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AWOL Keitai

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My cell phone has disappeared.

Last night went out with B and A – pretty usual for a Friday. After that we hit up the arcade nearby for some Street Fighter IV, and were there for like an hour or so before they closed. I was using my cell phone most of the night on and off, e-mailing and stuff like that. There was only about a 20 minute window between the last e-mail I sent and when we were leaving, which is when I noticed my phone was gone. We looked around the SF machines and didn’t see it anywhere. I stayed in the same area the whole time we were there, so it should have been nearby. Either I dropped it and it got kicked under some distant machine, or someone stole it from on top of a cabinet or off the floor. Japan is usually a pretty honest and safe place, but I’m starting to think it did get lifted.

After we finally left the arcade, we tried calling it a few times and it went to voicemail, so either the battery got detached during a fall or the thief turned it off pretty quickly. More than being angry about this whole thing, it’s just weird that it went missing because I was using it almost constantly and it seemingly vanished from my pocket. Strange indeed.

The arcade opened at 9AM this morning so I got up early and headed down at opening time to ask if the staff had found it. No luck. I grabbed an Egg McMuffin while waiting for the au Shop (cell phone company) to open at 10, and asked what they could do for me. They’re unable to check from the shop if anyone’s used the phone to make calls, but they helped me suspend the phone line to prevent people from making calls. They also helped me activate some service called Safety Lock where they can remotely lock the keys and features of the phone. That should also lock the ic chip on my phone which has my train pass and other digital money/wallet services. I was pretty impressed by the au Shop’s lady who helped me get that all sorted out. At the very least if someone stole my phone they won’t be able to call or hopefully access my data, etc.

After the au Shop I went to the Police Box to report the phone as missing and to check if someone had brought it there. That was pretty painless. Usually I hate this kind of thing, but having the officer tell me he was impressed with my (Japanese) handwriting was kind of nice. After the koban I went back to the arcade, where of course they hadn’t found the phone, before going home to finally get some sleep. It’s now been a full day since I lost my phone and so far no luck – I even checked at the train station although the arcade is definitely the most likely place for it to be found provided it wasn’t stolen.

It’s strange not having my phone – obviously for stuff like e-mailing and making calls, but also for the other things I used it for like calendar, alarm clock, train pass, memo pad, mobile web browser, etc. Went out with some friends for dinner tonight and just coordinating and meeting up with everyone was a lot tougher than it should be. It’s a huge pain to be without a phone, and the possible loss of over a year’s worth of address book contacts, downloaded ringtones/sounds, and cell phone pics is going to be a big hassle. There’s of course the chance that it will turn up while I’m away this coming week in China, but at this point it’s looking like a long shot. I get back on Friday, and if my phone hasn’t been found by then I’m going to have to cough up the yens for a new phone next weekend.

It also pisses me off that the au catalog I got at the store today has the J-boy band Arashi on the cover. HATE Arashi.

au one Mail – awesome idea

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I ended up going to bed a lot later than planned last night, even after spending the entire evening in my apartment taking care of random tasks that I’d been putting off for too long. I burned some TV series off my external HD to clear space, filled out a Yodobashi credit card app, organized some bills I need to pay, did some laundry, and downloaded Megaman 9. I even cleaned up my apartment a bit and hauled a whole bag of trash downstairs. It felt like I had accomplished a lot.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking for a little bit* that I need to get a new phone, since my old faithful Sony Ericsson W43S is getting a little worn out and can’t even do the simplest things like watch TV, view MS Word documents, or give me a root canal – which are all standards for the current generation of Japanese ultra-phones. Yes, after only using my phone for 2 years it has already been outdated more times than I would like to mention, with new features popping up on the market every day. A few months ago the iPhone came out here in Japan, and despite its awesomeness +5 appeal in the US, in Japan it sucks and I don’t even know anyone that has one. No, wait, there was one guy at my office who has one but he seemed to only be interested in listening to the radio. This entry isn’t about the iPhone, but yeah, compared to any typical Japanese handset the only thing Apple’s magic device has going for it is the touch-screen. There are so many features missing (even compared to my old-ass phone) that most people aren’t interested.

