Saturday, March 18, 2006

Odds and Ends

I am making this post to kind of clarify how I pay my bills here because it is very different from the way things are done in the United States. I saw a comment in my last post and realized that I had not really touched on the topic too much and the way it is done is very cool.

The way bill paying works for me is this:

I will get a bill in the mail, I don't get many though. I actually only get my phone and electic bill. When a bill comes, it looks more like a postcard than a bill. On one corner of the card there will be a tab and I peel it back from the corner and that opens the bill. They do this to make it easy to see if other people are looking through your mail.

Once the bill is opened, you will see the stuff you would expect to find but you will also see something else, four barcodes. These barcodes make my life so much easier. Instead of mailing bills to addresses that I have absolutely no clue how to write, I take my bills to Lawson. Lawson is a convenience store in Japan and they are everywhere. If I go either direction on the main road from my place, I will run into a Lawson within five minutes. Either way, I take my bills to Lawson and they scan the barcodes and ring up my bill just like I were buying a snack or drink and charge me for them right there. Its simple, easy, fast, and if I wanted to, I could indeed buy a snack at the same time.

My rent, water, and gas bills are all sent to my company and they deduct the amounts from my paycheck. I get an itemized paystub to see that I am not getting ripped off and that is that. My internet will be hooked to my rent bill and that in turn will be sent to my company. It rocks. The other cool thing about finances in Japan is since its an economy based almost solely on cash, it makes budgeting very easy. I have one bank account to worry about and the only time money comes out is when I take money out. I was just gettng the hang of the American way of doing things and then all of this happened and it was all dumbed down for me. I have never been very good with financial stuff but this is a cake walk. And since I only really get two bills, it is easy to save moneey and allocate funds to different things. It also helps not having a car and all of the expenses that come with that, just me and Butterfly Battle.

In other news, a funny thing happened last night. When I was at the train station to come home, there was a huge crowd gathered there and everyone was armed with cameras. This is another well-deserved stereotype for Japanese people; they take their cameras everywhere with them and it seems that they all have a taste for very spendy ones. Anywho, I am trying to figure out what all of the fuss is about and by the time my train arrived I had decided that it was possibly the Japanese baseball team coming back from the World Baseball Classic and taking like a victory ride to a whole bunch of towns via train. This seemed feasible to me and I was satisfied.

My train left the station and the throngs of camera toting Japanese people waiting along the tracks. I began reading a book. Aside from one unusual stop on the way home, nothing big happened until I reached my train station and there were three times as many people there, all with cameras. What the hell was going on?! Was it the baseball team like I thought, was it the Prime Minister of Japan, was it a celebrity on board the incoming train? No.

The Japanese people love their trainsystem and rightly so, the network of trains does indeed rock. But sometimes I think they may be too into their trains. I can go into a store and get toys, video games, models, books, even stationary of some of the more popular trains and I thought that was odd. This took the cake.

Last night was the first time that the Fukuchiyama line recieved a night train (queue Guns and Roses here) bound for Tokyo. From now on, at almost midnight in Fukuchiyama, if I want to, I could get on a night train and go to Tokyo. That is what the fuss was about, that is why several hundred people were at my train station with their kids and cameras at almost 12am last night. And when that train finally got to the station the crowd went absolutely nuts. People were clapping and cheering, the conductors in the station all lined up along the tracks to salute the train, the masses swept up to the train to take pictures of the placard on the train that read that it wa the Izumi Express bound for Tokyo. It was like the baseball team was there only minus the baseball team. All of this hubbub was for a train, not even a cool Nozumi high speed, just a train bound for Tokyo.

What was also funny about the event, is that they were giving away little commemorative packages of tissue, stationary, and credit card brochures for all that attended, I got one too. The people that were on the train were taking pictures of the people taking pictures of them, they felt like rockstars each time they entered a station in my area last night. On the way out of the station, I even caught a glimpse of a lady taking pictures of the new schedule signs that include the new train's stopping time on them. Yup, Japanese people dig trains.

Other than that, not a ton to report, I have to go to Kyoto to sub for a class on the 29th and I will put money that that is the day they will want to come out and hook up my internet knowing my luck with these things. I am also coming down with a tad of a cold, thanks to one of the countless munchkins that I hang out with everyday. I hate colds but the one thing I will give to them is that they help me sleep really well. I like sleeping well...just not waking up with dried snot caked around my nostrils or my throat feeling like it was on fire. So today, I have been maxxing out my Vitamin C intake and it has helped. I don't think this cold will last long, it is just troublesome. Well, time to catch a train....hopefully this time with less fanfare.


At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Phyrry said...

That's a neat and very simplified way of doing finances. Very cool.

The train thing reminds me -- Lucy and I are thinking about moving to England when we get out of school. I don't know if it's going to happen or not, but it's a very cool goal to work towards at least. We are also agreed that Portland is a very cool place to live, so that might happen first or instead-of -- but I *do* want to live in Europe (and all over the world) some day...

Glad things are going well on your end, and I hope that cold goes away soon!

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Steph said...

Ahhh, Appetite for Destruction. Died a little inside when I saw it on the bargain rack at Fred Meyer last week.

So you waited at the train station too hoping to catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister or is hanging around the station at midnight just a typical Friday night for you?

Thanks for posting on the utility stuff. Believe it or not, daily minutiae is entertaining for those of us who've never been anything other than touristy outside the States.


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