This part has to be dedicated to Lafcadio Hearn, AKA Koizumi Yakumo, who wrote Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan. No parody intended, though his objective was to highlight how weird the Japanese were, while my perspective is that they aren't so strange. But I liked his book, anyway. And I hope I'm not jumping too far to claim familiarity--but at this point I've been in Japan for over 11 years.

The 'essays' are linked after this with brief explanatory notes. This approach was influenced by some of Asimov's later works, though the similarity is so weak that 'contamination' would probably be a better description than 'influence'. Yeah, I read a lot, and read well, but my writing is only theoretically on the same scale...

"The Alleys of Akihabara" was written for the Tokyo PC Users Group. The complete citation is on my publications page. I credit Jose Caldeira as the main instigator, though the specific article was my own idea.

I did not make this up just to be silly. I've got pictures to prove it, too! There really is a "Hot Tuna Pizza Crepe". This little photo-essay is a tribute to Japanese culinary creativity, even if the name strikes your ear most strangely.

Another invited piece for Algorithmica Japonica. However, as targeted there it actually evolved into a much shorter piece called "Loose Canons" (also linked from my publications page) that focused on that part of it. This one is more of a general diatribe about "Plastic Ninjas, Fake Nurses, and other Chindonya Stories". Very much an opinion piece about various flavors of foolishness, and I actually have to say that the short version is better. More proof that editing and deadlines are good things?

"Five Klicks Through Kawasaki: or, A Worm's-Eye View of the Public Phones of Japan" is another photo-essay, but a large one. This basically shows my current running course through some fairly average parts of Japan, with the goal of conveying some of the atmosphere of living in Japan.

Not really a full entry, but elsewhere I did a little description of window shopping in Japan at the end of 2001.

A long time ago I suggested staying tuned to this page for stuck train madness (Jan 8) and how to train... Or maybe that will just merge into "How to Traing". Also there's the major project of "Japan Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Telephone Cards" to work on... But who knows when I'll work on those projects, unless someone encourages me in specific directions, I seem to have wondered onto other stuff.

