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NHK slashing TV fees

From 2012 onwards, NHK has decided to lower it’s viewership fee.

Can someone tell me what the heck viewership fee is? I am accustomed to paying a month flat rate for my internet/cable tv/ phone line but I have never heard of a viewership fee before.


Public broadcaster NHK has decided to slash viewer fees from the business year of 2012, using 10 percent of the revenue from the previous year’s fees, NHK officials said.

This will be the first time for NHK to reduce viewer fees since the charge system was established under the 1950 Broadcast Law. The decision has been incorporated in the new corporate plan endorsed by NHK’s Board of Governors on Tuesday.

The broadcaster estimates that it will gain 680 billion yen in viewer fees in fiscal 2011 and intends to use 68 billion yen of the amount to finance reductions in the charges the following business year.

NHK is considering an across-the-board slash in fees for terrestrial broadcasting, a cut in additional charges for viewing satellite broadcasting and a reduction and exemption of fees for low-income elderly people. However, the broadcaster intends to discuss how to implement the plan next fiscal year or later.

NHK’s Executive Board referred the draft, which includes projected revenues and outlays from fiscal 2009 to 2011, to the broadcaster’s Board of Governors on Oct. 7 for approval.

Read more…

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Daily, Misc, Utilities | No Comments »


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What buttons to push?

You’re at home and suddenly you received an email that your pet goldfish, Desdemona, has died. Clutched by sadness, shock and a morbid sense of indulgence, you’ve decided to call home and “speak” to its body before it’s final flush down the toilet. Thing is, you just arrived in Japan and you have no bloody idea how to use the phone or what buttons to push. So what do you do? Every second counts because in the hot Saharian weather where your fish lives, it wouldn’t be long that Desdemona, may gott bless his/her soul (cos you weren’t sure of it’s sex), becomes a dried up crust.

To call from Japan to an Int’l destination:

1. You need to dial the access code of 010, first.
2. Followed by the country code you’re calling: Very useful list here.
3. If your country code starts with a “0″, drop it and dial the rest of the code + your phone number (including its area code).
Other options, buy a phone card for cheaper rates or register for an international calling program if you have more than one pet fish.

To call within Japan (landline to landline; cellphone to landline; landline to cellphone):

1. If you live in the same area, you may omit the area code. Although if you dialed the area code in, you’ll still get connected.
2. With a cellphone, you’ll have to dial the area code in. If you’re calling a cellphone you’ll have to dial the cell number’s area code in.
3. Cellphones cannot call tollfree numbers ( numbers that starts with 0120), you’ll have to use a landline for that.

To call Japan from abroad:
1. Dial Japan’s International access code first ( there are three options, try ALL of them till it works: 00, 011, 0011)
2. Then dial Japan’s country code (81)
3. If the number you want to reach starts with a “0″, omit it and dial the rest of the numbers.

For more information of the various calls and call back services, go here.

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Misc, Social, Utilities | No Comments »


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Public Phones in Japan

There are three types of public phones you will see in Japan and they will ALL function similarly except for some small modification and improvements.

The green phone is the the most common public phone you will see in Japan. It takes coins and telephone cards and you can also make international calls with them. The grey phone is also very common, you can make international calls from this as well but it will only take certain service provider’s phone cards only. So be sure to check before you dial. Alternatively, bring a bucket of coins.

The orange phone is the newest public phone to grace the streets of Japan and they are also becoming quite common. It takes coins, phone cards and IC cards. You can make international calls with this ones too.

Oh, you might encounter a pink phone that accepts 10yen coins only too. Remember to take a picture of it because it will soon be extinct from general consumerism and stored in a museum soon.

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Japanese Culture, Misc, Social, Utilities | No Comments »


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Japanese Petrol/Gas Stations

Ha, sometimes when you read about Japan for so long, and after you’ve lived there for a while, the “everyday” things have really become everyday and not strange at all. Then you come home and get asked odd questions and you think “Yeah, of course!” but then you realise that it’s not that normal at all. It’s very Japanese. It just became normal for you.

I was reminded of this when I read this entry in Lisa Katayama’s blog:

People are always asking me if it’s true that gasoline comes from the sky in Japan. Yes, it is, they come out of those pumps hanging from the ceiling light, which advertises regular or high-octane gas. And you don’t have to do a thing at the gas station, either, cuz the guys in red do it all for you–fill up your tank, wipe your mirrors, squeegee your windows, and stop oncoming traffic to direct you out of the gas station.

