Jul 20 2011

the fourth week

The country that sends/drives you mad

There are days that begin relaxed, accompanied by beautiful weather. But beauty is only skin deep. It seems I have to weather a crisis today because several times I tried to open a bank account with the form which was given to me as a substitute for my registration card until the issuing. As I expected, it wasn’t accepted by any bank. Also I’ve tried in vain several times to open a Japanese cell phone account. The reason for the constant rejections is that I don’t have a Japanese bank account which is obligatory here even for pay as you go/prepaid SIM cards. So I’m on my way into the city centre in search of a certain bank which was recommended to me.

Once again after a long winding odyssey, (which, is no doubt due in part to my inability to read Kanji road signs) I finally found a branch of the bank.

When it is finally my turn at the counter and I’m explaining my intentions, receiving the form then I am being asked in broken English: ”Would you please also write down your phone number here?” I’m explaining to the gentleman that I’ve been constantly told I had to have a bank account first in order to open a cell phone account. “I regret to tell you that it is obligatory at our bank that you have to have a phone number if you want to open an account.”, I am being told in a gentle, Japanese way. “I already emphasised that I can’t buy a SIM card as long as I can’t attest a Japanese bank account!”, I reply.

“Don’t you have at least a land line number?”, I am being asked. Whereas I wonder how one shall manage that without having a bank account. “No, I don’t!”, is my reply. I’m writing the number of my hosts two whom address my ID card is being registered down on a little sheet: “Take this number here and ask for my name.”. “Where does this number now come from? That’s not yours, is it?”, the person in charge is wondering. “Yes it is, there you can call me, if you need to call me at all and ask for my name.”

I haven’t lived there for quite some time but I’m wondering what this bureaucracy is all about.

“I’m afraid I can’t accept this”, the bank clerk is telling me pointing to a little shop at the end of the street, “please go there where you will get a mobile phone contract.” “No, I will not go down there right now because I know that I won’t get a mobile phone contract there as long as I don’t have a Japanese bank account!!! I will stay here until you have copied this phone number into the form!”, I’m making myself clear in a very direct and unambiguous way.

It seems the the clerk is not used at all to be treated this way and is now slightly confused. It might be that I don’t act integrative at the moment. But I’m also not used to this find-permit-A 38-way.

And I think with three weeks I’ve shown more than enough integrity to finally get the form that’s necessary for this matter. And this should solely be my foreigners registration card. The clerk seems slightly irritated as he is departing from the desk towards one of his fellow employees to discuss the situation, coming back again and is inscribing the phone number into the form. Thank you! Pointing at an armchair I am being asked by him: “Now we have to copy your ID card would you please take a seat there!” As I must have profoundly insulted the gentlemen with my directness the account opening is being continued by a lady now: “Excuse me our bank still needs your name written in Hiragana or Katakana signs.” I can do this but as the form clearly says ‘if known’ I’m invoking to this option. “No, unfortunately you have to fill in your name here in Japanese signs” I am being told. Actually I can write my name in those signs but I can’t resist my curiosity to find out what they would do if I didn’t knew it. “I’m sorry I have no clue.”, I’m telling. “Then I have to ask you to come again when you have found out how write your name in Japanese.”, she says.

I’m just gaping at her. They seriously want to send me home now. All this in view of the fact that this writing exercise is a very simple task which can be handled by every Japanese who is neither illiterate nor mentally or physically handicapped. I can’t imagine an illiterate working at a bank. She also does not seem handicapped or retarded to me. Well, now it’s of course dumb that I played dumb as it would be pretty dumb to dump what I just claimed. So I’m “helping” by telling her the matching syllables with which my name is being written. And as a fact we are accomplishing this task with united forces.

There is only one solution for such a stressful day. Go to a bar! It’s convenient because my host Brandon accepted two Canadian couchsurfing guests who we are picking up from the station and taking them straight to a bar.

happy again, photo by Joki Zatko, Canada

happy again, photo by Joki Zatko, Canada

All of you to whom I have aroused interest with this wonderful experience to also ‘work and travel’ in Japan now I’d like to sum some links to useful job portals:








Plain to see: All English language schools are only looking for native speakers. One does not have to be extremely intelligent to grasp that so many positions simply can not be filled only by native speakers. You aren’t an English native speaker? Apply anyway!

Special thanks to: Hubertus Neidhart from Webspace Provider Network for excellent web page hosting services; Joki Zatko, Canada; Brandon Lamb, U.S.A.;

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