Let’s Move All Things (September)

everyday sir etceteras the wind whispers that it recognizes us
the trees hold out their handshakes the stars twirl around the sky
like bubbles in a windowsill glass everyday trains go through tunnels
like fingers through rings like scarves through a magician’s fist
birds lift up like stricken punctuation marks

sir everyday I take my fistful of minutes and bet it on the wrong horse

if I weren’t so scattered now sir I’d run around the block
in my new sneakers I’d show everybody how high I can jump
I’d learn to whistle all over again and I’d whistle
even though I can’t really whistle

everyday sir the sun tells us what the moon did last night
how she sat in front of a mirror
lamenting the dissolution of herself

and we retrace our steps looking for something we’ve lost
even though we can’t remember what it is we once had

we try to recall forgotten phone numbers
so we can dial them and hear voices
that belong to faces in photographs
we can no longer identify

I don’t know about you sir
but I wouldn’t mind a good fistfight about now
maybe a natural disaster to shake things up
I don’t know about you
but sometimes it all seems like squealing car tires
with no crash at the end

we wait with faces squinched up
shoulders raised – for what?
I don’t know sir.

– Denver Butson

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Nothing promotes nudity quite like Japanese summers.

As I write this, I’m lying in bed under a blanket in my air-conditioned bedroom (set to a modest 27 degrees Celsius) with a sore throat and a slight fever. I’ve actually just awoken from a brief medication-induced nap, & I’m still feeling somewhat woozy, & my throat still hurts but I at least my stomach seems to have stopped clenching and unclenching in spasms now.

I have been in Japan for 12 days, Kobe about 9, and it has been an eventful almost-two-weeks. Many people, as a standard conversation starter, will ask, “Is this your first time in Japan?” to which I’ll answer, “No, this is actually my 6th time” and get responses ranging from mild surprise to omg srsly?!-type of responses. Japan isn’t really a new place to me right now, though I definitely remember the awe and wonderment I had when looking at everything the first time I came in January 2009, possessing absolutely zero knowledge of the language and country. It remains a good memory for me, as I find that I become less in awe of things the older I get, & I’m not sure if that’s because I’m getting more jaded or simply because I’ve seen things or at least read about them before, so they come as much less of a surprise. Part of it is also because in the trips since then, I’ve had more responsibility either in getting myself & others around or being the one who planned the trip and so on, but I knew nothing in the first trip & really just followed people or wandered on my own with no preconceptions.

Tokyo Orientation from the 4th to the 6th (we reached in the evening of the 4th; no programs on this day) was a whirlwind of talks & activities, & I know I fell asleep in more than one talk. Some I felt were highly engaging & useful, informative seminars while others were simply entertaining, & yet others made me feel like my time was being wasted. The sheer number of people & scale of the orientation made me aware of just how big the JET Programme was – it was truly an international gathering of people from various parts of the world in one location as we were inducted slowly into our jobs. The formal talks aside, it was an opportunity to mix and mingle & get to know people. I’ll have to say that lunch on the 2nd day was the most entertaining, interesting & educational part of the Tokyo Orientation for me, which culminated in the formation of a secret Facebook group (anyone up for some ichigo? ;D). From my perspective, the topics being discussed over lunch were never really topics that would have been talked about openly back home, except with close friends, so I was more than surprised when stories started coming forth & so on, but the openness & frankness was a refreshing contrast to the hush-hush attitude I was used to. Personally, having never been involved with anyone before, there were concepts & terms that were being thrown around that I was unfamiliar with but the people at the table were kind enough to explain them to me. So, yeah, lunch was a pretty eye-opening experience and I finally got to meet some people I’d only interacted with briefly online, as well as make new friends.

On the morning of the 7th, we headed to Kobe City via a chartered bus to Haneda Airport and then a short flight to the local airport, followed by another busy ride to the Kobe Education Center (KEC).

Fact 1: It’s summer in Japan, & it’d been established over orientation that Tokyo was warm.
Fact 2: I’m from a tropical country which has summer-like weather all year round.
Fact 3: Kobe was infinitely warmer with higher humidity and a higher UV index. The Sun doesn’t shine here, it blazes in full glory, like an oven lamp roasting our tender flesh.

Misconception: I may be from a country with similar weather all year round, but it definitely did not prepare me for this heat or level of sweating. Undershirts are absolutely essential here, they’re not an option you can just ponder about & consider if you want to look professional and not like a drowning rat with sweat staining your clothes most distinctly.

