Right, so I think I’m over my short-but-sweet bout of depression from last night. But now instead of sad, I’m pissed off.
Commence the run-through of my day.
I left the flat at half eleven to go to a junior high school as a volunteer… I was already annoyed at this point, because we had to make our own way there, and it took me ages trying to figure out how to do it using Google Maps. (No smartphone app like Joukan Nabi, the Osaka train service app, to help me.)
Then I made a quick stop in the Post Office so I could send a postcard to my folks. Only ¥70, wow, okay, that’s pretty cheap. I was happy. As soon as I’d finished I turned around to try and use the ATM and two women cut in front of me where there had been a non-existent line. A woman and her nosy child that kept pressing buttons without her permission took a full five minutes trying and failing to do whatever it was she wanted to do. The woman after that took about half as long, but still two minutes too many. I proceeded to use the machine, in Japanese, and it took me twenty fucking seconds. If I can do it, why can’t you assholes do it?
I was illogically angry, probably as a continuation from last night’s bad mood, and muttered, “the fuck are you looking at?” whenever kids or elderly folk stared at me. I’m not new to being stared at, but when you’re in a bad mood, every little thing pisses you off.
When I got to the monorail station, I saw there was a train heading to where I needed to go at 11:56. I looked at my watch. It was 11:56. Fuck you, woman who took 5 minutes to use the bloody ATM.
Luckily, the train hadn’t left yet – I made a dash and got on the train at 11:57, just before its doors closed. From there, I had to change twice – once on the monorail, then switch to the Hankyu service, aka actual trains. I’d done pretty well for myself, venturing into unknown territory.
That is until I got a local express train rather than a local train. If there was a sign saying “express train”, I missed it. I went sailing past my stop and it took me about ten minutes to realize, even though we were going far faster than what I thought was normal. I wasn’t at all sure if I was getting the right one back when I eventually did get off the train, but I was so fucking done by that point that I’d decided it would be too fucking bad if I never made it and the school would have to go on with out me. Last time they organised travel for us, rather than letting us find our own way. I was happy to try to be independent, but isn’t that kind of cruel? I could have ended up in Kyoto or something. I can’t imagine sending my Japanese exchange partner from two years ago off to try and find her own way to another town in the outskirts of Manchester that requires changing trains three times.
I made it, in the end. I was only ten minutes late, and thankfully it was no big deal as we didn’t start for another half hour. They gave us tea whilst we sat as desks in a classroom before entering, and the desks were heated underneath, like a kotatsu, which was pretty nice. It was at this point I realized I wasn’t really prepared to present my country for a ten minute slot. At least I’d organized a handout, which I think was a good idea as it was something for the kids to keep a hold of, especially as they contained British English phrases that they’d inevitably forget.
We were taken to the gymnasium, which was pretty chilly, and we sat there for about two hours. We gave our “presentations” in front of about 150 children. The other students were from Korea, Taiwan, Brazil and Kazakhstan, and they all used Powerpoint to illustrate their countries. Last time when I visited the elementary school I used Powerpoint, but the kids looked bored and I remember them having more fun with the Chinese girl who was more active and taught them Chinese, so I opted out of using Powerpoint this time, but I regret not being able to show them how pretty the UK is. I loved showing pictures of Oxford, Manchester and London last time, as well as pictures of delicious food. Well, I suppose there were little illustrations on the handout. But still. I’ll try to make a healthy use of both in the future.
After that, two boys presented party tricks to us featuring a more complicated version of the cup-and-ball game, and four girls performed a surprisingly complex dance routine. I wish I’d been videoing it (though that would be creepy as I’m pretty sure filming children would upset a few people).
We got into groups and the children asked questions in English, but very unenthusiastically. I can’t blame them, I didn’t start learning grammar for any other language other than random vocab until I was thirteen, in German. So even though I said simple things, like “I like winter because I like cold weather”, or even one-word replies like “winter”, they crumbled. Considering they made up the questions, e.g. “Which season do you like?”, you’d have thought they’d have learnt the English words for the seasons. Never mind.
Then they sang us a song, Furusato (which I think means “Hometown”). The first line was usagi ga oishi. I couldn’t translate the oishi… it looks a lot like oishii, which means “delicious”… really, Japan? That’s a morbid start to a children’s song!
Overall it was pretty enjoyable. I didn’t fuck up quite so badly as I did in the elementary school.
When we went back to collect our bags, we got a nice surprise, which I think was the highlight of the entire day: they paid us each ¥7000. I was really shocked but happy, as it was a volunteering job and I hadn’t expected payment of any kind, not even compensation for the public transport. That’s a lot of money to give to someone to speak for ten minutes in broken Japanese and give one-word replies in English.
