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I'm always raving about how safe Japan is.
However, that doesn't mean that there isn't
I'll tell you about one interesting little
scam that some people do in the train stations:
Put glue in ticket vending machines.
The gates to the train platforms are all
controlled by automatic ticket gates: You
drop your ticket or pass into a feeder on
one side, walk through, and pick up your
punched ticket when it pops out the other
side. Of course, you first have to buy your
ticket from a vending machine near the gates.
These ticket vending machines can be a bit
complicated, they offer a lot of options.
They usually come with several rows of buttons,
each button representing one fare amount
(i.e., 150 yen, 180 yen, 220 yen, etc). The
machines take both coins and bank notes.
First you put your money in, next you select
a fare amount and push the button, then out
pops your ticket and your change slides down
into a little pan at the base of the machine,
that is, of course, unless someone has put
glue in the change chute.
I've had this happen to me. The patch of
glue is only big enough to catch one coin,
so all of the rest fall out as usual. A lot
of people don't even notice that they're
missing a coin from their change. After they
walk away, the con man comes up to the machine,
pokes his finger up the change chute, and
takes the coin. If he's lucky, he'll get
a 500 yen coin, which is worth something
close to $5 US.
Crafty, don't you think? It's a crime, but
not a very dangerous one. I won't be complaining
about Japanese public safety standards anytime
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I was thinking the other day about how much
I love Japanese convenience stores. They
truly are what they claim to be: i.e., convenient.
There are several convenience store franchises,
and the stores are ubiquitous. You can pretty
much always find one by walking ten minutes
in any direction. Some of the bigger chains
are Lawson's, Family Mart, Sunkus, and Seven-Eleven
(which is American-based).
A person could live off of what is sold from
the convenience stores, and in fact I think
that some people actually do. Not only do
they have the usual assortment of chips,
ice-cream, and cigarettes, they also sell
beer and liquor as well as fruit and vegetables.
They stock a wide assortment of boxed meals
(bento) such as rice and grilled beef, rice and
salmon, or rice and deep fried seafood. They
also sell toiletries and 'emergency' clothes
items, such as neck ties and underwear (Hey,
you never know when you're going to need
a new pair of panties in a hurry).
Japanese convenience stores are also technological
centers. You can send and receive faxes;
use a bank machine; make color photocopies;
print out digital pictures directly from
your camera's memory card; and sometimes
even buy concert tickets from a machine.
If you need to ship something, the convenience
stores act as depots for the major courier
I don't know how I've gotten by this long
in life without using Japanese convenience
stores. I know that I'm going to miss them
when I leave Japan.
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The other day I had a funny idea for
import-export business between Canada
Japan: Canned Canadian air. You think
joking, but I'm not.
I was in Japanese language class and we were
studying a dialogue about different types
of people in Japan who buy oxygen. Apparently,
people like students, over-worked salarymen,
and all-night mahjong players use it as a
pick me up.
I asked the teacher where you could buy this
aerosol oxygen. She said in Tokyu Hands (a
major housing goods chain). Then she told
us that you can also buy canned Swiss air,
from the mountains no less. Women buy it
and waft it into their faces, probably for
I'm thinking that Canada's got some
fine air. It's all about the image
Pine forests, polar bears, and Anne
Maybe I'll be the next Baron of a whole new
line of bullshit luxury environmental goods.
One can only dream.
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Karen and I have been rather social lately.
We've gone to some dinner parties, we've
hung out with some friends, you know, that
kind of thing.
Our recent outings have impressed upon me
the strange nature of our friendship network
here in Tokyo. It's different from back at
home. In Canada I always had at least five
friends whose house I could be at in less
than 20 minutes. That's not the way it is
Basically, people (I'm speaking specifically
about foreigners), even young single people,
are a bit lonely and eager to find others
to spend time with. The problem is, the nature
of the expat-in-Tokyo lifestyle is not exactly
conducive to being social in that kind of
way, especially if you're not well integrated
into the local Japanese community.
First, people are just really busy in Tokyo.
It's hard to make time to just hang out.
For the most part, people are here to make
money anyway, so they want to be busy.
Second, your friends and acquaintances always
seem to live really far away. It's nothing
to spend an hour on the train to go and see
a friend here. Tokyo is a huge city, and
because you often meet people at work or
through clubs there's not much of a chance
that they live in your neigbourhood.
Third, most people have tiny apartments,
so it's a pain in the ass to have people
over. For a lot of people, their living room
doubles as their bedroom, so their home tends
to be a very personal place. That's one reason
why private, party-room karaoke joints are
Recently, I've been getting to know more
cool people who live in my general area.
I'm going to try to run with that ball. I'm
hoping to break out of that long-distance
Wish me luck.