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1 September 2005

I AM a Stupid Gaijin

Today I went back to Ikebukuro to be pampered at my new bank. Again I was greeted at the door by the security guard and I made my way upstairs for some coddling. As I don’t yet speak Japanese, it was rather difficult to communicate that I hadn’t yet received my keycard and that I needed to deposit money in order for me to transfer my rent to my landlord over the internet. Shinsei Bank markets itself as a bilingual bank but I think this service needs a little refining. Confusion reigned.

I had a huge night last night having dinner and drinks with a mate. Tokyo felt hotter and muggier than usual. With a mouth full of sawdust, I realised I wasn’t dealing too well with the situation. I broke out into a cold sweat that hinted of the garlic, wine and fried food I’d consumed what felt like only hours before. With a muddled brain, I tried to explain why I didn’t have a passbook or keycard and it finally got through.

As per my first visit, I was invited to sit in a comfy armchair whilst my man, the navigator, went to speak to someone behind a counter. He chatted for a while then came over, escorted me to the counter, then gave me the deepest bow I have received to date. Of course, this pleased me tremendously. The woman behind the impossibly tall counter (I’m sure she was on a platform back there) gave me some paperwork to fill out. I put my money in a little tray in front of her (first mistake) and she then escorted me to the ATM next to her counter. Although the instructions were in English, she navigated her way through the on screen touch buttons for me. I was giggling quite a bit by this stage as I placed the money in a huge hole in the machine. Fortunately laughter is universal and she was cracking up too, although I’m sure it was to be polite.

The entire experience mystified me. The excessive service (even by Japanese standards), the fact that I have to tell the guard downstairs what I'm there for, checking in with the navigator who then directs where you go. It is absolutely extraordinary, and so very different from banking at home. The main reason I chose this bank is because they offer bilingual services and that I can do most of my banking online in English, therefore avoiding moments like these.

Thank God my pink keycard is being delivered tonight as I don't want to set foot into another branch until I've got this caper all worked out.

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