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Monday, March 28, 2005

Our credits no good here

visa japan

There's a commercial (or "CM" in Japanese) that's been on the air allot here lately. The setup shows a concerned father rushing his suddenly ill child into a hospital emergency room. But in his haste he's forgotten to bring cash.... doh! But no problem really, as we are informed by a trio of dancing nurses who bust out into song and sing "Byoin demo, Visa ga skaimasu", which basically means 'Even at the hospital, you can use Visa'. Ah, if only this were the case.

Perhaps you can you use credit cards at (some) hospitals, but lord knows, you can hardly use them anywhere else. We find ourselves constantly baffled by how often, for what would be very common (even logical) transactions back in NYC, our cards are now just inert squares of plastic. The magic is gone. Even Miyuki, who had gotten used to the convenience, hell, the necessity of using plastic, has been shocked at how many places don't take cards. I'm not talking about the corner deli (or in this case conbini AKA "convenience store"), this is in major commercial venues. Case in point: when you arrive at Narita Airport, the MAJOR international hub for Tokyo and by extension, most of Japan, if you want to take the express train to Tokyo it's a cash only transaction. It would be a little like if Amtrak only accepted cash. BTW, there's a travel tip here... Bring cash on your trips to Japan, lot's of it.

So if using your card to get into the country is hard enough getting out can be just as troublesome. Recently, Miyuki using a credit card, tried to buy airline tickets for our upcoming trip to NYC (mark your calendars folks, 4/25 to 5/9). She contacted a major travel broker, a big player with both print and TV campaigns going, not some retired real estate agent looking to keep busy. They will allow you to research and book your flights online, but, wait for it... they don't accept credit cards. A bank wire transfer is required. You have to go to the bank, stand in line, complete the necessary paperwork and then wait for the tickets to be mailed to you.

We eventually found a broker that took credit cards. But damn! this is a country of robotic pets and talking vending machines, not to mention cellphones that have video-on-demand... why, oh why, are the banking practices still stuck in the pneumatic tube era?

Oh yeah, if you'd link to see the Visa ad above click here (WMV format).