Ja-Picks and Ja-Pans

My picks and pans for Japan

This table is some highly subjective ratings of various aspects of life in Japan. Basically tossing them out to express my opinions in an artistic way, and hopefully maybe even offer a bit of helpful guidance. If you agree or disagree, especially if you have some hard data, please feel free to send me email via the JavaScripted email link at the bottom of the page. (Sorry, but that's how I hide my email address from the spamnuts in this public place, and you'll just have to trust my JavaScript if you want to use it.) These are deliberately short summaries, but if someone expresses interest on a topic, I may even do a full Web page. The subjective rating system is fingers up or down, because I couldn't find a good image of a thumb to work with. For example, this is three fingers up, my most favorable rating: (Dates in parentheses indicate last update on that item.)
Cafe Le Monde
Have to start with my favorite Japanese restaurant. Kind of mixed style based on Italian, but the most popular spaghetti is clam garlic, based on a spicy Thai marinating sauce. It's near Tobu Nerima Station, just past the koban, on the left side of that busy street. (The new koban is around the corner from the station, about 1 minute away.)
El Torito
My favorite Tex-Mex source in Japan. Several locations, but I usually eat at the one in Shinjuku, even though it's in a tough neighborhood--under the Microsoft offices and across the tracks from the new Kinokuniya bookstore. The Omote-Sando restaurant is older and I think it's a bit better, but it's not on any of my regular routes, while I often go through Shinjuku. New menu seems to be migrating away from Tex-Mex towards Mexican, but still good. If the prices go any higher or if the portions get any smaller, it might lose a finger, however. (2001/7/8) Noting that they also have locations in Ikebukuro, on the third floor of the Sunshine 60 building, and in Shibuya. Didn't even know they once had a location in Akasaka, but they closed it because it never got enough business. Also didn't know about the good lunch menu until recently. (2002/5/12)
Patio is a little coffee shop where I often have breakfast and where I'm probably one of their most regular customers. Nice location just next to Chuo-Rinkan Station. It's a bit too much of a stretch to give them three up, but they do treat me as well as they can, and sometimes even give me a bit extra on the side. For example, this morning the wife give me a little dish of yogurt with a few berries in it. I suppose if it wasn't a bit on the expensive side I could justify the third finger... They actually raised the prices when they went independent. For the first few years they ran it, the shop was a KohiKan, which is a large franchise chain in Japan. (2007/1/30)
Utoro is my fallback coffee shop near Chuo-Rinkan Station, but I generally only eat there two or three times a month. It's across the street from Patio, and sort of behind the koban there. From the decor, I'd guess they do most of their business in evenings, so it seems likely they are working pretty long hours. Less expensive than Patio, but not as substantial for breakfast. Nice salad, though. Also, they have cute cards. (2007/1/30)
This is my local Tex-Mex place just up from Higashi-Rinkan Station. Koban is nearby, though not such a good landmark. Same corner, but going along the tracks away from the station. I promoted it to two fingers for the tacos grande. (2001/7/8) I should clarify it didn't get the third finger, even though the food is good, because it violates the Tex-Mex tradition of offering free chips, which El Torito has. (2006/8/13)
Nameless Mom and Pop Chinese restaurant
Lots of these around. Actually, they do have names, but I usually don't know them, just where they are located. This particular one is located in Tokumaru, at the bottom of the hill where I used to live. I'll have to get a photo, since there are no good landmarks there. I haven't eaten there recently for various reasons--kind of far from the station, and Cafe Le Monde is in the way, and they're sometimes closed. But if you somehow find the place, they're real nice folks, always treated me well, and serve good food at good prices. When I lived there they'd been in the business about 30 years or longer. (not sure when) Sadly, they've retired now and there is no trace of the restaurant that stood there for so many years. (2006/8/13)
Mr. Donut
This is recognition for amazing Japanese customer service and employee retention. When I worked in Akihabara some years ago, I often stopped by the local shop for a double chocolate donut. These days I'm only in Akihabara about once a month or less, but they often still remember me and the kind of donut I like. However, my single strongest memory of customer service was at some little restaurant where I once started to stand up to get a piece of Kleenex, but the obasan somehow knew what I wanted and she practically came running at me with the box. I guess Mr. Donut should also get some recognition for aggressive prices, since it seems like they're running 100¥ donut sales very often these days. (2003/4/12) Not long after that, there was a major fire in the building, and the store was closed for some months. Some of the old staff did return after they reopened, but only a few, and now I think everyone is a new face to me. (2006/8/13)
What the Dickens
Pretty good British-style food. I'm sure some people would rate it more highly, but I don't like British food that much, and I think it's too noisy to eat once the band starts, which limits the time it's open for eating. Very good beers. (2001/7/8)
Rajput Curry Restaurant
This is a Pakistani-owned place I've known about for many years, though my recent visit was the first in some years, and I was glad to see it's still there. It's in Takadanobaba, going left from the north exit, away from Waseida, though the street is Waseida Doori. It's on the left side, on the second floor, about 8 minutes from the station. Phone is 03-3360-8372 if you get lost. Good food, with some seriously spicy options, and not too expensive. (2001/9/22)
Kathy and Edwards Counter Bar
This one is here as a representative of the worst class of bogus bar to be found in Japan. However, this specific one is perhaps at the epitome of deceptive advertising and utterly non-distinctive atmosphere. The name is obviously supposed to create an international impression, but if there was ever a foreigner involved with the bar, it was before the memory of the bartender or any of the customers I spoke to, and of course there were no foreign customers besides me. They even had a Coors advertisement out front, but no Coors beer. Just another aspect of the bogus atmosphere. Given the bogosity, it's surprising they even had an actual counter. This one is just down from Yurigaoka Station, so I'd noticed it many times as I wandered around the neighborhood, but I only stopped in because it was my birthday and I figured I should celebrate at least a little bit. What a waste. (2003/4/12)
One of the most famous pluses of Japan, and rightfully so. Mass transit that really works. I have to take away one finger for the fares, mostly because of the charge to change train lines, and there's a lot train lines to change to. Many people complain about the crowding but I usually can adjust my schedule to get a seat, so I can't complain there. But the important thing is that the trains almost always run on time and almost always get me where I want to go. I may never drive again, and I never much liked driving.
Imagine a holiday traffic jam stretching for a hundred kilometers. Imagine spending eight hours to drive 200 km. But you don't need your imagination--this is the reality of automobile travel in Japan, and I can't imagine how anyone can claim driving is pleasurable. At least the parking situation seems to be improving, but my 2¢ says Japan already has way too many cars. (2001/7/8)
Bic Camera
My main source for computer stuff. They focus on the high volume electronic stuff, match the Akihabara prices, and then give 10% on your point card towards your next purchase. Very aggressive marketing. (2001/7/8)
Yodobashi Camera
Another former camera store gone into general electronics. Basically Bic's main competitor, and very close on prices. I think they may have been the originators of the point card system. Perhaps a little better on specials for consumables like paper and CD-Rs. However, I'm taking away a finger because of a squabble over a cheap battery. (2001/7/8)

