In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Questions and comments about living in Japan, chit-chat, or whatever else goes in here.

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In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:57 am

So I'm finally back in the country and getting into the rhythm of daily life. My command of the language--specifically the written parts--has atrophied a little more than I expected, so I'm working hard to get up to speed on that.

When I was here last, I was living with a host family and so a good amount of the everyday details were things I never had to touch on, but now that I'm in charge of my own apartment, I realize there's a lot of things I don't know. This is where I (and any other fresh expats) will post my various questions, and hopefully some of the old hands can chip in with answers if they so choose.

--We've got one of those lovely bathrooms where the sink and tub both drain into a grate in the middle of the floor, and you have to squat in the corner for showers so as not to spray water all over the door, where it then trickles out the gap into a puddle on the kitchen floor. How the heck do you keep that mold-free? There are windows, which I try and keep open whenever possible for airflow, but no fan. We haven't yet purchased any bathroom cleaner simply because I have no idea what's worth the purchase and what isn't.

--Where does one get reasonably-priced futons? The apartment was furnished with a single (as in, single-sized) futon, and after about a week of being squished together on it, the wife and I have decided it's a bit too close for our comfort. The local Ito Yokado department store had a few sets when we were in there last week for around 7,000 yen, which I'm kicking myself for not getting because they seem to be sold out, and the only option seems to be buying the pieces separately, starting with the mattress pad thingie for about 6,000. There's gotta be a cheaper way.

--How do you keep tatami floors clean? Just vacuum them regularly?

--What's a good shop to buy inexpensive little household items like shelves, trashcans, bins, etc.? There's a decent 100 yen shop nearby, but the only shelving options they offer are super miniature. Just looking for something small to get books and computer cables off the floor.

--Where's a good place to buy decent, higher-end headphones and audio equipment (more for window-shopping than anything else)? The electronic chains have good selections, but I'm looking for something more specialized. I remember a building in Akihabara where the upper floors all had little stalls where people would sell everything from toys out of gachapon machines to speakers to spools of like a billion meters of speaker cable. My school's a medium hike from Akihabara, so I walked down there the other day to see if a few of these stalls were still in existance, but the whole building just seemed taken over with anime character goods stuff (as has the rest of the main streets--couldn't even find any of the game shops I remember, aside from Super Potato. Even Mak has moved!).

--Good record/music stores, new and used! I'm well aware of Disk Union in Shinjuku and can't wait to get back there; RecoFan in Ikebukuro gave me some great deals too. Never ventured into any of the Tower Records, because I assumed they were much like the Sam Goodys of the US. Am I wrong?

More to come as I think of them. Going to try and open a bank account today, and hope that Google Maps wasn't lying to me about the potential futon store down the road.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Shou » Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:32 am

Not sure what to tell you about the bathroom, it's an older design but usually they have vents or fans.

You won't find futons much cheaper than what you saw. There is another discount shop that starts with an N that is only in the suburbs...can't remember the name at the moment. You could always go to Ikea or Muji. Muji is around 10,000 yen for the futon set.

I've always avoided rooms with tatami mats....just more of a hassle than anything else.

Go to Ikea for household items. They won't be cheaper anywhere else.

There is a used high end audio system/headphone store in Nakano on the 3rd floor near where the Mandarake is.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:37 pm

Thanks for the info. I've gone back to the Ito Yokado a few times just to check, and I think the super-cheap futon sets were a one-time sale, because I've never seen anything like it again. Funabashi's not super out of my way and is apparently one of the six locations of Ikea in Japan, so I think I may have to hit that up on a day off. Found a couple of Muji locations as well that I'm planning on going to as well for shelving etc.

Thanks for the tip on the audio store--didn't think to check Nakano at all.