The schedule here has been packed, with events planned for us everyday. The first few days were mostly to introduce us to our local residential community & let us know what’s in the neighbourhood. This weekend to Wednesday was actually Obon, a festival that honours the spirits of one’s ancestors. As such, school was closed from Monday to Wednesday and I took summer leave for the 2 days I didn’t have programs on, and.. Cleaned the apartment a lot. I’ve been to a few social events & gone out to town to hang out with people, so there’s been a lot of meeting new people and small talk. I’ll just say here that I am pretty terrible at small talk. With some people you can pretty much shoot the bull & have fun, but it’s not with everyone. That said, just about everyone I’ve met have been really awesome and nice and extremely helpful (many thanks to the couple in the block opposite mine for helping me get aircon set up within a week!! It’s been a lifesaver. Also another shout out to the cute couple who’ve known each other since they were kids, for helping me with getting & building a bedframe from IKEA!) so the only problem I’ve had really, is turning down invitations to social events ’cause I want to clean or get settled in or I’m just tired. Which I should stop doing, I guess, because the beginning is a pretty crucial time period for us to figure out who will be in our social circles.

Not only are the people really nice and amazing, I’ve met some who are, beyond that, really charismatic and attractive and just beautiful people! It’s just sad that social interaction doesn’t work as simply as going up to people & declaring your intentions of wanting to be friends with them. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler?

“What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar.”
– Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I haven’t really been homesick, though I have definitely missed my family & friends. Talking to my siblings frequently over LINE, texting Claire & Jan helped, & talking to my parents & Jan as well. Living alone here isn’t so much of a culture shock as it is a struggle living alone, seeing as I can’t cook, & I’m terrified of insects so I’ve been cleaning & vacuuming really often.

I’m going to get more water & spray the little thing the guy at the pharmacy section in the supermarket gave me into my throat for some relief. Take some paracetamol, & sleep.

P.S. With regards to my post title, before I got aircon installed, I was basically stripping down to undies (if I felt modest) whenever I got home. Which isn’t really a problem since my curtains are drawn all the time. The freedom & liberation of being able to do that because you’re living alone is wonderful!

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

I woke up in a panic this morning, having had the full weight of the realisation of my move to Japan hit me in my sleep, along with the vestiges of my nightmare. In it, one of the people dearest to me had been injured and seemed to be gone; I recall the anxiety and disbelief even as I tried to figure out what I should do, who I should call, how I could turn back time somehow. I awoke with the smell of perfume in the air; disoriented, I didn’t recognise it. I saw the dark figure of my sister standing by the table-side, then walking out into the living room. Cold, near tears, I stumbled out of bed and followed her, barely awake, just to be sure that she was still there, still alive. “Why are you awake?” she asked, as she prepared breakfast – a Nutella and peanut butter sandwich. “Are you going to work?” “Yes..?” Placated, more awake, well aware by now that it was but a terrible nightmare, I stumbled back under the blankets and fell into a dreamless slumber.

I remember a nightmare like this happening once before when I was but a small child, waking up from my sleep crying for my father whom I thought I’d lost. He was on his way out to work, but he comforted me and reassured me that he was there, and put me back to sleep.

“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness”
– Sylvia Plath

Before today, my flight on Sunday and the reality of Japan felt like something I was going to do, but it was something far away, something unreal. Yesterday, I received my e-ticket, a one-way trip to Japan that promised nothing of return, said nothing about what would happen, an open door into change. It finally registered in me that I really was leaving, leaving everything and everyone that I’ve known, the years of history I’ve had with the people and places I know. Even when I was packing, it felt like packing for a really long holiday, but now I am clear that this is not a vacation, but a huge leap for me from being a child, a student, somebody who’s always had people around to fall back on and look out for her, to being a responsible, independent adult (hopefully) capable of looking after herself, a pillar of support for others.

Japan isn’t a strange, new place for me. I’ve studied the language for 3 years, been there at least 5 times in the last 4 years, and read so much about the culture, society and people there – though it’d still be too much of a stretch to say that I know anything more than a tiny fraction of what the country and its people have to offer. The last trip in May didn’t feel like travelling to a foreign country, more like re-visiting an old place familiar to me. It’s still a country that I’ve barely discovered, having been mostly to the big cities and touristy attractions, but I know that I can make my way through daily life there without too much difficulty.

