Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Japan is hard!

Japan takes some work - it is worth it but nothing is ever quite straightforward. Let me give you an example: today our plan was to include a tour of the Imperial Palace - all the photos on this post are architectural details from there, because really there are no photos relevant to my tale of hard work! Even getting on this tour involved two registration offices and two showings of passports. Japan is a country where you need a lot of cash because not everywhere will take a credit card, including some restaurants we have been in. We took some with us from home but planned to get more on arrival. In Tokyo we noticed that ATM's were not readily available in the places we would find them at home - filling stations, shops, holes in the wall on the street. That we find is typical of Japan - its not that they don't do things we do, they just do them differently. (You all know about Japanese toilets I am sure!)
So in Tokyo we decided we needed to find a bank. We went to Shinjuku main station, got outside, walked down the street, saw a CityBank, went inside and there is the ATM. It has an English option. Card in, cash out. Bingo. Easy save that I would have preferred the ATM in the station where we would put it, but you know - no big deal.

Today we realised we were getting very low on cash again. Time to find a bank. The map has department stores. Where there are stores there are banks I reckoned. True. The main shopping area has lots of them. Only all their (inside) ATMs are in Japanese. In the third bank I ask for help. No, bank ATMs do not take English cards. But the machine in the department store does. But....??? Oh never mind. When in Rome ( or Kyoto) and all that... Off to the department store.

Where the machine rejects my card, twice. The same card I used in Tokyo. It rejects Dennis's too saying both are out of date which they are most definitely not. Now what to do? I try another bank. The security guard points us to the post office at the end of the street. There is no Post Office there. ... It is now getting dangerously close to the time we need to be at the Imperial Palace but I am reluctant to spend on a taxi in case I need our precious cash for food. The inspiration! We have been carrying emergency British Pounds. Those hurriedly exchanged for cash in a Travelex we found, we leaped in a taxi and just caught the tour as it was going around to the second building!

To change the subject. This is an Imperial storehouse built by an Emperor in 1915. Dennis looked at it and looked at me and said, "That would make you a good studio." Quite.


Fran├žoise said...

Did you try the ATMs at the 7-11 stores? They work usually.

Shasta said...

Getting used to any new country would be difficult, especially if you are just visiting. I am enjoying your travels, and since my daughter will be going to Japan soon, I've sent her a link to your post showing her how to find fabric street. Thanks for that! Hopefully that will mean she comes home with a nice present for me.

Lisa Walton said...

I am really enjoying your Japanese posts Helen. We are off there again in March and you are reminding me of things to do and showing me new things as well.