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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

LIFELINES

More on books, cake and bank bungles

Used books

On the subject of used books, and where to get them/leave them, an alert reader writes in to let us know that Caravan Books, long a popular spot to pick up bargains, closed down in March.

However, he writes that The Blue Parrot, which has two branches, not only buys books, DVDs, CDs etc., but also does pick-ups in the Tokyo area.

They can be contacted at (03) 3202-3671, or (03) 3253-8500.

For more book bargains, readers can also check out Good Day Books. More information on that store is available at www.gooddaybooks.com/gooddaybooks/contents/home/?language=english

Cheesecake

We've had several responses to Angela's request last week for more information on where to get good cheesecake here in Japan.

Scott reckons the best cheesecake in Tokyo can be found at the Outback Steakhouse (of all places). They fly in their cheesecakes from Chicago. The portions are huge too.

Sylbeth and her friends, meanwhile, have been obsessed with finding cheesecake here in Japan since the time they went to a restaurant and were served -- literally -- cheese on top of cake.

Hands down, the best place to get U.S. style cheesecake is Costco, she believes. "It is the same size as the one you would find in the States, and around the same price. You can sometimes get it with blueberries on top," she says.

After reading the cheesecake query Ken suggests people simply visit one of the many American-style restaurants in Tokyo, like Tony Roma's (in Roppongi, Aoyama, Akasaka), which has great American style cheesecake, and The Hard Rock Cafe.

Travelers checks

On the subject of credit cards and currency exchange, reader J., an accountant, has come to the conclusion that banks here are run by amateurs.

"They simply don't know how to handle travelers checks," he says.

"About five years ago, my sister, a U.S. citizen, visited me in Japan, but she ran out of yen, which I then made available in exchange for some dollar cash and travelers checks. The latter were countersigned by her.

"After her departure, I tried to change the travelers checks and dollars into yen at a bank. The dollar cash was readily accepted, but the bank refused to accept the travelers checks, saying that they had to be signed by the issuer in their presence.

"I tried several banks, and they all refused to accept the travelers checks.

"A little while later, I visited Hawaii on a vacation. In Honolulu, I presented the travelers checks in payment for some purchases, and they were accepted without any questions."

Currency

D. in Australia has some advice for those who would like to exchange money here -- don't. He's traveled to Japan some 15 times over the past 30 years and finds the only certain way of making sure you'll have cash available throughout your trip is to exchange your currency for yen in your home country before you come over.

Meanwhile, reader M. in the States has a bit of a problem.

His daughter is an exchange student in Ehime. She has told him that the ATM's will not take her U.S. debit/credit card (Mastercard), nor will the local vendors. She also says the banks close at 3 p.m., right before she gets out of school.

M. was hesitant to send her travelers checks for fear they will not accept them either, so he ended up sending yen by registered mail (against his better judgment).

He's wondering if any readers know a safe, and fast way to get cash from there to here. Let us know and we'll pass all info on.

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


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