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Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011

LIFELINES

Mental health advice, cash card blues


By ANGELA JEFFS and KEN JOSEPH JR.

Empty nest syndrome

K'ko is suffering from what she calls "empty nest blues" — that is, being without husband or children.

"Do you know of a psychologist (American/Japanese, familiar with both cultures) and marriage counselor who works in the Shibuya/Hiroo/Roppongi area and not too expensive? I can express myself in English as well as Japanese."

We suggest you contact International Mental Health Professionals Japan. Their website is at www.imhpj.org, and it lists all the accredited counselors who can work in English. Check out their qualifications and areas of expertise, and maybe check out a few before making up your mind.

There is also TELL — Tokyo English Lifeline — at www.telljp.com. TELL offers a free anonymous phone service to anyone in Japan who needs a friendly, concerned (and trained) voice at the other end of the line (call (03) 5774-0992). Unfortunately, people with problems tend to feel at their most desperate during the night, and this service operates from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. only. TELL says it is aware of this and hopes to expand the service as soon as possible.

TELL also offers face-to-face counseling on a flexible-fee basis, both in Tokyo and Yokohama.

For Japanese in need of help, Inochi no Denwa offers a similar service: call (03) 3264-4343. Its website ( www.inochinodenwa.or.jp/ ) also has an online translation facility into English.

Using ATMs overseas

MN asks if Japanese lenders have bank cards that can be used overseas.

The simple answer is yes, with two ways you can go: The first is to get an International Cash Card (intanashonaru kyasshu kado). This is a cash card that can be used at most banks and ATM machines overseas.

The second way is to get a credit card function on your regular cash card. This will allow you to use your ATM card as a credit card as well as withdraw funds while overseas.

You can organize both services at your local bank and they should take about two weeks.

However, we have been receiving reports of many non-Japanese not being allowed the credit card function on their cards. In one instance, a Japanese spouse applied for and was granted the credit card function despite not having a job or owning their home, while the non-Japanese spouse was turned down even though they had a good job, permanent resident status and owned their home.

If you are not fluent in Japanese, make sure to take along a Japanese-speaking friend to help you fill out the paperwork, or call The Japan Helpline at (0570) 000-911 when you get to the bank.

The Japan Helpline is putting together a database of such cases to discuss directly with the ministries in charge, in the hope that international residents can have access to credit on equal footing with Japanese, particularly those with permanent residence.

A list of personal experiences in getting credit that names some good companies and ways of getting credit is at forum.gaijinpot.com/showthread.php?17548-Getting-A-Credit-Card

Also, please be careful when traveling overseas, in particular when using non-bank ATM machines, as there has been a rise in cases where the card is read and charges are later added.

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (0570) 000-911. Send queries, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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