Perhaps it’s a lack of maturity and experience on my part, perhaps insecurity as I question the importance of my existence in people’s lives, in society and in the grander scheme of things. I think- I know, that this move is probably something I need to break out of the rut I’ve been so used to occupying for the last 20+ years of my life. The rut was comfortable, it was familiar, it was safe, but what is life without dynamicism and adventure and unpredictability? I don’t want to settle for less than what I know I deserve, whether it’s people or the things I do in life. I have standards set for myself, and though I admit I have let go of myself considerably, I don’t want to continue down that path into what I consider as mediocre (for myself). Even if others don’t judge me, I judge myself, because I know I am capable of more, and I will achieve more.

There’s a cold hand twisting inside my chest and wrenching the muscle pumping life through me, and I will admit I have cried plenty when I’m alone at home, when nobody’s around to see. The last time I cried so hard was on my birthday when I was on exchange in America – my homestay parents had come by to pass me little bits of furniture like a lamp for my room, and a cake we’d baked together, and I don’t know what came over me but tears just started streaming down my face even as I fought to regain control and stop. I hate to cry, and even more so when there are people around to witness it. I try to be a master of my emotions, but I couldn’t then, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to at the airport when my friends and family send me off. I hope I don’t cry.

I’m not afraid of going forward, of what will come, because I know from experience that I am adaptable. What I am afraid of is that the relationships I have with people will change, possibly into something I don’t like or desire. I am afraid that I won’t be able to be there for people I want to be there for, that I won’t be able to pick up bodily cues that say “No, I’m not okay” when they say they are, that they won’t tell me things because I’m far away and may not be able to influence or change anything immediately. I’m afraid of missing events in their lives, both big and small, and that the distance will become permanent. This isn’t something new that I struggle with, but distance will only compound these fears.

Technology has made connecting with family and friends much easier, with Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Google Hangouts, and all other assorted forms of communication. The first time I travelled abroad on my own at the age of 15, I had to climb into the loft of a lodge in New Zealand to make staticky phone calls back home on a dinky little Sony Ericsson phone because that was the only place where we could get reasonable cell signal strength. I wasn’t the only one in the lodge either, so all 8-10 of us had to take turns climbing up the ladder in the cold mornings before the camp schedule started, or late at night after it’d ended and we had a little free time before lights out. Technology helps, but it’s still not the same as the richness of seeing someone in real life, how their hair gets played by stray streams of wind in the air, how the light falls on them and turns their eyelashes a golden brown, how you may accidentally step on their toes under the table, how they may spill a little drink on themselves and fret over whether it will leave a stain, how annoyed you get when they leave puddles of water in their wake as they step out of a shower, how they like to cover your phone with a thin layer of powder as they powder themselves, how you can take photos of them in their sleep as they lie sprawled across chairs or on the floor.. So many things.

My bags are almost all packed, but I still have a couple of days to go. I’m not yet gone, and I never will be gone completely (my sister will glare in agreement as she starts to clean up our room after I leave), but I miss everyone already.

Harry Potter Geekery

In my ‘break’ from cramming for the JLPT (I say break from, but it’s more like I have little breaks for studying; definitely shouldn’t be the case, but procrastination brings out the worst of us), I’ve been exploring Pottermore. I’m still really far in front, in the first book, but I just got my wand from Ollivander! I really like the name Ollivander, by the way; there’s a certain old charm to it somehow.

Wand: Larch, 10 3/4 inches, supple, with a core of Unicorn hair

Unicorn

Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.

Minor disadvantages of unicorn hair are that they do not make the most powerful wands (although the wand wood may compensate) and that they are prone to melancholy if seriously mishandled, meaning that the hair may ‘die’ and need replacing.

————————————————————–

Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair – although, again, this factor ought not to be considered separately from the wand wood, core and length, nor of the owner’s life experience and style of magic, all of which will combine to make the wand in question unique.

————————————————————–

Larch

Strong, durable and warm in colour, larch has long been valued as an attractive and powerful wand wood. Its reputation for instilling courage and confidence in the user has ensured that demand has always outstripped supply. This much sought-after wand is, however, hard to please in the matter of ideal owners, and trickier to handle than many imagine. I find that it always creates wands of hidden talents and unexpected effects, which likewise describes the master who deserves it. It is often the case that the witch or wizard who belongs to the larch wand may never realise the full extent of their considerable talents until paired with it, but that they will then make an exceptional match.

Let’s see what sorting will bring!