I thought about stopping the school visits after the third one, as the first one went kind of badly and I just wanted it to be over with, but it’s good experience, and who knows, I may even get paid again in some way, though that’s a bad reason to volunteer for something. It’s called “volunteering”, after all; you’re doing it for no payment.
For the third time in two days, I had to charge my IC card. The price of public transport in Japan really pisses me off, though it’s meccha convenient to have a monorail/subway/bus option for pretty much everywhere. I just feel like the distances are ridiculously short. Like for the separate entrances for Bampaku-kinen-kouen (World Fair Memorial Park) in northern Osaka, there are monorail stations for the main entrance and the east entrance. And I just measured this on Google Maps, so I’m not shitting you: It’s 500 fucking metres. I could run that distance in the time it takes to stop at the East Entrance, let people on, travel really slowly so it doesn’t zoom past the next station, slow to a stop, then let people off.
Okay, I miscalculated, it’s 800 metres, but still! This is why it takes so fucking long to get anywhere. Too many stops, so trains go too slow, and because it takes that much time, train lines are really short, so you have to change trains after travelling 5km in 35 minutes. I could almost WALK that distance in that same time. I walked to Onohara, which is 3km away, and that takes 20 minutes. Travelling 1km in 7 minutes… wow, I have a running time that’s faster than that, when I was fifteen. Jesus Christ.
Anyway, I’ve gotten off topic. On the way back when I meant to get the train back the way I came, I forgot that due to having to travel back the way I came earlier, it would logically be the same platform to head north, but I forgot this, thinking “I came here in one direction, so to get back I need to go in the opposite direction”. But I covered up this mistake by deciding to go to Umeda and finally upgrade to a smartphone.
You know how long I stayed in Yodobashi-Umeda?
FOUR FUCKING HOURS.
To upgrade my phone.
First off, there was an hour-and-a-half wait for an appointment. Okay, I thought, though that’s completely sucky I’ll go have something to eat. It occurred to me that this would be the first thing I’d eaten all day. I had modanyaki with shrimp and pork in it. Delicious. They gave me a little scratch card to see if I’d won a prize, and I hadn’t because I’m a loser, so they gave me packs of tissues instead. Aww. Thanks guys.
I had half an hour to go, but I went and sat down in SoftBank anyway in case they called my number out early, like they did last time I made an appointment and I went wandering off. While I was waiting, they led a foreigner towards the front desk. I could tell he was foreign because of his curly brown hair, his fedora hat, his jeans with a rip behind his left thigh, giving me a view of his skinny leg. Not very Japanese. He was also over six foot and thin as a rake. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, except then he spoke.
He was American, which doesn’t really have much to do with it, and I’m not sure what he was trying to accomplish exactly, but after a few moments of the shop assistants speaking to him quietly, he threw back his head and went, in English. “You cannot be serious.” (In a way that would give John McEnroe a run for his money.) “This is fucking ridiculous.” That turned a few heads, of course, especially mine. Then, “All I want is to give you money. Why won’t you take my money? You make this whole thing way more unnecessarily complicated than it has to be.”
I have to admit, he had a point. I gather he was trying to charge his phone card and they wouldn’t let him, I don’t know why. He asked several times if he could go to a 7-Eleven and charge it there, and after three times of asking, they eventually said “yes”, and he went, “Thank you” in a curt voice that clearly meant, “You people are fucking useless”, turned on his heel and swiftly exited the store. The poor shop assistant walked away looking as though he was going to cry. I caught his eye (an accident… I didn’t mean for him to know I’d been watching), and he quickly looked away again. Understandable that he probably didn’t want to deal with foreigners again for the time being.
I can understand the customer’s frustration. I wonder if he made an appointment and had to wait for ages, and try and find someone who spoke English, only to find his trip was in vain, and that it was for an entirely stupid fiddly reason.
But at the same time, to walk in there, not even try to speak the language, then give the shop assistants a hard time… then again, I say that, but despite not agreeing with the way he handled the situation, he said what I was thinking.
When it got to my turn, I kid you not, I was talking to the same shop assistant for a grand total of two and a half hours. Jesus Christ. That’s even longer than it took to set up a phone in the first place, including the waiting time.
First disappointment: I wasn’t assigned someone who spoke English, so I’d come all the way out to Umeda for nothing. I could have gone to Senri-Chuo and probably would have received faster service. I said it was fine if they spoke Japanese to me slowly, and that still wasn’t what slowed us down. It was all the paperwork, them keeping on saying “chotto matte kudasai” (“please wait a moment”) when they went off to take care of something seemingly after every question I answered.
