Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Most of the time, Japanese service is superb. Most of the time. In fact, I just commented on someone's blog about it last night.

Paying bills however, can be a real pain. We have one utility bill that can be paid at a convenience store, so well, that one is convenient. We have another that needs to be paid at a bank - during banking hours. Every month, that one can be a problem as both Wayne and I work during bank hours so we have to try to work out who and when can go and pay it. It wouldn't be a problem if we had internet banking, but it's not a common service over here and is rarely offered in English. Another utility bill is paid, in cash to a person that turns up to our door once a month. She used to always come on a Thursday, so we were prepared, but now, she comes whenever she feels like it and can catch us unaware.

Japan is very much a cash society , but the ironic thing is that the ATMs have opening and closing times. Some close at about 9pm and won't open again until 8am. Some are also closed all day Sunday. An EFTPOS system doesn't exist and it's not that uncommon that places won't accept credit cards. I've never heard of people using cheques.

So cash it is.

The reason for my little whine today is that Wayne and I are booking our summer trip. I don't want to jinx myself by talking about it too much until everything is booked, but we are very excited about it.

We first went into a local travel agent, but they had real problems actually giving us a price, an answer about flight availability and any other questions that we had. Their price in the end was quite high.

So now, we've been trying to book our tickets on-line. I went to a Japanese site that offers a service in English and got two quotes for the flights we wanted. One took much longer to get back to me, but were a little cheaper. When I enquired about how I could book, I was told that I must come to their office in Nagoya during business hours to do so. What!!! Who ever heard of a travel agent that was closed on weekends!

The other agent got back to me very quickly but have made many errors with the booking time and time again. They seemed to be trying hard however and were always apologetic in their emails. So we decided to book with them, and they finally got all the details correct today. I have told them a number of times, right from the start, that I couldn't get into a bank until Monday because of work. They never said this was a problem, so I assumed it was all ok. Until today. They've told me that I must get into a bank to pay for it by Friday, or we may lose our tickets! There are times that I think that part of the reason many Japanese housewives don't work full-time is that they need to be able to deal with banking and bill paying during the day. How do people do it here otherwise?? If you work from nine to five and they don't offer a service outside of those hours, they don't accept credit card payments unless we physically go in during office hours, you can't pay over the net, the banks don't offer internet banking.... just how on earth do you deal with this stuff??

Mmmm.... can you tell I'm rather frustrated....?


Mel & Seigo said...

Yup, net banking is tough to get in the beginning, but once you've got your head around it.....ahhh :)

azumarisan said...

Yeah, i noticed in Hokkaido that the ATM's all had closing times of about 5pm which i thought was really bizarre! It's like you don't even own your money!! I felt like Japan was in the dark ages compared to australia, we have so much convenience here. Japan still relies on Cash too much. It's a shame really, one would think Japan was leaps and bounds ahead, but they're not!

michelle said...

Payment and admin issues annoyed the crap outta me when I lived in Japan. I remember walking around with thousands of dollars in my purse whilst doing errands and paying bills.
There are many frustrating things (like dealing with travel agents) that I DON'T miss!!
Good luck with your vacation!

Badaunt said...

You deal with it WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY, I discovered the last two weeks when The Man was away. (He usually does all that for me, not having regular working hours like a normal person.) I forgot to pay the rent on Monday (30th) and had to cut breakfast short on Wednesday, the only other day when I had even five minutes in banking hours, to rush in and pay it. Then there were the bills ...

You'd think they'd sort out something a bit more convenient, but banks here are for big business. They don't really care about the 'little person.'

Shari said...

Most things can be automatically paid from your bank account. There is usually a plethora of forms in order to accommodate any type of automatic transfer. You can also use your credit card for things like plane tickets and whatnot.

Also, Japanese people often are allowed to take half days from work or add on to their lunch hours to accomplish such tasks. Foreigners are rarely accorded the same level of flexibility in this regard because they tend not to work unpaid overtime and are judged differently when it comes to their work ethic.