the miracle of modern japanese banks

Or: Why Not To Use Checks In Japan

So I got sent a 15,000 yen check from the Bank of Bali, written against the Japanes Bank UFJ.
First, I take it to the Citibank in Hiroo. Where, besides being condescended to, I am told it will cost 1500 yen, TEN PERCENT of the face value of the check, to deposit it. Their attitude sucks and they pissed me off, so I walk across the hall to Shinsei Bank, and am treated with respect and courtesy, but unfortunately they are unable to process a yen check. Dollar check, no problem, but not a yen check.
I wander aimlessly looking for a UFJ, and for the fun of it pop into the various banks I pass, seeing what the reaction is to a Japanese yen check from Indonesia. I am quite certain that one teller had absolutely no idea why I assumed she should give me actual yen money for the piece of paper I brandished. I might as well have shown her crayon doodles.
Finally found myself by Ebisu station in front of a big UFJ branch office. After taking a number (51, the board showed 40) and waiting twenty minutes, I was told I'd have to go upstairs to the foreign currency counter. It's a YEN check, I said. Much bowing and apologizing and sucking-of-air-through-the-teeth and checking with The Boss, and once again I was told to take it upstairs to the foreign currency desk.
So I went upstairs and handed the check to a woman who reacted as if I just handed her a piece of rotten meat. She immediately took it to The Other Boss, who made some phone calls, mumbled alot, and finally came towards me with much bowing and apologizing and sucking-of-air-through-the-teeth.
He said straight up, and I appreciate his candor, that I had three options:
1 -- go back to Citibank and pay the 1500 yen
2 -- send the check back and tell whomever sent it to do a direct international wire transfer instead (his personal recommendation)
3 -- open a UFJ account, deposit the check, wait 3 days for it to clear, and pay for the privilege 3000 yen (his begrudingly second recommendation)
By now I was simply fascinated by the education I was getting. Ten years in Japan and yet so much I didn't yet know.
Since I was in already in Ebisu I just hopped on the Yamanote line and went to Shibuya up to Citibank, gave them the check, and deposited 13,500yen into my account. So simple! So convenient!


I love my job. There are many reasons why I love my job, and one of those reasons is the man who runs my department: Hammer.

The fun folks at work decided to give Suven a rousing send-off, so after much drinking at Excelsior Cafe, there was much drinking at Zest , and then there was much drinking at 911 in Roppongi.

I left early. Others weren't so lucky.

Evening highlights:

  • Hammer about to give his send-off speech -- realizing that all the beer pitchers are empty -- bellowing, as only Hammer can, "Beer!" and having four waiters arrive immediately, each with a full pitcher of beer, as coordinated via wireless headset by the manager watching from the balcony above.

  • Hammer calling the name of some guy he recognized, causing said guy to stop crossing the street and swivel-head frantically trying to find who called his name, as Hammer mumbles "Green light..gimme a green light...come on..." and finally laughing triumphantly as we cross the street in the other direction, leaving a swivel-heading thoroughly confused helpless pedestrian in the middle of the street as the light changes against him.

  • Hammer (who is not a short man) running full speed down the street in Roppongi, pedestrians parting before him like the Red Sea.


"When it rains...the roads get wet."
One of those quotes from high school. Can't remember who said it, where, when, or why. But it sticks in my head.


Roppongi Hills, the massive Mori Building construction project opens to the public today. Office buildings, sculptured landscapes...whatever. What I'm most thrilled about is the Virgin Cinema. THX sound, wide screen, and online ordering for all-reserve tickets. Matrix: Reloaded is playing there in June. So there. So completely there.

studying japanese

Is not for the weak.


Came out of practice last night and The Mighty Steed was fell'd. OK not fell'd, exactly, just not. As in gone. As in stolen. As in I left the damn key in the ignition.
Oh well, I'm figuring some high school kid thought it was too good to pass up and is enjoying his newfound motorized freedom. I did enough bad stuff when I was in high school that I'm sure karma-wise it all balances out in the end. But still, I miss my ride...

The Last Great Ride of the Mighty Steed. May The Mighty Steed's new owner appreciate it's buck and brawl.

free software

Just attended a lecture and Q&A with Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation.
Interesting points of view on the importance of freedom.

some where...

Over Shimokitazawa, Kev and I saw this when we were coming out of his front door.

beastie boys

Got up fairly early after going to bed late and had a productive morning; dry cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping (hit Nissin which we haven't been to in a while -- much nicer now that they moved the booze upstairs and expanded the grocery store.) Also cleaned out my closet, got rid of all my moldy comic books (150 yen and the used book shop!), threw out 2 bags of junk that's been sitting in the closet forever, and filled another bag with old clothing and jackets and stuff for the Good Will Donations drive at work.
Met Kev in Shibuya and we headed out the Maihama, met Stevie and Joel, got on the Disneyland monorail, and sped out to NK Hall to see the Beastie Boys close out the Free Tibet concert. They were great. Mix Master Mike is amazing, but they seemed a bit out of practice; kept dropping beats and missing intros, but it was fun and I got drenched in sweat crushed up at the front of the pit.
Coming back to Tokyo was a trip, too: half the train is Beastie Boys and Free Tibet freaks, the other half is Disneyland die-hards who stayed until closing and had bags of goodies and armloads of sleeping children.