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Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006

LIFELINES

Rail passes, donor card, pawnshops


Rail pass wisdom

Pam and Jacob's inquiry about the economic sense of buying a 7-day Japan Rail Pass (Lifelines; Jan. 9) when only moving around Kanto brought a flurry of useful information and advice from readers.

JS in the U.S. agrees that from a money perspective it only seems worthwhile if a round-trip from Tokyo to Kyoto or other areas are planned. But he found other advantages for the rail passes once one has been purchased.

"I'm now familiar enough with the Tokyo train system that I can get around fairly easily looking at the system fare board and using the ticket machines. However, I found trying to figure out the fare to be very difficult my first couple of times to Japan. With the rail pass to get in and out of the system, just show the pass at the fare adjustment wicket of the JR entrance gates."

The pass works the same way to get to the Shinkansen platforms, he says, and will allow you to get on unreserved commuter lines without an additional ticket. This helps if you are staying in Saitama, for example, and go to Tokyo during the day.

"If the unreserved cars are full, the pass allows you sit in a free seat of a reserved car, but expect a couple of grumbles from the conductor since such seats may be taken at future stops. It helps to have a good Japanese speaker to say that you are getting off at the next stop or to ask the conductor if the seats are free until your stop, otherwise they may make you leave the reserved car."

Good point

PL writes: You stated that "the Japan Rail Pass is available only for foreign nationals visiting Japan for sightseeing."

See www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en002.html, he advises, which states that Japanese nationals living in a foreign country are also eligible.

"JR employees don't always know about this; but in my experience, supervisors have accepted a Japanese passport with immigration stamps, combined with a U.S. Resident Alien Card or Canadian landed immigrant certificate."

Another reader, Geoff, also wants to point out that JR passes can be purchased by Japanese nationals living abroad "who are qualified to live permanently in that country or who are married to a non-Japanese person who is residing in a country other than Japan."

Whoops!

This happens all the time in Tokyo. Stores, restaurants, bars are there . . . and then they're not.

Reader Annie went to the secondhand and pawnshop Daimaru, in Shibuya (recommended by Jane on Jan. 9) since it sounded just the sort of place she loves to explore.

"Problem: it's gone! without a trace. The phone is cut also. If your readers know of other such places, I'd like to hear about them. Right now, I'm looking for a small low tansu, to use as a bedside table."

Donor cards

An inquiry from JS in Tokyo about organ donor cards. "I have one from the U.K. in my wallet. But would Japanese doctors and nurses recognize that I am willing to donate organs in the eventuality of my sudden death?"

Dr John Miyasaki of the National Center for Child Health and development CCHD asked his colleague Dr Katsuyuki Miyasaki on our behalf. He says that while some doctors and nurses in Japan may be familiar with donor cards obtained abroad, many will not. So best to obtain a Japanese donor card.

Dr Miyasaki says that donor cards can be obtained at ward or city offices, public health centers, post offices, convenience stores and motor vehicle bureaus. "In addition to the donor card, there is a small sticker you can put on your driver's license or health insurance card."

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


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