Oh yeah, so speaking of phones. When browsing the au (my carrier) catalog for information about current phone models and pricing plans, I leaned about this recent service called au one Mail. After following the easy instructions on my phone, I was all set up and simply amazed at what it does. It seems that au has partnered with Google to give au users a special Gmail account. The interface is just a rebranded Gmail, giving you an e-mail address that you can access from your PC or phone. But the best thing is that this new account can automatically keep a copy of every sent and received mail from your keitai. And since it’s Gmail, you have several gigs of space forever, and the ridiculously sweet search capabilities. This was exactly what I always wanted.
Click the pic for a bigger screenshot.

au oneメール最高だ!

If anyone else here on au wants help on how to set this up, let me know. It’s definitely nice to know that you can have an automatic backup of all the e-mails you send on your phone.

*about a year and a half


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I wish there was a way I could silently take pictures with my phone, but there’s not because too many Japanese guys take upskirt shots of middle school girls. Thus, it’s mandatory for Japanese phones to make a shutter noise. There’s no option to shut it off.

Anyways I’m writing this on my phone as I ride the Sobu line train towards Funabashi. The dude standing across from me looks like a young Japanese Rob Schneider if you can picture it. He has a really short buzz cut, a purse, tight holy jeans, huge buckled boots, a diagonal referee t-shirt, and is carrying a grandma shirt over his arm (probably for if it gets “a lil’ chilly willy”). But worse of all he is listening to his headphones and making this creepy child molester face. Not just smiling, but constantly making slight movements with his eyebrows and mouth as if he were Roseanne listening to the waitress at Golden Corral describe the specials. He is also doing the Night at the Roxbury dance. That’s Japan for you.

Aaaand he just got off at Tsudanuma.


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Visit to St. Louis has been great so far. I’ve got to hang out with the fam a lot, ate a lot of good food, saw a lot of old friends, and did some scamming (I’ll post about that next). All in all an excellent vacation. I’m heading to LA tomorrow afternoon and will be there until the end of the week.

Before coming back for this trip, I had to bust out theold cell phone that I used in the US. I was worried when the phone wouldn’t even power on with the AC adapter plugged in, but after over a full day of charging, it was able to at least turn on. It’s always quite a shock going from using a Japanese phone (keitai) for a long time back to an American one, because of technology differences, standards, etc. In short, American phones are crap compared to ones in Japan for the most part. I am also going to include Blackberrys and anything that has a tiny QWERTY keyboard on it, because I think those just look ridiculous and can’t be justifiably functional. Just learn how to type using the numeric pad! It’s not like you’re going to be doing any two-handed touch typing with your oversized PDA phone. I think your average 14-year old Japanese kid can input a lot faster on a standard numeric pad than a businessman with a Blackberry QWERTY. I don’t even need T9 and I will dominate with a numeric pad. But I digress.

my two phones

My American phone (right), which I bought in November 2005, is a Sony Ericsson Z520a. It has a 4x digital zoom VGA camera and a screen that is around 1.6×1.25″ (4×3 cm). In contrast, my Japanese phone (left) which I bought in September 2007, is also a Sony Ericsson, a W43S. It has a 2 Megapixel camera and a screen that is around 2.6×1.5″ (6.5×3.5 cm). Both phones have features like address book, calendar, alarms, text messaging, and of course calling. My Japanese phone can also browse the real internet, send real e-mails, has GPS navigation, is an IC-chip based train pass and digital wallet, TV remote, and music player. My American phone might actually be able to use a web browser, but it’s not very good or even fast and I think I’d have to pay more.

Here’s a look at the phones opened up:

Open Up

So while yeah, my American phone does all the basic stuff, I feel a bit like I’m stepping back into the stone age. I never thought about how much time I killed in Japan browsing the web on my phone. One advantage that my US phone does have over the Japanese one is ease in making your own MP3 ringtones. With the US one, I could just use any file I want to. The Japanese one is a bit more protected and complicated, which kind of sucks.

Oh, and let’s also quickly look at the difference in pictures taken by the phones. I took a picture of my stupid bobblehead guy, using each phone’s maximum resolution. The difference is pretty obvious. It’s even more apparent if you look at the raw images. The Japanese phone is super tall because it can take wide photos. Raw Japanese. Raw American.