I didn’t drive in Japan so I didn’t think about it too much. I guess that, given the premium they have on space in Japan, this is the only method they can adopt. One thing I did notice about petrol stations in Japan though is that they’re relatively uncommon. Here in Australia, you can find intersections that have petrol stations on three out of the four corners. In Japan, it actually took me a while before I spotted one.

As for the awesome service you receive, well, I’d say that’s not so unusual for a country where you’ll be greeted with “IRRASHAIMASSE!” (Welcome!) each time you enter a store.



Posted by Chidade in Transport, Utilities | No Comments »


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The Kombini Life

Convenience stores, or kombini, are the epitomy of Japanese, errr…convenience. There are a few major ones: 7-Eleven, Lawsons, Circle K, am/pm, Family Mart and ….umm…that one that only seems to have heart and star symbols as a shop name. I’m sure it has a real name. Comment if you know!

There was recently a survey which said 24-hour kombini are actual a vital part of many people’s lifestyles. I tend to agree. The local grocery had real meat and vegetables and was open until midnight. But my 7-Eleven was there 24 hours a day if I needed water, or a cheese fix, or if I suddenly remembered at 2am that I hadn’t paid my internet bill.

Or, even, if I was bored and wanted to browse through the magazines.

The food is relatively healthy but you can easily find hot and greasy junk to satisy your cravings too. In winter, you can buy oden, which is basically assorted foods that have been wallowing in some sort of soup broth in the open til it’s at the point of disintegration. Many Japanese and gaijin swear by it as a warm pick-you-up, but personally I’ve been too terrified to eat it. Honestly! They’ve been sitting there for days!

Two good blogs to read up on strange kombini food are, which in the past had food reviews, and Konbini Life, which is a moblog dedicated to reviewing the strange foods found in a konbini. Or kombini. Or combini. Or conbini…whatever!

Image from

Posted by Chidade in Food, Misc, Nightlife, Utilities | 4 Comments »


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Garbage Trucks

Why would anyone post about garbage trucks?

Photo from

Well, they are pretty unique in Japan. They are – first of all – TINY because they need to be to get through the many narrow, winding streets that makes up Tokyo suburbia.

Secondly, and more uniquely, they play this happy, cheerful music as they go, giving you the feeling that you should run for the ice-cream truck. They don’t do early morning runs like back home, thankfully, so they make a good 11am wake up call. But still, the music is bizarre. And catchy. I’ve caught myself humming it some days.

Not all trucks play music, it should be pointed out. Some are simply a recorded announcement played again and again. What they say is beyond my comprehension, but my best educated guess is that it’s extolling the city government’s disposal program.

The garbage disposal method is interesting. I live in Yokohama so we have the insane recycling program to contend with. But even in other prefectures, the garbage is left in their bags under nets on the side of the street (to stop crows and strays getting at it). Japan is a relatively clean country, when you think about how many people live here – but one thing that often gets to me is the smell. I think that if they tried using BINS for that garbage, they wouldn’t have the crow or smell problem anymore.

Ha, but then, how could they inspect our garbage to make sure that we’ve properly sorted everything?

Posted by Chidade in Recycling, Utilities | 3 Comments »


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Paying Bills

Paying your bills in Japan is relatively painless, even if you can’t speak or read Japanese.

Paying with a credit card still isn’t that common, so the ones that do offer credit card payment are specifically gaijin friendly. Telephone and internet banking is common here but of course that doesn’t help those of us that can’t speak or read Japanese.

So the other option is to pay at your local convenience store, or combini. You can tell if your bill can be paid at the convenience store because there will be pictures of the shop logos printed usually on the back of the bill.

Take your bill to the convenience store, the clerk will scan it and tell you how much you need to pay. Or, show you the amount on the register, if you haven’t gotten the hang of numbers in Japanese.


Posted by Chidade in Cost of Living, Utilities | 2 Comments »


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Convert western years into Japanese years

In Japan, it’s usually the Gregorian calendar years (e.g. 2005) that we use everyday, but for official and administrative purposes, the Japanese calendar is often used, and that can be confusing if you don’t know it.

Fortunately, this online tool converts western years into Japanese Emperor Era years (”nengo”, 年号).

The Japanese year is written with the name of the reigning Emperor followed by the year of his reign and the kanji character for “year”. For example, 2005 is Heisei 17, and can be written in Japanese as 平成17年 or 平成十七年.

The most common occasion when you might need to use this calendar system is for paperwork that ask for your date of birth, which means that once you memorize this, you should be safe for a while. And if you were not born before 1925, it will be either Showa or Heisei. Note that in some forms, the eras are shortened to just the first kanji, or even becomes a choice between S and H.


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