Flipped their finger from up to down because of another one of those trivial squabbles. Doesn't seem likely it's just a coincidence that I've had several run ins there... Hasn't ever happened at Bic Camera. This time was already some months ago, and involved their aggressive enforcement of their no-email-checking policy in the store. Not really their fault, I suppose. I was supposed to meet someone in Shinjuku and I wasn't sure where, so I wanted to check the email and they made a fuss. Resulted in a little scene with the cutting up of my point card and I haven't bought anything from them since. Kind of a shame since they opened that flash store in Akihabara, but that's how they run their business... (2007/1/30)
Japanese Department Stores in General
Overstaffed, overpriced, and pretty much detached from the reality of modern Japan. Source of the problems is probably monopoly mentality since most of the large ones are associated with train lines, and the shortest distance between two points really is a kind of natural monopoly.
Tokyu Department Store
This one gets special recognition for stealing my bike one night. Or maybe it was just their 'understanding' with the local yakuza, but I'm still out the bike. However, the anti-bike thing is another example of their corporate stupidity. They really should encourage people to use bicycles. When they harass bicyclists, they encourage them to buy cars--and people with cars are much more free to shop elsewhere--and almost anywhere else is objectively better than the department stores.
Tailorde Suit
Basically a little plug for my tailor Koike-san. Been dealing with him for many years, and though he's only made three suits for me, he's been very friendly and enthusiastic about it. Remembers me and even manages to dig up my old measurement records when I visit, which is quite a personal touch. He's moved a couple of times over the years, and I haven't even been to his new location, though I think he's still in the Kanda clothing district where I first stumbled across his shop. I've been satisfied with his service and prices, so I'm glad to mention his phone number is 03-3253-2431 and the new address is c_cb蒬2-7-10, though I can't even pronounce the last part for sure. Probably Tanya-cho? But definitely in the Kanda district of Chiyoda-ku. (2003/4/12)
Dry Cleaning
Kyowa Cleaning
I think it's franchised store #31906, close to Yurigaoka Station, but I'm giving it special recognition just because she's memorized my phone number. Or maybe that reflects my steadiness as a customer? Anyway, on the less expensive side, and good service for the years I've been using it. For the third finger they'd need to fix my buttons, too. (2007/1/30)
ISPs (Internet Service Providers)
Main source of email spam in Japan. At least that's how it seems from my observations over the last year or so. I was actually a customer of theirs some years ago, but never again. To the devil with the spammers and any company that supports them. (2007/1/30)
My long-term ISP. I even worked there part-time in the technical support section for a few months around 1998 or so. Usually the top ISP for customer satisfaction, and I don't think I've ever seen any spam that originated on their network. (2007/1/30)
Minor ISPs
I guess this entry is mostly a dig at GOL, where I also worked briefly before I was at Asahi-Net. I think they still exist? The founder was Roger Boisvert, who was murdered some years ago, and the guy who hired me, Greg Washington, Jr., had died even before Roger... That reminds me of IAC (where I worked for a long time and introduced Greg to the Internet), another minor ISP that shut down many years ago. Amusingly enough, my brief stint at Tokyo Classified included helping to shutdown Crisscross, their ISP sideline. They actually sold the mostly non-paying customers to Hunter Point Online for a price that seemed ridiculous to me... These days quite a bit of the email spam also originates with minor ISPs, especially secondary customers of something called FreeBit. (2007/1/30)
Japanese banks in General
Bad hours, even for the cash card machines, lousy interest rates, outrageous fees for almost every request. Specific examples not mentioned below that I've had memorable dealings with would be Daiwa, Sanwa, and Mitsubishi (also merged with another 2 fingers down bank).
Mitsui Sumitomo (now SMBC (in English) after Sumitomo merged with Sakura nee Mitsui, Taiyo, and Kobe Banks--and surely others)
Wound up dealing with these folks as a kind of accident, and mostly lack sufficient motivation to switch, since most of the other regular banks seem about the same. I give them special credit for chutzpah--they recently added a service charge for handling too many papers--even though the papers happen to be yen currency. Gee, and I thought handling currency was supposed to be one of the main purposes of a bank? Pretty large number of locations, but the service is really mindless, and there have been several times when I've had to fill out forms two or three times to satisfy some bureaucratic cretin.