---

So here's a tough one that will earn anybody who solves it a big sloppy kiss on the cheek: is there any way to force a Japanese bank to cash/deposit an American check? Basically, I need to figure out some way of getting my university entrance fee and this semester's tuition from my American bank to my Japan Post bank account. Here's something the university didn't tell me when they recommended I use Japan Post: foreigners aren't allowed to send or receive money internationally for six months after opening an account. When I tell the international student office about this, they simply tell me to speak with the bank about it; the bank says there's nothing they can do and to speak with the university, etc. My bank at home only allows me to withdraw a certain amount of money each day from the ATM, so at this time the only real option I have is to just max out my withdrawals for about a week and a half and eat all of the individual costs of the conversion and ATM fees, not something I'm too keen on. It seems like there are plenty of ways of sending money outside of Japan, but right now I'm feeling like a total dumbass for not traveling over here with an obscene wad of cash stuffed down my pants, as that seems to be about the only way this could have been avoided.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:37 pm

Nitori is what you're thinking about. I'm planning on heading to Ikea this weekend actually. Been on a futon for months but need to get a bed I think.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:43 pm

Oh, duh. Most of the small amount of furnishings and kitchenware that were in the apartment when we arrived was from Nitori. Didn't even think about it.

Which Ikea are you going to? We may trek out to the Funabashi location on Sunday, assuming it's not too insanely far of a way from the station or requires a ton of connecting trains to get there.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:03 am

Not sure yet how it's going to work just yet (or which one I'm going to). I got a few things to juggle. ;)

Apparently you need to get a shopping list together so your shit is laid out for you.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Shou » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:44 am

Greatsaintlouis wrote:So here's a tough one that will earn anybody who solves it a big sloppy kiss on the cheek: is there any way to force a Japanese bank to cash/deposit an American check? Basically, I need to figure out some way of getting my university entrance fee and this semester's tuition from my American bank to my Japan Post bank account. Here's something the university didn't tell me when they recommended I use Japan Post: foreigners aren't allowed to send or receive money internationally for six months after opening an account. When I tell the international student office about this, they simply tell me to speak with the bank about it; the bank says there's nothing they can do and to speak with the university, etc. My bank at home only allows me to withdraw a certain amount of money each day from the ATM, so at this time the only real option I have is to just max out my withdrawals for about a week and a half and eat all of the individual costs of the conversion and ATM fees, not something I'm too keen on. It seems like there are plenty of ways of sending money outside of Japan, but right now I'm feeling like a total dumbass for not traveling over here with an obscene wad of cash stuffed down my pants, as that seems to be about the only way this could have been avoided.


There's no way to use that check here.

Go open a bank account at Shinsei Bank. Have your funds wired from the US to there.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:59 am

Actually I believe Citibank will indeed cash that check, but it will take about 3 weeks, and they will charge you 3000-4000 yen.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:59 pm

I don't actually have a check made out, but just wanted to see if that was an option. Opening yet another bank account, however, isn't really one, as apparently just having one account in this country is enough of a headache. I think I may be able to get my bank at home to temporarily raise my daily ATM withdrawal limit so that I can just go clean out all the cash from an unlucky ATM one morning and finally be done with this nonsense. I never get tired of marveling at how, in this miraculous age of technology, banks around the world seemed to have run into some sort of computer roadblock in 1982 that their systems have yet to evolve past.
It's not like the bills in my wallet are the real money anyways, guys--I need you to tell your computer that I have $X less money in my account, and you need to notify this other computer that I now have ¥X more in my account. It's not like I'm asking you to send a human to the edge of space and have him jump back safely or anything like that, and you've been doing this shit longer than Red Bull has.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Oct 29, 2012 4:06 am

It is a joke and will only make you more frustrated the longer you think about it. My personal favorite is the extortion rates US entities charge to exchange currency.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Magic Knight » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:03 pm

I also opened an account with Shinsei so I could easily transfer money from Europe to Japan. I've never even been in a Shinsei bank but it worked ok online. I think I have five bank accounts in Japan now, great way to hide money from herself. Transferring from my Irish bank to overseas is really easy, and European law prevents charges on transactions within Europe, and to Japan it's 15 euro, so on a large amount it's no big deal (exchange rate is now brutal though). What's it like from the US?

Off-topic, I was in MAK the other day (three times in 10 days I was in Tokyo for interviews, and I didn't get the job despite basically being told I would) and they still haven't got my boards fixed after over a year. Still bought more though like a fool.

