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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

LIFELINES

Repairs, free calls, tickets and cheesecake


Auto-repairs

Therese comes to Claire's rescue concerning the latter's request for an auto-repair shop in the Shibuya/Yoyogi area (Lifelines; April 26).

"Sbrand is a chain of auto-repair shops that specializes in repairing dents and scratches. They have a shop in the Yoyogi area on Yamate-dori. They are at 5-14-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku (phone: 03-5738-0699). There's also a map at www.sbrand.co.jp/shop/yoyogi.htm

Sbrand list its services, prices etc. on their Web site, though in Japanese, at www.sbrand.co.jp/index.html

English tickets

John in Kobe wonders if he imagined reading somewhere that JR is offering train tickets in English.

What JR will do is print tickets on request, but only covering certain lines and services.

Go to a JR station's "Midori no Madoguchi" (Green Window) and enquire about the service, which covers reserved-seat and limited-express tickets for shinkansen bullet trains and the Narita Express (to and from Narita international airport), for example.

If you ask, officials with print the ticket's boarding date, train name, coach number, seat number and expiration date in English. The service began January last.

Skype

Don asks: "Have you heard of the new software called Skype ( www.skype.com )?"

Skype is just the latest in Internet Telephony, defined on site as "a category of hardware and software that enables people to use the Internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls."

"For users who have free, or fixed-price Internet access, Internet telephony software essentially provides free telephone calls anywhere in the world. To date, however, Internet telephony does not offer the same quality of telephone service as direct telephone connections.

"There are many Internet telephony applications available. Some, like CoolTalk and NetMeeting, come bundled with popular Web browsers. Others are stand-alone products. Internet telephony products are sometimes called IP telephony, Voice over the Internet (VOI) or Voice over IP (VOIP) products."

Skype is free to sign up for and free to use (Skype to Skype). You can call land lines and mobiles for an extra charge, but it's extremely competitive. Easy and quick to join -- another benefit is teleconferencing.

You may need a headset, for which computers have a socket, though many laptops have an integral microphone and speaker.

Cheesecake

"My wife and I just moved to Tokyo from the States and wonder where we can find genuine American cheesecake," asks a reader.

You could try the Cheesecake Cafe, which has several sites in Tokyo and two in Yokohama. There is also a place in Yoga, Tokyo, called The Cheesecake factory, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the San-Francisco-based company of the same name, which is so busy expanding in in the U.S. that it has no plans to come to Japan.

The Cheesecake Cafe has a Web site in Japanese -- www.cheesecake.co.jp/ -- but portions are reported to be small and expensive.

There are two branches in Shinjuku, one in the basement of Studio Alta across from the east exit of the station. Another is also via the east exit, between the old Kinokuniya bookstore and the Isetan department store.

There's also one in Daikanyama and one directly across from Shibuya Station in the 109 building.

Being a U.S. company, the Anna Miller chain is probably the best bet for an authentic taste. There are branches in Shinagawa and Hiroo.

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


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