It WAS possible to transfer all my data over to a new smartphone. There was even the possibility of getting an iPhone 6, which I declined, but if you like your Apple products, then eat your heart out. I bet it’s more expensive to run it, anyway.
The “cheapest” smartphone (cheapest, my ass) was the Aquos Sharp smartphone, which came out this year. All I wanted was a simple smartphone like my Samsung Ace 3 back in England, but I was given a smartphone that was only released this year, with the entire front being a screen. It looked expensive. And it was.
Of course, you don’t pay any money for the actual phone, but you buy a deadly expensive contract. Yuusuke was right when he said SoftBank was incredibly expensive for smartphone contracts; they were all ¥8000 and upwards.
To bring the monthly fee down to ¥6000 a month, it meant paying ¥55,000 upfront.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
I didn’t realize the fee was to reduce my monthly costs at that point – all I understood was I’d be paying ¥55,000 upfront for a fucking smartphone that’s supposed to cost ¥0. I couldn’t believe my fucking ears. Japan, you’ve already fucked me up the ass over and over with your expenses and your paperwork and your confusing public transport. Why do you have to unnecessarily overcomplicate and overprice your technology too? Aren’t you supposed to be the most innovative country on the planet? I mean, whenever I was waiting for my shop assistant to come back, I watched the overhead TV screen and it kept playing adverts with the domesticated Pepper robots, funded by SoftBank. (Carlos-sensei was right btw, those things are fucking scary-looking. They definitely look like they could become a potential Doctor Who monster that takes over the planet.)
There was… another option.
From Friday 21st to Sunday the 24th, there’s a “campaign” at SoftBank where you can get an iPhone 5C and only have to pay ¥6300 upfront.
So if I’d just come in a day later…
Though of course, it would mean I’d have to change my number and my phone mail address. Also it wouldn’t give me a discount on the monthly charge.
This was my second time coming to SoftBank in the space of a week and not getting what I came for, and by this point I’d been in the same building for three hours. The idea of leaving with nothing, having to go all the way back to M-Campus, (which takes an hour/ an hour and a half because of the changing trains/buses) then repeating the whole sorry business again from scratch the next day, especially as I don’t finish school until 2:30 and SoftBank would be crowded again when I got there, and I’d have to wait another hour and a half… I wanted to cry.
So I suppose I was just lazy by deciding to pay up the ¥55,000. The shop assistant looked at me like I was crazy; I was paying almost ten times as much up front as I would have if I’d waited an extra day, which is nearly the same as paying for three annual passes to Universal Studios. So I didn’t really have a right to complain about it on Facebook afterwards, because I chose to pay that much. Though I could justify my indignation by saying if there hadn’t been a “campaign” I’d have had to pay this much anyway. Also, looking back, it was only the amount I had to pay upfront that was intimidating. It gives me a discount on how much I pay monthly to use it, which wouldn’t have been the same with the iPhone. Also, I’d been screwed over too many times trying to sacrifice convenience for cheapness. If I’d gone for the iPhone, I could only imagine how much trouble it would have brought me by having to change my number and mail address… actually probably not that much. Oh God, I should have waited. But I was impatient and fed up and tired and thought fuck it, I’m through with dealing with places like this, all I want to do is get my smartphone and get the fuck out of there. It’s still ¥10000 to cancel it, by the way. At least that didn’t increase in price. I get to keep my flip-phone as a souvenir, too.
Then after ALL that, they charged me an extra ¥1000 for a new charger, which made me want to punch a wall. Idiots, as if I’d buy a phone without a charger. Also, haven’t you hurt me enough?
One perk came out of it – two, I suppose, if you include the quality of the phone itself, as it’s pretty snazzy – which was they gave me free speakers. Amazing. Well, I have no music on my phone yet, and I don’t know how to put it on there, but when I do… unfortunately, the walls here are super thin, so I’m probably not going to have an opportunity to use them, unless we hold a party in the flat. Which is unlikely. So far down the impossibility scale you could almost say “impossible”.
But they’re nice. Too bad I can’t take them back to the UK. Well I could, but with difficulty. I’m not talking about the shipping.
1) England uses double the voltage that Japan does so Japanese products tend to blow up when you try to plug them into British outlets. I fear for my takoyaki-maker.
2) I don’t know if they sell Aquos products in England, and even if they do, I’m not sure I’ll get another Aquos phone just for the sake of using free speakers.
3) I could take my phone with me, but I wouldn’t be able to use it except for music, and I’m not THAT desperate to use the speakers. I’d rather sell the phone once I’m finished with it, as it’s pretty snazzy, and I could sell the speakers too.
I entered Yodobashi-Umeda at 4:50pm. I left at 9:10pm.