Gryffindor! Didn't quite expect this

Gryffindor! Didn’t quite expect this

You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart

– The Sorting Hat

Bravery and chivalry? Daring and nerve? I guess that kind of reflects what I’ve been talking about recently. Really thought I’d get sorted into Hufflepuff, but this is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps I’ll follow in Neville Longbottom’s footsteps (and become a heartthrob? Unlikely, but I can dream) and become the courageous fellow he was in the later books, once he believed in himself. According to this, anyway:  “The Sorting Hat can detect nascent qualities in a student and place them in the House that will challenge them and put their character to the test. Case in point, Neville Longbottom was sorted into Gryffindor because the Hat sensed that he was capable of demonstrating bravery and leadership during his time at Hogwarts. However, these qualities did not fully surface until Neville learned to believe in himself.

One of the fun things about fiction is that it lets you imagine yourself as any of the characters that you identify with at any point in time, and as that character grows, you can take qualities you admire and try them out in yourself so you grow too, though probably not as exponentially as most characters do.

“Life doesn’t require ideals. It requires standards of action.”
– Nagasawa (Norwegian Wood by Murakami Haruki)

The people we keep close

I did plan to make a post on some other technical considerations I had in mind, like internet plans and VoIP, but I haven’t felt quite up to it.

The past week or so I’ve been spending my time quietly at home, talking more to my parents and brother, especially my mom since it’s the school holidays for her so she doesn’t have to go to the kindergarten to teach. Something I wish JETs could do during the summer holidays but.. that’s beyond our control. While each day feels like it’s been passing rather slowly, on the whole it feels like the weeks just sped by. I’m getting quite anxious about revision for my JLPT test since I haven’t been doing the practices regularly and as a consequence am rather behind schedule.

I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness.” – Anaïs Nin

There’s been an undertone of anxiety and some conflicting emotions in my social interactions with people, most likely brought about by certain irrational thoughts that run through my head. My social circles are rather small, so I don’t think there are really that many people for me to meet, but for those that I keep close I do want to see more of them, hang out more with them. I’m just grappling with my own personal dilemma of appearing too.. needy (for lack of a better word) that I escape into aloofness, which is completely contrary to what I want – which is to spend so much more time with the people I love before I leave. As a result, I’ve been venting at the Tumblr I share with one of my closest friends, when I guess all I really need to do is say, “Hey, are you free? I’d like to spend more time with you. Let’s hang out.”

素直になれないな。。
Being upfront with my feelings is hardly my strongest suit.

We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.” – Robert Fulghum

This piece on loneliness by This Japanese Life is extremely well-written and worth reading, and I get so many of the points made there. I don’t think loneliness is necessarily something that occurs only when you’re away from the people you know though. It’s like a little voice that speaks out in your head – when you’re in the company of people you know & can connect with, that little voice is easily quieted, but when you don’t feel a sufficient level of mutual understanding and connection with the people around you, that little voice resounds and echoes in the empty caverns of your mental living space, easily drowning out everything else. This is when shadows become demons as they creep out to fill your emptiness, whispering insecurities and uncertainties, eating little holes into yourself, holes which you feel compelled to fill in some way through vice or less destructive activities.

I am fortunate to have friends with whom spending time is truly a gift for my soul, friends in whose company my problems are washed away, friends whose warmth cover you like a warm fleece blanket and soothes the pains in your heart and quiets the demons in your head. These are the people with whom I feel the safest, with whom I think could make me stay even as I feel like I’ll always be drifting around, the people I keep close to my heart. My friends are the reason why I think I can be brave if I need to, even if it’s not necessarily courage but foolhardiness I have; they are my home away from home.

I will miss them terribly, but for now I will try to spend as much time as I can with them.

I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds – but I think of you always in those intervals.” – Salvador Plascensia

Cellular Considerations (Part 2)

NTT Docomo

Thanks to Mr Gerrit on Facebook, I was able to simulate the kind of costs I can expect to pay should I go the Docomo route using this bill simulation tool (Japanese only) which allows you to pick a phone and change some options for the plan you’ll sign up for. I’d recommend going through their English page of charges first to get an idea of what the options available are. I’m going to run through the options on the page a little for the benefit of those who may not understand Japanese.

My simulated bill

My simulated bill

You can click through the image for a larger version. According to this simulation, I can expect to pay ¥7,360/mth if I choose to pay for the phone in monthly installments over a 2-year period. Brief translations/descriptions of what’s in each step will follow. Feel free to comment and correct me if I’m not explaining them well; the following is just my own interpretation.

