Buying a cell phone couldn’t be easier in Europe. They practically throw the things at you. But what is normal in Europe, often isn’t in Japan. In Japan, buying a cell phone and registering for a phone number is serious business. It’s best to set aside the better part of a day to do it. And if you’re new in Japan, I recommend getting some help from a local.
To buy our Japanese phones, we went to a huge electronics store in Toyota City called Eiden. It’s two floors of electronica heaven – or hell, depending on how well you respond to an overdose of visual and auditory stimuli.
First things first: picking out a phone. Typical Japanese cell phones are a lot bigger than European ones (my Japanese phone is 11 cm by 5 cm). Although these days, many people in Japan have a smart phone, which pretty much looks the same all over the world.
Picking out a phone is it the fun part. After that, the paper work begins. There is an endless pile of forms to complete, documents to register and questions to answer. All the registration is done by means of carbon paper, not computerized forms. Not quite what I had expected from a high-tech nation like Japan.
Fortunately the famous Japanese customer care makes it all bearable. We are helped by the most ‘kawaii’ (cute) and bubbly salesperson ever.
While we are waiting for our documents to be checked (which takes more than an hour), we are free to wander around the store or even go grab a bite to eat somewhere. They will contact us when everything’s ready. As if that’s not enough in terms of customer care, the store features a rest space where the weary shopper can repose during their shopping spree.
After having spent many an hour in that store, we finally get our phones. Now we’re ready to start having a social life in Japan. FYI: phones in Japan come with their very own e-mail address. So it’s even possible to send e-mails to phones that don’t connect to the internet. Very convenient!