While I’m pissed off at how much I had to fork out for a “free” phone, I’m so fucking glad I don’t have to go back there again and deal with their bullshit for another year.
Unless I break my phone…
Oh God. I fucking hope I don’t. It would cost close to ¥30,000 to repair a shattered screen. I’ve never broken my phones before now (touch wood) and I really hope this year is not the year I manage to do it.
The phone’s pretty nice, but I’m not sure I like the feel of it. It’s too big in my hand, making one-hand manipulation difficult, and with the whole front being a glass screen, it could very easily slip through my fingers. Also the selfie camera is on the bottom of the phone rather than the top, which is a pain in the ass. If you don’t want a photo that stares straight up your nostrils, it’s even in the instructions that you have to turn the phone around. What a pain.
And what do you know, even though I’ve forked out so much for a phone, there STILL isn’t an option to mute the camera shutter. Thanks a fucking bunch.
I of course put my new smartphone to use straight away, by complaining about price for said smartphone on Facebook, whilst using it and enjoying it like a delightful first-world hypocrite.
A Roald Dahl-style couplet:
“Oh, life is so hard, she complained with a groan;
Whilst typing this out on her expensive smartphone.”
That man would have been a genius at describing society today in short sweet rhyming couplets. I could be like the Quagmires from A Series of Unfortunate Events and write a couplet for every day, as a kind of moral reflection. That sounds interesting.
I’m already feeling like the smartphone wasn’t worth it, as it’s not particularly new technology for me to excite over, but I know I’ll be grateful for it in the future. I have LINE now, which I suppose is the Japanese equivalent to WhatsApp – you can call and message people on LINE for free. I also have Google Maps, of course, and the photos are of pretty stunning quality. I can use translators on the internet; I can check my Facebook messages if people choose to use that form of communication. I also downloaded 乗換ナビ (Joukan nabi – Info regarding trains in the Osaka area, so the Osaka equivalent of National Rail). So from now on I won’t make the same mistake I did today of accidentally boarding a local express train.
I need to find the app for buses, too.
I got distracted from writing this because I downloaded Candy Crush (sigh) and of course it starts all the way back from Level 1, so I just zoomed through the first ten levels.
Again, I’ll try not to feel so down about it. Just think of it as another expense I have to pay. And my rent is still four times cheaper than it would be in England, not to mention there are loads of amazing things you can get really cheaply over here. I got the bus rather than the train back from Senri-Chuo; already making a conscious effort to live a cheap lifestyle. Save money in every corner possible.
It’s a shame that I was paid ¥7000 only for that to be a drop of water in return compared to the bucket I had to empty to pay for the smart phone. I’m left feeling like I lost more than I gained, which is true, but thank goodness I actually earned some money over here, finally. My mum also paid me £40 for the Christmas card design. I can also ask Carlos about the job opportunities tomorrow. And I have that part-time job possibility in the works recommended to me by mum. All about those connections.
So, some tips for when you come to Japan, regarding phones:
– If you’re not coming for very long, just for a holiday, you can hire a phone/ pocket wifi device for only ¥400 a day, which you can find at your airport. Do it there.
– Unless you haven’t yet become accustomed to using technology a lot in daily life if you’re a technophobe like my Mum (and even if you haven’t, you’ll probably have to get used to it anyway in order to keep up with everyone else), get a smartphone.
– All phones are expensive here; deal with it. Hold your tongue and pay up.
– Instead of going straight to a phone company like SoftBank (ridiculously expensive for smartphones), go to a second hand shop and buy a SIM-free phone. Then go to Docomo (the only network shop that sells them individually) and get a contract. You will save ions of money that way.
– ALL contracts here last for two years, so be aware of that when you come as if you only come for a year you’ll have to pay a ¥10,000 bailout fee (might differ depending on what network you use – that’s the SoftBank service).
– If you’re going to a phone shop, to set up a phone, or for phone troubles, make sure you set at least four hours aside, like I did. It is NOT something done quickly.
– Bring your residence card and your passport to the phone shop.
– Expect to pay at least ¥10,000 upfront, so have the cash on you. And that was only for a flip-phone.
– You can’t set up direct debit with a Japanese cash card, so unfortunately you’ll have to use your foreign debit/credit card, which is going to pull out even MORE money because of the overseas tax, so unless you have a Japanese credit card, then boo hoo, sucks to be you.
I called this post “The Cost of Convenience”. Actually, having to spend too much money for something not worth that much money is an inconvenience in itself.
Oh well, there’s a new episode of South Park out, so I’ll watch that to cheer me up. And it’s now 4am. I have class in less than five hours. To sleep, or not to sleep… I think it’d be better if I slept. I don’t think I’ll last that long.