Given their recent decline, I'd like to lower their ranking, except that they're already at the bottom and if I allow them to go deeper, there'd be no stopping 'em--at least until I ran out of pictures of fingers pointing down. A Saturday service charge was the latest injury on top of insult. More evidence of the lack of justice in the world is that they actually did go bankrupt for their monumental incompetence--but without any real penalty. They sold the entire scummy operation to another humongous financial company, which then changed its name to Mitsui Sumitomo. (2003/4/12)

I really want to lower their ranking. Today I tried to change a bill there, and they wanted me to fill out a form! I am NOT pulling your leg. I went up to a teller, and gave her two large bills and asked for smaller ones, and she handed me a form and told me I had to fill it out first. Probably a service charge, too, but I didn't bother. I just went to the nearby Mr. Donut and broke a bill on each donut. (2004/4/9)

As I already noted, the rating can't go any lower, but here's another tale of amazingly lousy service from this bank. At some time in the last few years they added a substantial upgrade of their ATM machines. The new function is to issue a new passbook when the old one gets full. I've used it a couple of times, but recently it didn't seem to work. Finally found out that this useful function is only enabled during the hours when the bank is open. No reason why. They just hate the idea of providing a useful service. I rather pointedly asked several of the Sumitomorons why they had such a stupid rule, and they just repeated the rule a number of times, but that's par for mindless robots disguised as actual human beings. (2007/7/22)
There's also a feature story about them below this table...
Mizuho Bank (created by a merger of Dai Ichi Kangyou and at least one other bank)
I had high hopes for the Fuji Bank, but they've faded. Now I keep most of my money there simply because they aren't SMBC. The main reason for splitting them off into a separate box is to comment on the extremely inappropriate advertising on their ATMs: Lottery tickets. A REAL bank is supposed to be about rational thrift and guaranteeing the safety of money, but there are only two kinds of lotteries. Honest lotteries, where you're guaranteed to lose over the long run, and crooked lotteries, where non-crooks are just guaranteed to lose. It seems that you can even buy the lottery tickets using the ATM. A contributing factor to the low ranking is that Fuji was financially bound to the profitless Dai Ichi Kangyou Bank, one of the merger partners. Bigger is not always better. Never had much regard for their competence, and they had lots of computer problems as a result of the merger. I may give Mizuho the third finger later, but leaving it at two down for now. (2002/5/12)

Okay, they earned the third finger today. Ikebukuro is so overrun with yakuza that I decided to close my accounts there. I went to the main Shinjuku branch and tried to arrange to transfer the accounts, and got an enormous annoyance and runaround and accomplished nothing. Eventually I'm sure I'll succeed, even if it requires cutting all ties with the bank, but right now I'm just annoyed. That one wasted about two hours. (2004/4/9)
Postal savings
Okay, the interest rate is terrible, but everyone trusts them, including me. And you can't beat the number of locations. Service has always been adequately courteous and efficient. NOT like SMBC.
Bank of Yokohama
They get the recognition for the 315 yen service charge (about $3) I have to pay to put money in my landlord's account. One time, mostly for grins, I went to my landlord's own branch, cash in hand, during regular business hours, and they still demanded 315 yen. Why? Well 100 yen (plus 5 yen tax) is for going over some small amount of money. It's considered normal in Japan to add 100 yen for transferring to another branch of the same bank, 100 or 200 yen if a different bank is involved, 100 yen for the hour or two after 6 p.m., etc. But I think Bank of Yokohama is just plain greedy, since only one of those excuses applied when I visited the actual branch. (In twisted retaliation, I normally pay my rent two months at a time.) (circa 2002?)

