Monthly Archive December 2010

ByRay Proper
Dec 13, 2010

Rabbit Cafe in Nagoya, Japan – Play With Rabbits!

One of the many weird and wonderful Japan experiences is the pet café. As most apartments in Japan do not allow animals, people are unable to have pets. People who just cannot live without that too cute pink nose snuggle snuggle time with their pet of choice have the option of visiting a pet café, where for a set fee you can get something to eat and drink, and play with a cat, dog, or rabbit until you get bored or run out of money.

About ten minutes from Hisayaodori Station, you will find a cool little spot called the Usagi-To Cafe in Nagoya; a rabbit-themed cafe near Takaoka (on the red line) or Hisyaodori Stations (on the red or purple lines) that is filled with decorations, toys, and food; mostly rabbit shaped. It seems a bit odd to munch on rabbit shaped snacks while snuggling with Bugs Bunny, but the café does not actually serve real rabbit so I might just be being oversensitive again.

If you are worried about your own, in house rabbit’s lack of bunny socialization skills, you can also bring your own rabbit in to play with the house rabbits.

The cost of the café is 900 yen to get in, and then 100 yen per minute spent with the bunnies. Check out the video below for a sneak peak, and see the map below that if you are interested in dropping in for a visit. No carrots required, but if you happen to bring one, I am guessing the rabbits won’t mind.

名古屋市東区泉1-11-8 林敬泉ビル 1F
11:00-22:00 (Sun. -20:00) Closed on Wednesdays (Japanese) (sort of translated)

ByRay Proper
Dec 10, 2010

Electronic Toll Collection System: How to get ETC without a Credit Card

Electronic Toll Collection System, or ETC, is the wireless toll system used on Japanese expressways. With it, you can breeze through collection points and the toll is automatically charged to your account- without stopping at a toll booth. The ETC system was instituted to relieve congestion caused by traffic jams at toll booths. Eliminating these jams, could reduce total traffic congestion by 30%. Besides saving time, this also improves fuel efficiency, reduces CO2 emissions, and lowers vehicle wear and tear caused by stop and go traffic at toll collection points.

The ETC system itself is comprised of two parts importance to a consumer. The first part is the ETC card. To get a one, you must apply to a credit card company that offers this service. The card functions like a credit or debit card; wirelessly debiting your account automatically as you pass through the gates. To do this, the card must be inserted into the second part of the system, a card reader and broadcast device installed in the car. The card reader is available for below 10,000 yen at auto dealers, automotive parts stores, repair shops, and online. Most shops will install it for you for an additional fee, and though it appears possible to install it on your own as well, it is not recommended. The simplest way to get a card reader is to purchase one through an auto parts store, and arrange for the installation and configuration there.

The card reader and the card are not exclusive to each other. Any card, when inserted into any card reader, will bill to the owner of that card when a toll is incurred, not the owner of the car. Therefore, a family with several cars could share one card to pay for and track all their toll charges. Conveniently, inserting your card into the reader of a rental car, or a car borrowed from a friend, makes paying tolls simpler as the tolls will be billed to you directly, rather than the rental agency or your friend. You can even split the cost of a trip by simply swapping cards for the return trip.

The ETC cards are available in two varieties. One is a straight ETC card used only to pay tolls, and the other is a combination card that can be used as a credit card for shopping as well. Like any credit card, fees, requirements, and benefits vary between companies and cards. Some companies even offer “gold cards” with annual fees, and many extras. Applying for an ETC card and paying the bill every month will be familiar to anyone who already has a credit card, as the process is the same.

Getting an ETC card is relatively simple if you have a Japanese bank account and credit card. The easiest way is to contact the company you already have a Japanese credit card through and apply for an ETC card as an additional service. Alternatively, a Japanese bank account is a requirement of the system, but if you do not have a credit card it is possible to get an ETC card if you pay a security deposit, and associate the account with your bank account.

This process is very Japanese language intensive and slow, but because many foreign residents have a hard time getting a credit card from a Japanese bank or company, many expats fall into this unfortunate category and have no other option. The required security deposit is 40,000 yen, and tolls will be deducted from your bank account directly-not from that deposit. To get a secured card like this, you must get an ETC application from a toll collection point on the expressway, or at the information booth in a service area on the expressway. Fill it out completely (it’s in Japanese) and send it in with a copy of a utility bill from your current residence, and if it is accepted, ETC will send you a bill for the deposit, which is payable at a convenience store. After you have paid the deposit, you should receive your card within a week, and your deposit will be held until cancel the account and return the card.