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Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2002


Don't pay extra for shipping when you move to Japan

Belated greetings

A belated Merry Christmas to you all. I am beginning this week's column from one of my most favorite places in the world -- Amakusa.

Amakusa is a tiny island off the coast of Kumamoto in Kyushu, where Japan's most famous 'saint,' Amakusa Shiro, was born and died.

He was the leader of the Kirishitan -- the indigenous Japanese Christians. At Christmas, it is a wonderful place to be, as the people really know how to celebrate this 400-plus-year tradition.

Shipping savings

"Dear Lifelines; I'm moving to Osaka next month and want to send over some clothes and shoes. I have heard that there can be really high import or duty taxes on doing this. I've tried ringing lots of postal companies, the Japanese Embassy etc., but I just seem to get different answers all the time. I need to know how much it might cost me and what I can do to get around it -- ie. should I write 'personal' etc.?" -- Nichola in New Zealand

Dear Nichola in New Zealand; I was born and raised in Japan, but have never really known that postal system. A couple of calls have provided the answer, though.

It is relatively simple -- the most important thing is, when you arrive in Japan, to make sure to go to the customs counter. Ask for the "Unaccompanied Baggage Declaration Form." All you have to do is fill it out, listing what will be coming, how many pieces etc., and, in principle, what you will be bringing for your own use to Japan. As long as you are careful to turn in the application when you arrive there should be no tax.

You will fill out two forms, so make sure and keep one yourself. When your things arrive, all you have to do is turn it in with your items and you should have no problem.

The Web site is www. customs. go. jp and the number you can call, in seven languages no less, is 03-3529-0700 in Tokyo.

At the same time, how about a word from our faithful readers? What experiences have you had? Does it work that smoothly? Let us know!

Credit query

"Dear Lifelines; Can we get reimbursement from a credit card company that we bought air tickets with before our tour agency went bankrupt? It is my understanding that it varies by credit card companies, but a friend from Finland, for example, says that under their consumer protection law, the company is responsible for refunding the money." -- Niya in Ibiraki

Dear Niya; After a couple hours talking with the various credit card companies, this is what we have come up with.

There are a couple of scenarios.

In the case of a bankruptcy, you may have already paid for a service with your credit card, but the company that received the funds is not able to provide you the services.

We checked the basic policy in each of the credit card companies, and it seems that you are responsible for the charge in this case. At the same time, they ask that you call them and discuss the details as there are a lot of variables.

For example, if you bought your ticket on time, it had not been charged yet, etc.

What is most important is the contract with the travel agency. Many of the travel agencies have insurance and belong to various organizations that put up a bond to repay in these situations. If this is the case, for example, the credit company will refund the amount if the contract provides for that.

To make a very, very long story short, all is not lost as there are a number of possibilities to try and get your money back.

For American Express, the Web site is www.americanexpress.com . You can reach them on: 0120-020-222. For Visa it's: www.visa.com or phone: 0053-144-0022. For Master Card, see: www.mastercard.com, or call 03-5728-5200.

Have any of our readers had a credit card situation like this?

More on spam

Our faithful readers! You guys are the best! Reader Ken Wheaton-Yamada writes: In your last column, a reader asked how to deal with spam. They should check out www.mailwasher.net . This is a free download program that previews your e-mail, flags what is obviously spam, lets you check any other mail you don't want and then bounces it all back with a note to the sender that your e-mail address doesn't exist.


A friendly local ISP provider that supports the community? Try Global Online at www.gol.com

Having trouble finding medicine from home? Try the American Pharmacy at www.tomods.jp, or call: 06-4804-3811 or 03-3271-4034.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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