Sunday, May 15, 2022

Welcome Back!

     I've been having some problems with my Magic Discount Train Account. It's pointless to examine exactly what or why because it's so strange and bizarre that it's clear it's a combination of demons and Mercury Retrograde. 

    This has resulted in me standing for hours in train stations and on the phone, in my serviceable but far from fluent Japanese, explaining that, yes, I had done the first three obvious things, I could not do another obvious one from my mobile phone (for reasons unknown) and indeed I had tried several other not-so-obvious things. They managed a workaround, I got there and back and did the things we all agreed should be done to fix the problem.

I needed a flower!

     I tried again, a week later. First time out, the regular train worked but the Shinkansen didn't. We did a workaround, and decided there was this one thing that was still wrong and I said I would fix that once I got where I was going as I couldn't do it from right there in the station.

    It didn't work. After all kinds of nonsense (involving Scheduled Buses Not Appearing, Expensive Taxi Fares, Being Assured that All Was Well and All NOT Being Well) I got a workaround again, and with much sturm und drang, made it home, where I think I have finally resolved the problem by nuking the whole account and starting over from absolute scratch with a new IC card.

    I'm out the taxi fare, the unused bus ticket, the amounts loaded into the old IC card (now lost forever, it seems) and the cost of the new IC card. So it goes.

    All these conversations were taking place in Japanese, but this weekend, for the first time, the carefully kind and diligent people suddenly started repeating themselves in English and treating me like I might not be too bright and be unsure of what a train actually IS.

    Yes, I do Foreign and Stupid rather well, and now I can add Old to the mix, and this often results in my getting plenty of help, kind assistance and generous consideration, but during COVID, there haven't been many foreigners in Japan, except those who live here, because the borders have been closed. The Gaijin Exemption vanished. There has been no slack at all. People have expected me to speak Japanese and know the systems and rules. That's fine with me, because I do live here and I do want to stay, and that means I need to be able to live here like a native, not like a tourist or short-term student or worker. I've been learning. All to the good.

    So, what changed? Why was I suddenly being treated like I was just off the plane when that was simply impossible? I was all the way to the last station on my way home last night when I asked the station staffer, after he confirmed that my old IC card was absolutely dead, where I could buy a new IC card. In Japanese, he said, "Go out the door, turn left and head for the Ticket Office, and there will be a machine on your left that sells them." I thanked him and started to leave.

    He whipped out a picture of the the machine, so he could show me exactly what it looks like, and said, in English, "If you go out this door and turn left, you will see this black machine on the wall. You can buy a new IC card there. This machine"--pointing--"right here. The black one."  I thanked him, in English this time, went out the door and bought a new IC card, wondering what the heck.

    Then I realized what was going on. Just this past week, it's been announced that tourists will most likely be allowed back into Japan in June. The numbers will be small at first, and initially probably restricted to approved groups, but tourists are coming back. 

    They were all practicing! That's why they were speaking English! That's why they were repeating themselves after we finished the transactions in Japanese! They were all taking advantage of me being foreign and needing help to exercise their English ability! 

    So rest assured. It looks like you'll be able to come back soon enough, and Japan hopes you will. All the kind and diligent Japanese workers in hotels, taxis and train stations, as well as on trains, will be ready and willing to happily welcome you.

Just a peek -- but Japan will open, and you will be able to come. Soon!

1 comment:

  1. Aha! I had a feeling that was what was happening!