I mentioned earlier that my cell phone died, more of self-destructed, so I’ve been left without a phone for probably about 2 to 3 weeks. In this time, I’ve had to overcome my millennialism and learn how to live without a cell phone. I have some tips for you!
“My cell phone broke, what do I do now?”
Well, you have a couple of options. If you’re an お金持ち人, a rich person, you can go down to your local SoftBank or any provider of your choosing and get a prepaid phone, which means you either pay for a certain amount ahead of time or you can pay for what you use. Of course, if you’re living somewhere long-term, you might just consider a plan.
“But wait, I don’t want to pay for all of that! My old phone was just fine, can’t I get it repaired?”
Why yes you can!
“Even if I don’t speak a lot/or any Japanese?”
Yep! Actually, there is a hand full of smartphone repair places in Tokyo that specifically cater to English speakers or have English speakers on staff. I went to LoreaTec and the guys I worked with were very nice and professional. Its location was a little odd. To get to it, you take a back road behind what looks like an apartment complex. However, in Japan, it really isn’t as sketchy as it might be in the states. Finding places like that is actually a bit commonplace. I can say the place was legit. The man I worked with was a foreigner himself, so he spoke English well and could clearly communicate what was going on.
There was a catch!
If the phone you have isn’t a Japanese model, there is a chance that the parts they have will not be compatible. I don’t know if this is the case for most phone companies or not, but the parts for the Japanese Asus Zenphone 2 are completely different than the American version. It is possible to ship the needed parts, but it usually ends up costing more than the phone is worth.
I learned that when making the inquiry to set up an appointment, make sure to specify the origin and the model number that is on the inside of the phone so that they can better know whether they can help you before you get there. I took an hour train ride to find out they couldn’t repair my phone, but it ended up being fun anyway for reasons I will explain later but, for the sake of your time and energy, make sure you give them all the info you can before you get there.
Now there is a third option, but you’re not going to like it. You can just go without a phone. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’ve been really missing my phone, but maybe you won’t be in Japan for too long or you’re just really frugal. Don’t worry, your trip doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt. Here are tips for getting around without a phone:
Getting to LoreaTec was the first trip I made without my phone and it was only the second trip I made on my own. The first was me getting back to the dorms by myself and I’d already been shown one way. I had never been on that particular route before. I was going in blind (without my phone), but I used my brain and the computer that luckily still worked. Keep reading and I’ll teach you how. Google Maps is your savior. Both on the phone and off. Google Maps is pretty accurate in Japan for train schedules and walking directions. I haven’t taken the buses yet, so use it at your own risk as far as that goes.
One of the greatest things about the train system here is almost every train runs on a loop. The same train will come every so often. The longest I’ve had to wait between trains is about 15 minutes, and that’s for less popular local lines. Regardless of what times are listed on your Google Maps sheet, you will likely still be able to use the instructions as written. This is different than with buses in the states where you don’t always know when the next bus will come. This is not the case with trains here. The exception to that might be for very late hours but I believe it doesn’t change that much. I’d say if you’re staying out until the last train, be sure your local lines will still be running. In all likelihood, they will be but check anyway and avoid taxi fare or being stuck at an internet cafe all night. More on those later.
Now that you know that the trains run in a loop, you should also note there is usually one going clockwise and another going counter clockwise. This is very convenient but it also means you need to pay attention to what stops the train is going. Often time google maps will tell you which line you need to go on to which stop but not what direction. However, there is usually a sign either at the platform entrance or on the pillar on the platform, which lists the stops the train will go to.
Most stations have this, but for the ones that don’t, there’s another trick. All the signs that say the lines name, will usually have in smaller letters below the big stops it hits. On google maps next to the line name it will list one of those stops. Oh, btw, all of the signs are both in Japanese and English typically, especially the farther into tokyo you go
Alright, for some reason you can’t find the correct platform, maybe it’s a more rural area and there isn’t enough English or you are in the center of tokyo and it’s a huge station that you’ve gotten lost in. Never fear! Station attendant will happily help you. To find a station attendant simple find any entrance gate, next to it will be a window or even a small room and in there will be a station attendant that has access to all the info you need. Now, it is helpful to know some Japanese still, however, I have found most train attendants I’ve run into, know enough English to easily help you find the correct platform and probably every platform number until you get to the station you want to go. A good tip for this is to always have the name of the station you are going to, preferably written down, so you can show it to the attendant. This goes especially for those that may not have a lot of experience in Japanese as they likely won’t understand what you are saying if you say it with a strong American accent.
Great, you’ve gotten to the final station and have exited only to realize you have no idea where you’re going. Luckily, google’s walking directions are usually very helpful. I find that printing out the places to turn and a map with landmarks is the best way to go. You can find two corresponding store to help orient yourself and find street sign (which usually also have english in more populated areas) and find where to turn. Sometimes the street simply isn’t named, and landmarks can usually help with that, but sometime…
Great, now you’re lost. Now what? Well, the best thing you can do is find a コンビニ, or convenice store, like 7/11, Family Mart and Lawson, and ask for help. To make sure this is a viable option for you, make sure you write down the full address and name of the place you are headed too. This would be best to have both in English and Japanese. Generally, people at convenience stores are less likely to speak English, so having some Japanese if for the best but you can make it work even with simple questions. If you show then the address and say “すみません、これはどこですか。” (sumimasen, koreha doko desuka.) Meaning, “Excuse me (for the trouble), where is this?”. While certainly lack a certain amount of nuance or explanation, they likely will be able to pinpoint it on the map and show you can easy route there. Be sure to say thank you afterwards by saying “ありがとうございました”（ari gato gozai mashita), though even just thank you, they will likely understand.
Best case scenario, no one loses, breaks or forgets their phone, but the truth is happens and it’s good to be resourceful when you don’t always have access to the almighty google. It’s good to know your options in case you find yourself without your phone. Hopefully, you find these tips helpful. If you have any follow up questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I would love to hear your tips if you have experienced anything like this. Soon, I would like to give some tip on how to ride the train like a native. Some of these points will be rehashed but there’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to the train system. Thank you for reading! I will write again soon (hopefully).