  1. Choose a different phone
  2. New Sign-Up or Recontract
  3. How you pay for the phone – over 24 months or in 1 lump sum upfront
  4. Provider: sp-mode – this seems to be a basic service that you have no choice but to sign up for
  5. Xi Talk 24 (Type Xi Ninen + Xi Kake-hodai) or Type Xi Ninen (without Xi Kake-hodai) – click through the links to the English pages; they’re pretty self-explanatory but Xi Ninen seems like yet another basic service you don’t have a choice but to get, and the Xi Kake-hodai gives you unlimited calls to fellow Docomo subscribers, so you’ll still be charged for calls to subscribers of other mobile carriers (au, Softbank, etc) at a rate of ¥20.50/30 sec if I’m not wrong
  6. Data Service: Xi Pake-Hodai Flat or Xi Pake-Hodai Light – Flat offers 7GB of data every month while Light offers 3GB. Based on my own usage at home, I don’t expect myself to use a whole lot of data on the go so I picked Light. There’s only a different of ¥1,050 so if you think you’re going to need that extra amount of data, go ahead and pick Flat; for me, that will up the cost for me to ¥8,410/mth.
  7. Monthly Support – Goodness knows what kind of support I’ll be paying for but there doesn’t seem to be a way out of this option
    Edit: Apparently this Monthly Support isn’t what you pay but a discount they give you, so it effectively cuts ¥2,835 off the bill every month. Awesome! I’ve also read about some shops that give ~¥20,000 cashback when you pay for the phone upfront, but I’m doing more research on where those shops are located. With luck, the bill could be much lower than this!

If I choose to pay for the phone upfront (Samsung GALAXY S4 SC-04E – ¥83,160), my monthly bill will amount to ¥3,895/mth. In case you think it may be cheaper to do it one way or the other, just do the math and you’ll see that what you pay for at the end of the day is the same astronomical amount. There are a bunch of discounts linked on the website but I’m not too clear on the terms and conditions, and how they’re applied so I won’t go there.

au-KDDI

Next, I’ll try to piece together what the monthly cost of using a smartphone on the au-KDDI network is like. I’m sure it’ll be full of mistakes, but I can’t find a similar bill simulator so it’s just what I can understand from their list of charges available. I can’t find the cost of any of the available phones so let’s just leave that out for now; I don’t expect the phones to be significantly cheaper than they are at Docomo though, and just in case anyone’s wondering I’ll be gunning for the HTC J One if I get on the au-KDDI network.

  • Basic charge: ¥1,961/mth – don’t be fooled by the Everybody Discount, they seem to be for long-term customers (think > 2 years)
  • Calling: Choose between au Flat Calling 24 (¥980/mth) and Wide Calling 24 (¥980/mth) – Flat Calling offers free domestic calls to au mobile phones at a monthly flat rate, while offers 50% discount on domestic calls to anywhere in Japan so you pay ¥980/mth plus a calling rate of ¥10.5/30 sec
  • LTE Connection Charge: ¥315/mth
  • LTE Flat: ¥5,985/mth for 7GB of data
  • Monthly Discount for purchasing a smartphone over 24 months: – ¥2,000/mth
  • Cost to Tether: ¥525/mth – neither Docomo nor Softbank charge for tethering within a 2-year contract, but there also appears to be a running promotion for free tethering right now, so I’ll leave this cost out for now
  • Total charge per month: ¥7,241/mth

I’m assuming this calculation of the total cost per month includes the cost of the phone, but since I can’t get any figures for that, I can’t say this for sure.

Softbank

As I linked in my previous post, Softbank has their plans laid out all nicely in a table, so from the main table (disregarding the discounts they applied there which may not be applicable to us) the plan will cost about ¥6,755/mth. If you add on unlimited domestic calling, it’ll be ¥7,255/mth. If you decide to get the iPhone 5, getting the 32GB version will bump the cost (on top of unlimited domestic calling) to ¥7,685/mth and the 64GB will bump it to ¥8,115/mth.

Summary

Assuming the most expensive options, i.e. 7GB data/mth, unlimited domestic calling, most expensive phone, the cost will be as follows for the 3 carriers I’ve listed above. I make no claims to the accuracy of the figures given, especially for the au-KDDI plan since I can’t find out how they factor in the cost of the phone.

