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Tuesday, March 4, 2003


Homesickness, toll-free numbers and money orders


Greetings from London, England, where my fellow Assyrians are making me feel at home with their sweet hospitality, wonderful food, but also making me homesick for Japan.

There are 2 million of our fellow Assyrian Christians in Iraq. They need our prayers at this time. The best way to appreciate all we have in Japan? Leave for a little bit! I'm homesick already.

800 numbers

"Could you tell me how to dial a U.S. 800 number from Japan? Is there some way to keep it free from Japan?" -- Hal in Japan

The Japan Helpline has operated toll-free numbers in Japan and overseas for nearly 15 years. Until fairly recently, 800 numbers were not accessible from Japan.

That has changed and now they can be called, but you will have to pay the international telephone charge from Japan to the country. In contrast, the toll-free numbers in Japan cannot be accessed from overseas.

At the same time, things are changing and there are a number of toll-free international numbers, such as 0039 etc., that are international toll-free numbers.

In addition, an international one-number, toll-free system is being set up that will allow one toll-free number to be called from anywhere in the world.

Money orders

"I recently received an international money order (with a Western Union imprimateur) made out in my name and in a U.S. dollar denomination. My bank will not handle money orders and the post office will only accept international postal money orders.

As far as I can determine, Western Union does have a representative in Japan for money transfers but not for cashing of money orders. Any suggestions on how I can get it cashed?" -- S in Yokohama

We spent a very lively time on the telephone trying to get an answer to your question. Here is the long and short of it.

First, what is totally weird is that international money orders are handled by banks, including the representative bank for Western Union, as checks.

This means that like regular checks they must be sent out for collection. Your bank, if you explain it to them as a check, will allow you to deposit it into your account and then, one month later when it comes back as paid, will credit it to your account.

Try as I might, I could not convince the bank people that a money order does not need to be sent for collection to make sure it is valid etc., but I didn't get anywhere.

It appears that they have not been used very much in the past in Japan -- in fact, the representative said they only turn up about two or three times a year.

The best thing would be to go to your bank again -- make sure it is a regular bank, not a small local bank -- and tell them to deposit it in your account as a check.

If they make a song and dance about it, have them call the Western Union representative number in Japan at 0120-888-2515 and let them explain how to do it.

At the same time we need some help from our readers, particularly any in the financial industry.

Does anyone there know of a way to get a Western Union or any international money order cashed more easily?


Need help in interior work on your house or business? You should be able to get help at: canalesantonio@hotmail.com.

Want to complete your degree or get some university courses under your belt? Temple University is at www.tuc.ac.jp or 03-5441-9800.

Ken Joseph Jr. is director of The Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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