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Thursday, May 30, 2002

LIFELINES

The fuss-free way to get you and your stuff home


We were wondering how many inquiries would be coming in and we are all pleasantly surprised at how many we have. It is going to be a big job to reply to them all but that's what we are here for. Remember, we rely on you, the reader, to not only send in questions but help us with the answers. Please let us hear from you.

"Can you buy airline tickets overseas and use them from Japan? Is it legal to do so?" asks reader Miller.

As far as we know there is no problem as long as you get them in your name. These days the best option is what's called an "e-ticket." You can do it all by telephone or e-mail, and if you pay by credit card all you do is go to the airport, give your e-ticket number and that's it.

You always have a return ticket and pay a small penalty to change dates but otherwise it is a breeze.

Send an e-mail to Mr. Watanabe at info@gatewaylax.com (give me a mention) and he should be able to set you up with an e-ticket by e-mail.

At the same time make sure to join one of the mileage plans -- I am in both United Airlines and Northwest and they're both great. United's is called Mileage Plus (3817-4411) and Northwest World Perks (3533-6600).

Once you fly a couple times you get double mileage and then it takes off from there. These days I get one free round trip in Asia for every Japan/U.S. round trip. Not a bad deal.

At the same time it might be good to check in Japan as these days it is often cheaper to get a ticket in Japan with the exchange rate changing so fast. Try Mr. Oozora at (03) 3434-3500. He should be able to check prices for you and let you know which is better.

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"I have been going to and coming from Japan for 26 years. I would like to know the currently available modes of shipping goods," writes reader Traweek.

The best deal is the Post Office, believe it or not. Just check for what in Japan we call a "mikan box" -- a "mikan" is a Japanese orange and they used to come in boxes of about 1 kg so it became the standard measure.

There is what is called "'EMS." It is a service that lets you track what you send -- you can find out where it is and they electronically follow the package until it is delivered.

For a Mikan Box it is 2,400 yen and takes a couple of days to the U.S. depending on location.

Next is direct Air Mail -- 3,350 yen and takes a day or so more.

Then there is SAL, which is basically a space available service that puts your package on the next available air service. This is 2,700 yen.

Finally, by ship which takes a month to 40 days and is 1,800 yen.

And there is now an English telephone number for inquiries regarding shipping. For info just call 03-5472-5851 or go online at www.post.yusei.go.jp . Not bad for the post office.

Then there is Federal Express. For a 1-kg Mikan Box it is 8,450 yen, but you can probably get it in two days. You can call 0120-00-3200 or do it online at www.fedex.com and choose your country and they will pick it up at your house or office.

Finally, DHL for a Mikan Box is 8,900 yen. You can call them at 0120 39 2580 or check out www.DHL.co.jp and they too will pick up.

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"Where can I buy electronic items for use at home?" asks Mampill in Sendai, who is returning soon to India, which has 220/240 current.

For those of us who have been in Japan a long time that is an easy one -- Akihabara.

Akihabara is "electric city" and a short ride on the Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station. These days it has become pretty establishment. When we were kids there were seemingly hundreds of tiny stalls, packed with transformers and all kinds of stuff.

The best place to go is Laox, which you can call at 03-3225-9041, or Labros, at 5298-2711 and ask for Carlos.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get a little personal and say a big "thank you" to Mr. Satoshi Yamaguchi and all the gang at DHL for sending over 500 soccer balls from Japan to Afghanistan for free. The goal is to have sent 2002 by the end of the World Cup.

Well, lastly, the World Cup is coming to Japan. People will be coming from all over the world and this is the time for all of us to do our best to help out visitors.

There is World Cup Hotline at 0570-000-911, operational 24 hours a day, and a special World Cup Internet Cafe (03-5780-1111). In particular they are asking for donations of unused prepaid cards to give to those visiting Japan to make their stay a bit easier.

If you have one or more unused NTT/JR/Subway or any kind of prepaid card (remember, unused) sitting around in a drawer, send them to The World Cup Hotline, Box 833, Tokyo, Japan 100-8781.



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