Most of them are pretty mundane, and certainly not blog material in these initial, pre-planning stages: where to get my hair cut, which supermarket to get a membership card with, what shampoo brand to try out that won't horribly mangle my super-fine white hair...
But there are some that are worth talking about, even this early in the game.
I talk, of course, about cell phones. Service, model, make, e-mail... oh, the choices to be made!
Firstly, I'm going to have to decide between the three major cellphone service providers in Japan:
Now, in my previous two jaunts to Japan, I have used AU--the first time by necessity (that was what our program provided, and since we were only there for two months, we didn't have a whole lot of choice) and the second time by choice (possibility influenced by familiarity more than anything.)
The question is, is AU really the best?
According to this website, AU is absolutely the worst when it comes to gaijin friendliness. Oops. Guess I've been going about it the wrong way this whole time.
Even though my phone in Kyoto was fully bilingual (thank goodness), and I had nothing but good things to say about the AU people themselves (one of whom bent the rules a little bit for me so that I could cancel my plan one day and continue using the phone until the next... thank you, 三条 AU shop lady! You are my savior!) My plan was a little pricey, but I basically had unlimited e-mail and web access, so I couldn't complain too much. (It wasn't technically "unlimited," but I never even came close to the amount my plan covered, it may as well have been.)
Honestly, AU is looking pretty spiffy for this second time around; as far as I can gather, they have the most understandable plans, which can be combined in (theoretically) any way you want. All the internet and mail you want, and only twenty-five minutes of calling? No problem! (I believe that's what I had originally... I only went over my talking limit once, which was conspicuously in one of those months I was plus boyfriend... hm.)
Also, as far as I can tell, they have he nicest phones. (Linked to the English site for your convenience!)
(Most of which, at least in '08,said "WIN" on them.Yes, I'm easily amused, you all know this.)
Or, you know, they did when I went last time. I absolutely loved my phone, which of course, they no longer sell. It was already on the cheap line back in September of '08, you'd better believe it's off the shelves now.
Honestly, if they just let me reactivate this puppy? I'd go with AU in a heartbeat. Such a nice little phone... So solid and durable. Dropped it all the way down the outside stairs at my Shiga home-stay. Nice ding in the side, but otherwise none the worse for wear. That's quality that is.
But you see, the problem is... I have no idea about the other providers. Friends have Docomo, but I've heard that it's the most pricey, not to mention the fact that I don't particularly like the phones. I've also heard that it's the most popular, though, so maybe the populous of Japan knows something I don't.
And Softbank? Well, I may be tempted by the fact that SMAP now acts as their spokesmen, and the fact that I absolutely adore the White family commercials:
(Yes, the father is a white dog, the older brother is a African-American man, and the sister and mother are both Japanese women. I think it's wonderful.)
I'm not sure if I actually have a valid reason for wanting to use their service. I don't want an iPhone after all... not to mention the fact that I have been informed, repeatedly, from various sources, that they have absolutely awful reception, and you'd better not live in the boonies if you use their service.
And then a friend on my Kyoto program had Softbank and never had any problems at all, even when we were cruising around the Ise peninsula in a bus. She also paid an obscenely low price for service... though admittedly she was on a student plan.
I suppose that I'm going to have to do a bit more research, ask around, compare plans... and ultimately go with the service that has the
Be sure to tune in next time, when we discuss the very difficult process that is choosing an e-mail address!
This is Edo, signing off while wondering if she's counting her chickens a bit too early again.