Another special mention for bad service, though this story is already a couple of months old. Actually, it ran on for several months, and isn't really fully resolved yet. I think the new rules actually went into effect at the beginning of this year. The particular new rule I encountered was a restriction against paying cash to my landlord by using the ATM machine. This is apparently intended to annoy money launderers, though they're obviously the ones who will not be annoyed, but who will merely adjust their procedures to go around the new rules. For regular customers like yours truly, however, it's a different story, and a major annoyance. Rather than use the ATM machine to make the payment, I have to go to the counter, fill in a form, wait some more, show ID, wait some more, and to top off the insult with injury, pay 210 yen more for the extra inconvenience, raising the total fee to 525 yen for accepting cash. I 'discussed' this craziness with them for a couple of months. They claim it isn't their fault, but the way things work in Japan, the truth is that they wrote their own legislation, just like any other of the supposedly regulated industries. Anyway, last time I paid without actually using cash. Transferring between accounts is still allowed (for now), but that scam still costs 420 yen each time. I think I could cut it back down to 315 yen by actually opening an account at this bank, but I'm extremely loathe to give them even the semblance of the business. (2007/7/22)
Well, I was hopeful, but my experiences went from mixed to terrible. I never felt like they were as secure as the other banks, though they offered some unusual services--with rapidly fluctuating interest rates and peculiar marketing. They dropped to two fingers down for supporting Dubya. I finally decided to close all my accounts on hearing too many disturbing financial reports. However, closing the accounts was an amazing experience, taking about 6 months of sustained effort. Things like "This branch can't give you any money" or "We have to charge you extra if you want cash." However, the one that really pissed me off was when they didn't tell me about the charge for converting my Euros, so I got gigged about $20 just on that one transaction. I sincerely expect them to go belly up bankrupt within the year. (2002/5/12)
UFJ Trust Bank (UFJ Shintaku Ginkou) (supposed to merge with the main UFJ bank later this year)
Starting them with one finger up mostly because they were the only bank (out of four) that didn't give me any problems today. The Shinjuku branch quickly and effectively transferred my account from Ikebukuro, even quickly and effectively dealing with my missing cash card. (It's not just the strong and visible yakuza presence, but my belief that some of the Ikebukuro cops are now working with and for the yakuza that makes me feel it's too dangerous to do any banking (or even shopping) in that area. Shinkuku seems to be moving in the other direction, with less and less visibility of the yakuza.) (2004/4/9)

The merger was actually completed a while ago, but they merged with the merged bank that was formerly the Bank of Tokyo and the Mitsubishi Bank. The two sides merged separately, so there's still a trust bank and a regular bank, but I'm not sure what it's called now. BOTM-UJF comes to mind? Anyway, I was mostly dealing with a branch of the bank near the Halc Bic Camera in Shinjuku, but they closed that branch. Some weeks ago there was a fair amount of hassle to make sure everything was okay for my Euro deposit, but I'm not going to reduce their ranking since they handled it pretty well, and even took the trouble of getting someone who speaks some English to handle it for me, even including some email answers. (2007/7/22)
Resona (formerly Daiwa and probably including some other bank or banks)
Not so sure how to rank this bank. Actually my first bank in Japan, but I lost my passbook some years ago. I still have the cash card and I can deposit and withdraw money there, but no records. I asked about replacing the passbook recently, and they told me I'd have to pay ¥1,000 yen, and it isn't worth it to me. I visited again today, and the first guy said they would replace it for free, apparently as part of converting me from Daiwa to Resona. Then the teller spent about an hour filling out forms and finally told me I'd still have to pay the ¥1,000, and I'm still not going to pay it, so it was just a waste of my time. They would have gotten a second finger except that they are now open until 19:00, which is much better than the other banks. (2004/4/9)
English Schools and English Conversation Lounges
Kanda Gaigo Gakuin
This is an example of a semmon gakko, which doesn't exactly match anything in the American educational system. Kind of a two year vocational program, though they did (do?) have some conversational classes for part-time students. I worked there a little past their peak, but I think it was still three fingers up at that time, but... The problems had already started when I arrived and from most reports got worse after I left, so I think two fingers is a fair estimate now. (2001/7/8)
English Conversation Schools in General
Pretty sure I'm not the only person that regards most of these as very little concerned about teaching anything and very much concerned about making as much money as possible. I think most of them don't even try to use the Japanese word for "school" anymore. Perhaps there's a truth in advertising law and most of them couldn't qualify. (2001/7/8)
Of the big three chains of English conversation schools, I think this one is the best. Subjective judgment, but I've run into a number of their teachers over the years, and they usually seem rather spirited, entertaining, and even intelligent. However, I've usually run into them after they've left Nova, which tells you something. (2001/7/8)
I rate this as the worst of the big three chains, mostly because of their unusually aggressive advertising--to the point where I think they're in an alliance with or perhaps even owned by the yakuza. Lots of schools, but almost never run into anyone who will admit to an association with them, either as a teacher or as a student. (2001/7/8)

