Doubly boneheaded

I typically us a train credit pass to get around Nagoya. It works on both the Meitetsu train lines and the Nagoya subway lines. That’s good for me because those are the lines I use the most. I could get a monthly pass, but there isn’t great value to those, they are expensive, and I think I am prone to losing that kind of thing.

I buy a card for 5000 yen that has 5600 in credit. Hey, that’s over 10% free. The problem of course is that the amount you have on the card at the end never equals an amount that you actually need for the next train ride. You know how much you have by the display as you pass through the wicket and by the fine printing on the back of your card. (As an interesting side note, you can insert the card in any orientation, it will come up correctly stamped. Cool, huh?)

Nagoya subway / train pass

Today I had 100 yen left on my card. My total commute is 490 yen, which 290 yen on the Meitetsu train and 200 yen on the subway. At the ticket machines, you can put your old card in and that acts as money. Then you “top off” the machine to the amount you need, get a regular ticket, and drop your now liquidated pass into the little recycle box. Tonight I was very distracted – it was another 12+ hours at the office, I had a phone call, and I was tired. When I got to the ticket machine and inserted my card and cash, I chose a 490 yen ticket. That’s great, that’s the total of my trip, but that is the total of BOTH tickets. Drat.

At every exit is a “Fare Adjustment Machine” where you can update your ticket if you ended up riding the train further than the cost of your regular ticket. I thought I’d try the reverse of that – try for a refund since I overpaid. Guess what? It doesn’t work that way. So I put my 490 yen ticket for my 290 yen fare into the wicket and hoped that maybe it would pop out the other end. Nope. Oh well. Out 200 yen.

When I got to my subway entrance, I needed to buy a new pass. So I inserted my 10,000 yen note (over $100) and push the buttons but got button happy and push the wrong combination and ended up buying a 290 yen ticket. DRAT!!!! I wanted a 5000 yen pass. So now I was another 90 yen overpaid. I finally got my pass, and finally got home, after paying 780 yen for a 490 yen fare!

Meitetsu train at Jingumae


To cap off the evening, I was able to pass a guy talking on the telephone, smoking a cigarette, and urinating into the planter in front of Lawson on my main thoroughfare as I was walking home from the subway station after work. Now that is class!


Last weekend was a terrific weekend. It didn’t start out so good, but I convinced myself to turn my frown upside down, pack up my troubles, sing halleluiah and get happy, and not let it bother me.

My friend David (or Dave) from Los Angeles / San Francisco was visiting Japan with his from David (or Dave) from San Francisco. Apparently, Nagoya isn’t interesting enough to warrant a visit (sigh) so I made the trek up to Tokyo. That’s a huge sacrifice of course, having to go to Tokyo.

Dave (my old friend and not his friend) and I planned to meet for dinner on Friday night at 8:00 pm in Shinjuku. Dave had met my friend Jin during his visits to LA so I invited Jin to join us as well. Of course, I had to work, but was planning on bugging out early to that I could get home, drop the work clothes and computer, grab my bag, and head to Tokyo. Of course, I had a meeting run long, and it really wasn’t a meeting I could leave. The intensity level was ratcheting up, and I needed to be there.

With one eye on my watch and another eye on the mood of my Japanese colleagues, I was able to wrap things up in time to catch a 4:20 pm train back to Nagoya. I got home, did the drop, changed clothes, finished packing my bag, and high-tailed it out of the apartment.

It was a pretty muggy day, so I was feeling sticky before I really even started traveling. I got to my subway, timed it well, and was on the subway BACK to Nagoya station and it looked like I’d have just enough time to check in to my hotel and catch the subway to Shinjuku. I noticed a scary old man in front of me on the train, and the train was crowded too and I felt like I was knocking people with my bags. The scary old man got off the train rather quickly.

I too was moving rather quickly to the Shinkansen but had not yet exited the subway. As I was heading towards the wickets, I noticed a crazy old man (was it the same one) kind of looking at me and waving his hand with a goofy grin, and it seemed like he was tapping his pocket.

[As I write this, I hear fireworks exploding in the background. Has fireworks season started? What matsuri am I missing?]

So the crazy man caused me concern. Did I get pickpocketed and was he brazenly taunting me? I tapped my back pocket and, much to my surprise, I found no wallet. Generally, Japan is very safe and I maintained good judgment. I calmly thought to myself, “Oh, drat” and then broke out in a frustrated soaking sweat. I turned around, got on the subway, and headed back home, hoping that my wallet was sitting somewhere in my apartment.

This little round trip of about 15 minutes meant that my start location and end location of my subway ride were exactly the same place. I never actually LEFT the subway. I knew this would present problems when exiting, so I went directly to the attendant and explained I had forgotten something. He worked his magic and I was allowed to exit.

I got home, went to my bedroom, and there was my wallet sitting on my bed. Teasing me. Oh well. Now, of course, it was getting late. If I caught the 6:00 pm shinkansen I would be able to take the Chuo Line from Tokyo to Shinjuku with my camera bag and surprisingly heavy weekend bag (traveling with an extra pair of shoes and a computer adds weight), maybe find a locker, and JUST get to the meeting place in time to see David and Jin. I treated myself and went Green Car of course, and remained calm. I made it no problem right at 8:00 pm.