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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:41 am

Sounds like a typical trip to Mak. ;)

Exchange rate sucks big ass balls (US dollars is borderline worthless) even though it's gotten a bit better (for us dollar folks) these days. Shinsei isn't as generous w/ their exchange rate as they used to be, but it's still better than Shitibank. When I change yen to dollars I think I pay .4 yen per dollar.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Magic Knight » Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:23 pm

By the way, just in case you don't know, with the Shinsei Bank you could keep the money you have in dollars if you wanted to wait and hope the exchange rate improves. I have 500 euro sitting in my account waiting for the devalutaion of the yen which is coming any day now (I've been telling myself this for four years...)

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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:05 pm

Say Magic Knight, since you mention having been to Mak recently (they have a second location now!), that wasn't you at Hey the other day watching the Japanese dude clear the second loop of Ketsui, was it? I ran into another white people there while I was taking a break from back-alley computer store scrounging, and I figure there probably aren't a huge number who would A) be in that arcade or B) know or care what the second loop looks like.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Magic Knight » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:31 pm

Greatsaintlouis wrote:Say Magic Knight, since you mention having been to Mak recently (they have a second location now!), that wasn't you at Hey the other day watching the Japanese dude clear the second loop of Ketsui, was it? I ran into another white people there while I was taking a break from back-alley computer store scrounging, and I figure there probably aren't a huge number who would A) be in that arcade or B) know or care what the second loop looks like.


No, that wasn't me. When I go to Tokyo I see more white guys in five minutes than I do where I live in a year. Actually one of the things about going to Tokyo is that the Japanese guys in shops assume I'm just off the plane and don't speak Japanese etc. whereas up here in the middle of nowhere everyone assumes (correctly) that since it's a remote area I must live locally and know what I'm doing.

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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:19 pm

Magic Knight wrote:By the way, just in case you don't know, with the Shinsei Bank you could keep the money you have in dollars if you wanted to wait and hope the exchange rate improves.


That's why I have the account... works against me too though. :(
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Kaneda » Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:49 am

Where do you guys go for English-language books? Kinokuniya seems to have the best prices and the best selection, but is there a better option? I stocked up on stuff the last time I went to the States, but I only make that trip once a year. I also don't have a credit card, so I don't think I can order stuff online (other than doing the thing where you pay the delivery man but I hear that costs extra).

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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Dec 03, 2012 12:32 am

You can do conbini-barai from Amazon. I buy English books from there on occasion, but it's rare. I generally buy when I go home. I go back to the states about 3 times a year (sometimes 4) and don't read that much so it's not too big of an issue.

You can always try Amazon Marketplace. I actually bought The Hobbit (in English) for 400 yen. tattered copy but I don't give a shit. Served it's purpose, and shipping was 160 yen. So, from time to time you can find English books. There is also (or was) Sunshine books in Ebisu. They buy and sell foreign language books.

There's also Kindle, of which I've never used!
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby EOJ » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:15 am

Get a kindle or Nook (I prefer the latter). You can download tons of books for cheap or free, and they take up no space.

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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Shou » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:21 am

I buy books from Amazon US and have them shipped here as the shipping rates are extremely reasonable when you buy in bulk!
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Kaneda » Sat Dec 08, 2012 1:35 am

Thanks for the recommendations, guys.

I'm still not real into the eReader's because I need the feel of a book in my hand, but space is a bit of a problem here so I'm sure I'll get one some day.

Amazon US looks reasonable but I don't know how I'd pay for it with no credit card and paypal not being available.

I think I'll try the conbini-barai for now until my yearly visit to the States when I can stock up on stuff.

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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:19 am

You should get a CC or Debit Card from your US bank. They come in handy.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Greatsaintlouis » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:41 pm

Kaneda wrote:Amazon US looks reasonable but I don't know how I'd pay for it with no credit card and paypal not being available.

I'm really loving the whole Amazon Payments thing. The boardroom must have been awash in champagne and congratulatory handjobs when some fuckwit suggested shutting out the largest online payment processing company in favor of their shitty alternative which nobody uses as a forward-thinking business plan.
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Re: In Japan, what/where/how do I...?

Postby Gaijin Punch » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:17 am

Since I have a love/hate with Paypal, I'm kind of glad to see Amazon not support them.
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