Kind of amazed to see how old this entry is, but I want to add that it was their annoying signs on a bridge near my house that started me on my campaign against that form of spam... (2007/1/30).
Mickey House
This entry is mostly because Kazu needs more "Web presence" since most of his new customers apparently find out about his place on the Web. I used to go almost every Saturday, and often had an interesting time, but recently it's actually been on the boring side, and mostly because of the relative lack of customers. In the natural response, I don't go that often these days, though I'm still pretty likely to meet old friends there. However, I think the root of the problem is that he doesn't want to spend the money for real advertising. His word-of-mouth has gotten too thin, and he isn't even doing a good job of being visible on the Web. I had to search around for several minutes before I was able to find the place. The atmosphere is a little hard to describe, which may also help explain the declining popularity? There are some private-club-type customers (like me), but it isn't a clubby atmosphere. I think it used to be more of a pickup bar atmosphere, though I can't testify for sure, but these days it seems rather more academic, and many of the regulars are serious students of English or teachers. It's in Takadanobaba, and the phone number is 03-3209-9686. No cover charge for foreigners. (2003/4/12)

Not sure if it's really justified, but I did have a very interesting time on my last visit, so raising it to two up now... Or maybe it's partly just a reaction to my last very abortive visit to Com'Inn? (2007/1/30)

Cut it back to one finger since the atmosphere changed somewhat and I've mostly stopped going there. I'll give him some credit for being experimental, but the latest experiments seem annoying to me... He's using more paid staff to chat up the Japanese guests, and generally trying to evolve the place in the direction of a school, and I'm not that interested. Actually, I'm not even much interested in such conversation these days, but even if I am in the mood, the staff talkers will jump in and prevent me from talking anyway. (2007/7/22)
This is the Ebisu place I went every Sunday evening for many years, probably beginning almost as soon as I arrived in Japan. I'd even read about it back in Texas. Supposed to be the original English conversation lounge in Tokyo, and maybe even the first in Japan. The manager in those days was Fujii-san, and he always treated me nicely, but later on the owner sold it to Mariko-san, and she san changed the atmosphere a great deal. It was kind of like a private club, but I feel like she made it more academic and almost deliberately ran off the old timers like me. These days, I might stick my nose in the door once or twice a year, but only if I just happen to be in the neighborhood, and I haven't seen any reason to actually stay for a visit. She also raised the cover charge for foreigners, and I'm pretty sure she still pays one foreigner all the time to insure that there is someone for the Japanese customers to talk to. (2003/4/12)

13 August 2006

Not sure where to stick the following comment, but it's a complaint about SMBC including a possibly amusing history of my relationship with them over the years. I've already given them all three fingers down, so consider this an extension of the above suggestion that they deserve more. However, this is actually more about credit cards, so I suppose I really should take the time to make a section about Japanese credit card companies. The following was sent to them via their webform:

