Take a Number


First, for those of you interested in studying Japanese, you’ll be glad to know that I have started working on Bikkuri’s Japanese Juku again. I still need to learn more formatting and such to improve the site, but you should find the newest drill useful. On formatting, I’m having troubles getting WordPress to properly display furigana (振り仮名) and I need to learn how to do tables in HTML.

Yesterday I bravely (or so I say) phoned the gas company (東邦ガス – Toho Gas), electric company (中部電力 – Chubu Denryoku), and cell phone provider (エンティティドコモ – NTT Docomo) to take care of a few issues. One point was correcting my name, at the electric company, from ファモンド to ハモンド; which the admin next to me thought would be the most difficult activity to explain on the phone. (Yes, I consulted with the admin on all of my points before I got up the nerve to dial the phone.)

It is a personal mark of pride that I figured out how to approach this issue to make it the simplest. The difference in pronunciation between Famondo and Hamondo is very subtle, hence the mistake was made; however, Fa is really two characters – a ‘fu’ and a lower case ‘a’ – while Ha is just one. I simply explained, “Replacing the ‘fu’ and the small ‘a’ with the single character ‘ha’ would be preferrable.” Focussing on the distinguishing point, one character instead of two, brought this to a quick close.

Next, I ordered an automatic payment application, politely ended the call, and moved on to the gas company. Filling out their auto-payment application, I had hit a hurdle on which I needed advice. On most applications involving money, we must make an imprint in red ink with our registered hanko (判子). Hanko are name stamps, usually carved in ivory or wood. It is typical to use a very small size, making the hanko easy to carry around, but I use a rather large stone rakkan (落款) like an artist would use to sign a work. In hindsight I would register a small one and may look into what is required to change registration soon. Why? Read on…

The form had two small spaces for making an initial imprint and a secondary imprint, called sutein (捨印), as a sort of validation. The stamps must never overlap (that would be very, very bad). We wrangled over the form here for a long time before deciding it was impossible unless I made the second stamp in white space on a different part of the form. I made the call, waited a long time as they consulted on the issue, and received official approval to make on imprint that covers both spaces. Had I registered a small stamp, I could have made two quick imprints and mailed off the form.

The third call to the cell phone provider got me an automated recording with choices. It wasn’t very clear and I hung up. After work I stopped into their shop to handle my business. We always have to take a number there and wait, even when there are more helpers than customers. To make the best use of time there, I asked a ton of questions about using features on my phone at the same time.

In America when we take a number, it is generally just that – a slip with a number on it. In Japan politeness is key; the slips here start with an official label “Reception Ticket” and contain instructions in very humble language, instructing us in the proper usage of the ticket. They end with a proper label, identifying the authority to provide the ticket. Sometimes I think politeness goes too far here, but it beats a lot of other possibilities.


One Response to “Take a Number”

  1. Correcting Names With Bacteria « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] I was trying to get my name corrected on the phone, I used the first method, which is to state the character and the row which contains […]

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