What a day it has been. There were Japanese sim cards, banana ice cream, bicycle repairs, and Pokemon Go.
I’m going to tell you all about it. But first:
So I’ve been shaking off this case of debilitating despondency every since my breakup almost a year ago. “Debilitating” isn’t hyperbole; I’m so lazy or depressed some days that I have trouble leaving the house.
Lately, I have been thinking I sort of lost my sense of self as a result of the breakup. However, more recently, I have been thinking that I lost it while I was with her. I lost touch with the motivated, excited, hard-hitting go-getter that I was.
And so as a result of what I just described, I barely made it out of the house before 2 PM, even though I was up at seven. I did manage to do my laundry, shave, and shower during that time, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Here is another result of what I described: my first mission today was to get a Japanese phone number. Oh, you read that right: I’ve been here almost a year and I still didn’t have one. How have I been messaging? Spotifying? Google Mapsing? The answer is that I’ve been making do by living off of local public WiFi.
When I first arrived in Tokyo, the sales person at Bic Camera said they would only sell me a phone plan that came with a new phone. But I didn’t want their stupid phone, so I told him to stuff it. After all, you never know what kind of data they’re going to harvest and sell. So, thinking there were no other choices available in all Japan, I declined. Since that time, in the back of my mind, there always shone a vague, bleary hunch that I had prematurely surrendered the hunt for a Japanese phone number. But I was despondent, so the status quo kept rolling.
But lately, the world seems to have been giving me hope. From time to time – it used to be more often, and I’ve missed this feeling – events surrounding me make me feel like the protagonist in a story, as if the ubiquitous-but-often-hidden author-god of real reality starts writing deux ex machina events into the pages of my life that feel super convenient. I’ve been bitching about the phone situation for a few weeks now. Maybe it’s been as many as two months.
Without wading too deep into the boring waters of fucking choredom, the main problem was that I needed a bank account other than Japan Post if I wanted to make digital money transfers back home, but I needed a phone number to do that. My coworker mentioned Sony bank would work fine for that. Whatever. I needed a phone number.
I asked my friends to help me. One of them did. She walked me to a Softbank (an internet service provider) branch and the guy said to me in crystal clear English, “okay, sir, just let me see your passport.” Only I didn’t have my passport, and that was in a town far away from my house. And so that was the last of it for a while.
I don’t know why I was too lazy to just go out then ride my bike to a local branch. But too lazy, indeed, I was. For three consecutive days, I wrote it down on my to-do list before failing to not only leave the house, but to so much as make the effort to Google “Softbank near me.”
Then, yesterday, while riding my bike to work, I stopped at a red light. A lady handed me a pack of tissues. It was a promotional product. It said “Softbank” and contained a literal map on the back of the package that led to the store.
Today, I went to Softbank.
The first one I went to was in Asakusa, on the edge of town before you start getting into Ueno to the right or Kuramae if you keep going straight. The guy didn’t want to deal with me because I didn’t speak Japanese (I mean, I was able to speak enough to be able to explain that I wanted a contract for a Japanese phone number). I showed him my credit card and said “I have money. Take my money.” Then he rolled his eyes and typed this into Google Translate:
“I apologize for the lack of store staff who can speak English.”
I found another Softbank branch at the Rox mall in the middle of Asakusa. There, I was able to book an appointment for Friday to speak with their special English speaker.
My next task was to fix my bike, but before I could, I passed a Docomo shop (Docomo is in the same business as Softbank). One phone call with a remote English-speaking representative and two hours later, I walked out with a sim card, a contract, and a new Android phone that I hadn’t asked for.
The Android phone cost 1 yen.
The guy insisted that I buy the phone.
“What if I break it?” I wanted to know. The representative told me I could keep it, that it was mine.
“Do I have to pay for it again later, in a later installment?” I wanted to know. The answer was no.
“Can I still put my sim card in my old iPhone 6 and just use this Android to play Pokemon Go?” I wanted to know. The answer was yes.
But I installed Pokemon Go on it anyway. I was able to access my data from 2016, when I last used an Android, which was cool.
Next, I had my bicycle repaired. The back tire was leaking air for a long time. I paid about fifty bucks for both wheels and brakes too. Plus I asked the guy how to say “tire” and “tube” in Japanese: “korewa, taia,” he said, indicating that “this is a tire,” and” “korewa, tooboo.”
While I was waiting for him to fix my bike, I had one of those truly amazing ice creams that I’m coming to expect from Japan.
It was really hard to leave the house today. But it was worth it. It feels great to be accomplished, even in this incredibly eventual way. And this valuable lesson comes at a good time: one of my fillings just fell out, and I really don’t want to let that unfortunate chore slide.
Let’s hope this is the beginning of something better.
Thanks for reading.