  • Docomo with the Samsung GALAXY S4 SC-04E: ¥8,410/mth
  • au-KDDI (with/without no phone cost?): ¥7,241/mth
  • Softbank with the iPhone 5 (64GB): ¥8,115/mth

Docomo appears to be the most expensive, followed by Softbank, but of course all these figures depend on which phone you decide to get, and the choices you pick for parts of the plan for which you actually have options. Picking the cheaper 3GB option under Docomo will cut my bill quite a bit to ¥7,360/mth so I think I’ll probably go for this, barring situations and arrangements outside my control.

Cellular Considerations

There are several mobile carriers in Japan, of which the top 3 are probably NTT Docomo, Softbank and au-KDDI. From what I’ve read, the mobile coverage in Japan decreases accordingly from Docomo to Softbank to au (with differences in specific areas, of course, but this is speaking generally), but so does the price (meaning that Docomo plans are usually the most expensive). I’m not sure about the data speeds provided, but I think there’s a similar trend there. My own experience with Japanese mobile speeds is limited strictly to the two times I’ve used b-mobile, a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that leases Docomo’s network and the one time I roamed on Softbank’s network. Both times, my travels were largely limited to urban areas (Tokyo, Kyoto, etc) and I only used their 3G network, not the 4G or LTE network, so I can’t really speak for Docomo’s Xi LTE or Softbank’s 4G speeds. Their 3G speeds are, well, not too far off from my home country’s – that is to say, slow & spotty, and almost unusable in the underground train network.

Now, how’s this relevant to me? Obviously, being the tech geek that I am, I’m highly concerned about the options available to me when I go over in August. I’ll just talk a little about mobile carriers here, since I haven’t done much research into fiber-optic speeds for homes. According to this coverage map on OpenSignal for the Kobe area, NTT Docomo ranks best, followed by emobile (which I’ve honestly never heard of before this), then au-KDDI and finally Softbank.

Coverage map showing 3G & 4G coverage

From here, it seems like you can’t go too wrong with choosing either NTT Docomo or emobile; the latter may have significantly lower upload speeds compared to Docomo, but appears to be more reliable and has a lower ping.

I went about looking at the product line-up for each of these carriers, and Docomo has by far the most updated and latest phones available, with a much wider range and variety available for the consumer.

  • Docomo’s product line-up includes the Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z
  • au’s product line-up includes the HTC One (64GB variant, yay!) and a variant of the Sony Xperia Z
  • Softbank’s product line-up is.. to be honest, quite pathetic. Aside from the iPhone 5, all the other phones are years behind
  • emobile’s product line-up is similarly poor, if their (Japanese-only) website is anything to go by

Based on product line-up alone, I’d probably go for either Docomo or au. I’ve never jumped on the iDevices bandwagon, and much prefer to be able to hack, tweak and customise my Android devices as opposed to living in the high-walled, restricting environment that is iOS – but that’s just my opinion.

I don’t really have a lot of research done for price plans, but they seem to charge you a la carte based on the services you want to subscribe for. In any case, going through their websites for the various charges and services available thoroughly confused me. Here are links, make what you will of them.

  • Docomo – by far the most confusing
  • au – still confusing but slightly less so
  • Softbank’s iPhone plan – oh my god, tables that make sense! Sort of. Significantly more understandable and less confusing
  • emobile – everything is in Japanese, wall of text, brain.. refuses.. to.. proc- *fizzles out*

I should probably look through them and try to get a Japanese friend to explain to me what’s going on, how plans and billing works and all. But I’ve nearly forgotten about why I made this post in the first place. Apparently most of the JETs in Kobe use Softbank, and there appears to be free intra-carrier calling available, ie. Softbank to Softbank, Docomo to Docomo, and so on. It is probably more conducive to socialising if I get a Softbank line as well then, since fellow JETs will then be able to call me without abandon (depending on my popularity or lack thereof), but like I mentioned earlier, I’m resisting the idea of getting an iPhone quite a bit. Considering that LINE offers free calling, and my current usage informs me that I very rarely make or receive calls on my phone, I’m wondering if I couldn’t just get a Docomo or au line with a phone that I’d prefer using instead.

Sure, this is a pretty trivial problem in the grand scale of things, but it’s something that bothers me. Why is there such an imbalance in the line-up available at each carrier? Why are the plans so confusingly laid out? Why can’t everyone use wonderful tables that break down components of a plan and still provide an overall fee you pay per month? What if I have to use an iPhone after all?! How perplexing.

Alternatively, I suppose I could skip getting a phone line altogether (or circumvent it with a Skype line) and subscribe to one of the available data-only prepaid plans.