Sigh of relief

I updated my blog software tonight. I even created a test blog to make sure I upgraded correctly. All went well, I thought, except for a few extra commands I had to add to the config file. Well, it turns out some of those commands changed my character set and my kanji no longer showed up AND all my apostrophes and dashes changed to strange characters. Luckily, my coding skills helped me out – I had commented all the new code and understood that the character set had changed. I removed all the config file improvements and I think everything is fine.

If you notice any problems, please let me know.

Oops, I didn’t mean to do that

I got to go to Tokyo today. The astute reader of this blog knows that I was just IN Tokyo. So why did I go again today? Last night I was bouncing down the tracks in the shinkansen (if airplanes were as rough as the train everybody would freak out), looking forward to being in my apartment and my bed. I had cleaned it going to Tokyo, had fresh sheets waiting for me on my own bed, and I was arriving late enough that maybe I’d have just enough time to update my blog just before going to sleep.

For some reason, about 30 minutes outside of Nagoya, I thought to check my pocket for my apartment key. Of course, I knew it wasn’t there, because why else would I check? I was right, it wasn’t there. Oh sh*t. I knew exactly where it was, it was sitting on a bookshelf at Kevin and Sei’s beautiful condo in Tokyo. I gave Kevin a confirmation call and indeed he confirmed it was there.

Now what? It is a holiday weekend, I’m keyless, and my Japanese sucks. I called the “emergency” line for my relocation service. It turns out the “emergency” line is the president’s line and he was in New Zealand. I’m not sure what time it was there, but in retrospect I think it was a pretty inconvenient time to call. By this time it was around 11:00 pm in Nagoya. He thought my chances were slim that I’d be able to get in that night. He called one of his employees to check things out.

In the meantime there were no more reasonable trains back to Tokyo, no colleagues in town, and no key. What could I do? I figured I had to stay in a hotel. It was also becoming apparent that the emergency number wasn’t really going to be effective. I resigned myself to spending the night in a hotel and then taking the train BACK to Tokyo this morning to pick up my key and then BACK to Nagoya to finally be home.

I was mad at myself, and bummed about the cost hit for my boneheaded move. Since I spent so much time at the Marriott earlier this year, I am Platinum Elite and have gobs of points so I thought I’d just take the elevator from the train station to the lobby and check in. Hopefully.

When I got to the front desk I tried to explain the situation. I looked pretty scraggly actually, I hadn’t shaved that morning and now it was 11:00 pm or later. The front desk woman said, “Oh, you can’t just walk in and use points. You have to call to make a reservation.” I said, “Are you going to make me play this game?” I gave them my Platinum Elite card (by the way, to my knowledge, there is no next higher level at Marriott) and her colleague started punching it in. I asked, “What is the normal rate?” “22,000 yen [about $240].” Then they saw who I worked for. She promptly said, “With your corporate discount you can get the room for 15,000 yen [about $165].” In the meantime, her colleague’s eyes got a little big. I think he saw how many days I had stayed there this year (60) and also realized that my company has spent an ungodly sum of money at the hotel this year. I would hate to guess how much. I said, “Look [by the way, if I ever start a sentence with ‘look’ – watch out], I’m either staying here for free or I’m going to a cheap business hotel. I don’t need to pay $150 for one night when I locked myself out of my apartment.” Her colleague said, “Just a moment” and they had a group huddle over in the corner with a manager-type. It was determined at that point that I COULD stay there on points and I was most welcome. I waited a little while longer for a miracle to happen. Unfortunately, no miracle so I checked in. Actually, I’m glad to save the miracles for something for deserving.

I was pretty wound up at that point. Also, the relocation service person who got the call to help me noted that tickets would be really hard to get in the morning. Great. I said, “Well I can always go Green Car (first class) if necessary.” Then I looked at my wallet – I had only 23,000 yen – and determined that, no, I didn’t have enough money to go green car. Sigh.

I went online (turns out internet is free now at the hotel), and checked the train schedule. I could take the 6:50 am train to Shinagawa, arriving at 8:19 am. Kevin agreed to meet me at the station and hand over my key. I could then run to Starbucks, get something to eat, and catch the 8:37 am train back to Nagoya and be back by 10:13 am with most of my day ahead of me.

I got up at 6:00 am, rolled into some clothes, brushed my teeth, managed my bedhead and scrambled to the train station. I got tickets no problem but only aisle seats were available on the train to Tokyo. That meant it was pretty full. After I bought my ticket I watched the monitors showing ticket availability approaching sold out. Wow.

There’s not much more to report. I sat on a train, met Kevin as planned, got a scone and hot chocolate at Starbucks in Shinagawa, got on the train, and headed back to Nagoya. Mt. Fuji was beautiful. That’s about it. My iTouch battery, while low, survived the trip. When I got back to Nagoya, I checked the monitors for Tokyo tickets. Every train on the monitor was sold out (all classes). I’m glad I got up early.

Sorry, no photos to accompany this little tale. I’m just glad I was able to successfully get in my apartment with only a little inconvenience and expenditure.