a rail pass in Japan. It was cringe inducing to see the rest of her party and their Japanese hosts so humilliated. A couple of them tried to apologize for her and she proceeded to chew them out. The young lady went into full harridan mode to the point that the JR staff actually had torun into their office and bring out their attack Russian...a six foot five Slavic dude who is apparantly one of the managers. The JR staff handled themselves quite well. They also sent someone out to hand out the JR Rail Pass paperwork to those of us that needed it in order to expedite our processing so the whole delay was probably only about 5 minutes but it seemed interminable.

I took the Narita express to Ikebukaro without incident and from there called the landlord with only about 15 minutes to spare. I hopped on an express train and glided into an instant transfer to a local train and met the landlord in time. By this time my ankle was throbbing. Anyway, I got the maison rented, got internet hooked up, got the trash schedule and unpacked. I'd been at a dead run since I'd left the airport and my ankle was killing me, so I turned in early. Before I did finally was able to go to the......OH NOES!

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