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Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

LIFELINES

Hat headaches, work woes


By ANGELA JEFFS & KEN JOSEPH JR.

Alan wants to know where he can get a Panama hat cleaned and blocked.

"Now that they are back in fashion — albeit with a different age group than formerly — perhaps someone out there knows?"

This is not as easy as it might sound. Most of the specialist men's hat shops that offer cleaning services seem to be in the provinces. There used to be any number in Tokyo but, as Alan says, hats that require this kind of care and attention have been out of fashion until very recently.

You could try Toraya (established in 1894) at 2-19-1 Azabu-juban, Tokyo ((03) 3451-7259). Their Web site, which is in Japanese only, states that they sell men's hats only — including regular Panama hats and a folding variety. Also, because cleaning is so tough, they offer a few basic guidelines for putting on a Panama hat and taking it off; these will help prolong its life.

The Web site www.hatblock.co.jp agrees, and offers tips on how best to look after such a style. Best not to clean or re-block, it advises. Instead, take regular care. Wipe the braid inside the hat with a damp cloth, especially in hot muggy weather, when sweat accumulates. If very dirty, immerse it in a bowl of warm water and work the weave with your fingers to loosen grime. Rinse, shake and then stuff it with cloth and manipulate the crown and brim into shape. Finally, put it in the shade to dry. The shade, it emphasizes, not direct sunlight. If anyone has better advice or knows of professional hat cleaning services, do let us know.

A few of those in the provinces:
• Takeishi Senbo Ten (Takeishi hat cleaning shop) at 2-7-1, Sekiya Okawamae, Niigata City 951-8142. Phone/fax: (025) 266-7053. Web site: www.geocities.jp/mtakebou/. E-mail: mtakebou@ybb.ne.jp
• Seki Boshi Cleaning Shop, 1-7-17, Shimizu-cho, Takaoka City, Toyama Pref. Phone: (0766) 22-5229
• Nishikawa Seibo Co., 1-11-12, Kuwatsu, Higashi-Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka 546-0041. Phone: (06) 6719-7060; fax: (06) 6719-7062. Web site: www.panamaya.com. E-mail: web@panamaya.com

In all these cases, preference is given to hats bought at source. That's a general response, I'm afraid. (A.J.)

Work woes

In trouble at work, P.S. is desperate.

"I was recently demoted in my job after working for 15 years. It seems like they are trying to fire me. Is there anything I can do?"

Check your contract or, if you do not have one, request one from the company. The government agency in charge is the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. In the main they are good to work with and you can send a question anytime to www-admin@mhlw.go.jp. Alternatively, call (03) 5253-1111 or visit www.mhlw.go.jp/english/index.html.

Officials will help you review your work situation and give you advice on areas that you can work on.

Many times contracts are signed with hidden clauses that are in fact not in compliance with the law. Checking your contract with the ministry is a good place to start. If there is something dodgy in the contract and it is clear you have been treated unfairly, you should be able to talk with the company, explaining that you have checked with the ministry and officials are aware of the situation.

If you are not getting anywhere, the next step is to arrange for a lawyer to work on your behalf. You can arrange for representation at the Bar Association on (050) 3383-5300 or via www.toben.or.jp/english/english_legal.html.

The B.A. will set up a session for you either by phone or in person. The fee for a 30-minute meeting is ¥5,000. If there is a clear infraction of the law they can work on your behalf. Most companies are reluctant to get into a legal wrangle so will at this point try to accommodate you on some level.

Do any of our readers have experience of obtaining legal help with job-related problems?

(K.J.)

Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or on (03) 000-911. Send your questions, queries, problems and posers to community@japantimes.co.jp.


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