The raws give you an even better idea of how crappy the American one is

It’s too bad the US market will always be behind Japanese or other countries’ phone markets because people aren’t as willing to pay to upgrade their handsets as often or adopt new technologies. And yes, since I’ve had my Japanese W43s for over a year, I’m already thinking of buying a new model.

A Grande Discovery


After a half weekend, I finally had a really good day off. What’s that? A half weekend? Oh allow me to explain. Every now and again apparently, AEON schools have a fun little event they call “Sunday Open.” This means that they open up on the normally closed Sunday, so that they can interview prospective students, teach some special classes, and so on. I was the lucky teacher chosen to work this Sunday Open, so I thus lost half of my weekend. I was paid for it, and it was only 5 hours of work, but I do have to say that I might have rather just slept all that afternoon rather than waking up and going to work on my usual day off.

But that’s all behind me now. Today, you see, I ventured to the nearby station called Soga. The last time I came here was sometime at the end of September when I was still trying to find a cell phone. I had heard that Blanchard got an au phone without his actual Gaijin Card, so I figured I could maybe try the same thing. I had gone to the nearby Goi au shop to check and they had (apparently wrongfully) told me that it would be impossible to get a phone without the magic card. Anyways, I knew Soga was a fairly large junction station, so I had assumed there would be big department stores and other cell-phone-carrying shops in the area. After walking around the station and not finding anything, I walked further away in hopes of finding something. After about 45 minutes of walking, I was in Chiba, the next big city up. Ah well. A wasted morning, and a ton of walking. After that fiasco, I figured that Soga was a bust and there was nothing there except pachinko parlors.

I recently found out from one of my students that there is a major shopping mall in Soga, apparently a short (and free) bus ride away from the station. Score. I checked out the mall, called Ario, and it is pretty nice. Everything looked brand new actually. Most of the stores are clothing, so there wasn’t too much for me to actually buy, but there was also a huge Ito Yokado department store inside that was kind of cool to walk around. After Ario, I hopped onto the free shuttle to the next place, called Festival Walk, which was equally if not more impressive. An oasis of picante sauceFestival Walk had a huge arcade, Sega Arena, a movie theatre, and a really nice internet cafe. The net cafe seemed way nicer than others I have seen, with a bigger cubicle, better recliner, and nicer computer/LCD TV monitor. And not only were there free soft drinks, but there is free smoothies and soft serve ice cream. Pretty good deal, and this place also looks brand new. On top of all that, there is also free darts and billiards, making this place a good candidate for an all-nighter. I think I might try it sometime soon. This Friday is a holiday, so maybe then.

And the best discovery of the day was a place called Poca Tacos. At long last, MEXICAN FOOD! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the place. In case you didn’t know, Mexican food in Japan is about as rare as any food can be here, so it was a welcome sight. I ate a bunch of food there, and it was really good. I had nachos, a small burrito, and a bunch of chili cheese tacos. Sounds weird, but they were pretty good. This place is only about a 10 minute train ride from Goi, which means I’ll be likely visiting Soga a lot more from now on. Please see the picture on the right to see the discovery of the weekend. And yes, the napkin does say “Taco Time.” Viva Soga.


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Hello Kitty everywhere!It’s been forever since I’ve written a blog. I keep wanting to go to an internet cafe, but this past week and a half or so has been pretty busy. I will try later this weekend. Right now I’m at the business support center next to my apartment, using internet for a few minutes before I go to work to start my day at the usual 1PM. Yes, that is pretty sweet.

Please look at the photo on the left. This decent-looking picture taken with my cell phone, when I wasn’t using it to watch morning weather report videos or using its GPS and digital compass to guide me to the nearest convenience store. OK that’s a lie. There are conbinis everywhere, so you don’t need the GPS for that.

The Hello Kitty tissues you see are sickeningly cute, right? Just like everything in this country. But yeah, I didn’t get those at the Sanrio store or anything (as if I would). No, the freaking BANK gave me these as a gift when I opened an account there a few weeks ago. Just goes to show you that Japan has no shame when it comes to cute crap.

I will write more later. Things are good here. I have a few mini-stories, nothing major at all. One funny story is about how I almost puked on the train because some girl passenger has the worst breath I have ever smelled in my entire life. But that story will have to wait until this weekend.

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