I am not going to apologize for writing in English. In fact, my experiences with your company over the years have consistently been one of the strongest justifications for giving up on any attempt to use Japanese. That I continue to study the language is certainly no thanks to you--but you've certainly reduced my enthusiasm for study and done everything you could possibly do to make it seem pointless. I just have to laugh when anyone mentions your company in any 'international' context, in spite of your pretensions. I don't even care if there is anyone there who can read beyond "I want to pay you your money." That's the only point you really need to understand.
At this time, my primary concern is to make sure you get paid every yen you are due. A secondary concern is to state clearly and for the record that I regard this entire incident as *YOUR* fault, and if I find out that you are playing any revengeful games, like trying to poison my financial history, I will not tolerate it, but will act to defend my reputation. I (obviously) think it is *YOUR* reputation that needs the defending.
I think we need to start with a bit of background of my dealings with your company. Now I already know you're going to say it's really a different company. Oh. So why do you use the same name? Sorry, but from *MY* perspective as the customer I see every company with the name of OZF (SMBC in English) as being part of the same entity. If you don't want to share their reputation, good and bad, then you should use a different name. Actually, considering how bad I think your reputation is, I'm kind of amazed that any of your shells and affiliates use the name in public. Seeing that logo, I certainly regard it as a significant reason not to do business with that company, but we'll come back to that soon...
Ancient history: I've been a customer of your bank for many years. That was not actually my free decision. Many years later I found out it was actually illegal for you to "strongly recommend" (= "secretly require") companies to insist on paying their employees through your bank. It was just one of those 'understandings' as part of other financing, but the consequence was that my employer strongly recommended that I do business with you, even though I had been using a different bank and was (and remain) basically satisfied with that bank. I actually recall it as insistence. Congratulations on having obtained my business. NOT.
I also want to put your bank into the broader context. As just noted, yours is not the Japanese bank with which I have done business for the longest time, nor is it the bank with which I do the most business now. When I first came to Japan, I worked for a different company, and they strongly recommended I do business with a different bank. (Just the unethical Japanese way of banking?) Considering that I've had very few problems with that bank over the years, you'd think they would be my primary bank, but unfortunately they have relatively few locations. Also, for the routine services I use on a weekly basis, their service is substantially the same as yours. Primarily by 'virtue' of having swallowed a large number of smaller banks, you simply have the advantage in convenience of more cash card machines.
My problems with your bank mostly involved paperwork. (The cash card machines have always seemed to like me.) Right from the beginning, it became pretty clear that it was virtually impossible for me to prepare paperwork to your satisfaction. Each form always had to be done two or three times until you were satisfied. It didn't matter how simple the form was, nor how carefully I had prepared it. Sometimes I asked a Japanese person to review the form before submitting it, just to see if they could see any problems. None of this mattered. There was always something wrong and it was always necessary for me to do the paperwork two or three times before it would be accepted. In contrast to other banks and agencies, your bank would apparently not even accept corrections, but insisted on completely fresh paper. I made some adjustments. First, I tried to minimize the paperwork at your bank. I now use your bank almost solely for cash card transactions. Second, all new automatic deposits and payments were set up with a different bank (and I live in dread of the day when I must cancel the ones that are still at your bank, since that will require filling in forms). Finally, whenever any form did need to be filled out for your bank, I insisted on being carefully 'walked through' the form by one of your employees. By doing the form as directed on an almost letter-by-letter basis, there was a better chance the employee in question would accept it. After all, the form was practically the employee's own work by that point.
Sometimes I speculated about the possible reasons for these problems. For example, I considered whether or not it might be a racist policy to get rid of foreign customers. Just a bunch of annoying troublemakers? [This long letter is certainly evidence of that!] Or maybe it was more personal? Perhaps one of your bankers had entered a code on my records to indicate that this customer has trouble with forms and that all of his paperwork needs to be checked very carefully? Maybe that warning is the first thing your employees see whenever they pull up my records? However, my carefully considered opinion is that it actually reflects your personnel policies. I think your strong preference is to hire a certain kind of obedient drone, a person who has no imagination or flexibility and who is completely unable to deal with the smallest deviations from precise expectations. I think you also have a rule against corrected forms.
Today's [admittedly discursive] joke is that in my most recent visit to your bank [We're eventually going to get there. Be patient.] I noticed that your banking computer system is apparently called something like the 'workflow innovation system'. It was prominently visible in (yo-ho-ho) English on a terminal off to the side. I would certainly agree that I've never seen a company more in need of innovation than yours--but I also think you've carefully built a workforce that is utterly incapable of innovative behavior. Congratulations. NOT.
This most recent business with your corporation actually involves a credit card you issued to me. I don't blame the bookstore employee who encouraged me to apply for it, so I'm not going to finger the bookstore here. It was a big campaign at the store, I buy too many books, he spoke excellent English, and his discount book pitch finally overcame my resistance. When I discovered it involved your company, I almost wised up enough to run away, but sadly for all of us, I did not. Actually, part of the persuasive sales pitch was the appearance of one of your employees who was assisting with the campaign. My (yo-ho-ho) theory was that he would walk me through the form and there would be no problem. Actually, apart from your bank, I have little trouble with Japanese forms these years.
A bit more background and a bit of related criticism. [Heaven forbid.] I don't particularly like credit cards, though I have used them for many years--elsewhere, for security, and in Japan, just for the sake of convenience. I actually had credit cards issued in other countries, but for whatever mysterious reasons, they just didn't seem to be accepted in Japan, so I finally applied for a Japanese credit card. However, this new trend of store-specific credit-and-customer-loyalty cards linked to special discounts is a really dumb idea. The whole idea of cash is the convenience of using it anywhere. Call me a raging capitalist, but I think competition is a good thing--but not very feasible if I'm required to carry special plastic money for each of the stores that could be competing against each other. Or is this really a plot to sell jumbo wallets?
By the way, I do want to thank you for rejecting that first credit card application (after a couple of iterations) some years ago. I'm sure you saved me a great deal of frustration. Other companies were only too willing to give me credit cards. Actually, I'm pretty sure I was first conned into applying for a credit card at your bank as part of some kind of promotion. I certainly should not have allowed myself to be fooled again into making this recent application.
Now let's get back to this new bookstore-related credit card. With the assistance of your employee I submitted the application and they accepted it. I didn't have my hanko with me, but they assured me that would be taken care of later. A few days later, I received a form, and in accord with my policy, I went down to your bank and got someone to walk me through filling out and stamping the form. A while later, I received your credit card. I should have suspected something was wrong, since it always is with your corporation. However, by this time you'd had weeks to check things over, and I foolishly decided to trust you. I went to the bookstore and bought a couple of books. Two weeks later, I went back to the bookstore and bought some more books.
Then I received an envelope with some forms from your company. There was apparently something wrong with my paperwork. What a shock. NOT.
Now we've finally reached my most recent visit to your bank. I took my hanko and the forms. I was directed to a different floor. I took my number. I was called to the desk. I handed over the papers and made it clear that I wanted to do whatever you wanted done to fix the problem, whatever the problem was. The woman read the papers for a few moments. She examined my gaijin card carefully. She then showed me where to write something and where to stamp my hanko on the horrendous mistake. It seemed the problem had been rectified. Then she looked at it a bit more, and changed her mind. That was apparently insufficient, and some new forms needed to be filled out. Apparently she'd remembered the rule about corrected forms. Or whatever.
In one sense, I feel I should apologize for my next actions. It was an essentially angry decision. However, I think I should really apologize for ever having filed the application in the first place. What happened was that I reached my limit. I decided to terminate the entire business. I asked her for a pair of scissors. I took the credit card out of my wallet, cut it into two pieces. I returned the scissors, left the forms and the credit card pieces on the desk, took my gaijin card, and left the bank. She was apparently upset by this denouement. I do not like upsetting people, and I am sorry I upset her, but everyone has limits, and you had reached mine.
Now we're back to the beginning. I owe you some money for the books I've received. I look forward to paying you by whatever mutually convenient method you specify. If you require I make a trip to your office with the cash, it will have to wait at least until the 21st. I also wish I could forget that this entire business had ever occurred.
As an encouragement to your prompt handling of this matter, I am now informing you that I will probably share this letter in public places such as my website. If you provide a persuasive and reasonable explanation of your actions and somehow manage to convince me that public censure is undeserved, then I will either post your response after my comments, or even remove my public comments. I'm even willing to apologize if I've made a mistake. However, right now I think my biggest mistake is to continue doing business with any organization which is in any way affiliated with you.