Personal confession: I was a rather angry teenager. Always first in line to scream and shout, always talking back to teachers and other random adults… The fly on the wall would drive me crazy – and I’d be up it in a moment. I’m not sure what exactly has provoked the change in my life – I’m guessing it is age – but I have cooled down considerably. Especially the last two years in Japan – being where I want to be, doing what I want to do – have almost made me another person.
Almost. A bit more than a month ago, I met the first Japanese who brought my blood to boiling point. She made me so angry, within 5 minutes, I almost (!) started yelling at her. Here’s what happened:
I needed a bank account in Japan, a second one, for practical reasons. Japan has many banks, but the one with the densest branch network is Japan Post Bank. Even here, in a residential area, there are two branches within only a five minute’s walk from my new home. So, I thought, if I ever have to move again, this is the best bank to get a second account as they are everywhere. So, on an early Friday afternoon about six weeks ago, I went to the larger one of the Post Bank branches around my corner in order to open a new bank account.
This branch is large enough to have a designated person to supply you with forms and help on how to fill them in, and then hands you your waiting number. So, I went up to said person and said, slowly, but in Japanese: I want to open a bank account please. I received a rather complicated answer that I could not quite make sense of, but I understood that there is lots of paperwork involved in opening a bank account and that there is nobody who could speak English and that I should come back on Monday, when there would be some English speaker available.
Okay, thought I, slightly unhappy because I needed that account faster than that, but I relented, said thank you, and left. Fast forward to the following Monday morning, 10 am, when I entered the same branch again, placed myself in front of the same woman, and said the very same sentence as on Friday: I want to open a bank account please.
At which – wouldn’t you believe it – the woman gave me the very same sermon as on Friday afternoon: It involves a lot of paperwork in Japanese which you can’t fill out on your own, and we do not have anybody who speaks English here. I went: What? Mind you, this was the main post (bank) office for this whole city district, not one of the tiny ones staffed with three people; I would not have dreamt of going to one of those.
That was the point when I started to get upset: That woman had just wasted a whole weekend of mine! Thankfully there was another customer in the bank at that time who kindly tried to translate between the two of us. It turned out that the clerk had decided upfront that, because I am a foreigner, the only thing I could possibly want is a bank account from which I can send money abroad, and this would allegedly be very difficult to set up. I said no, that’s not what I need, I only want an account on which to receive my salary. No, she insisted, this is all very complicated, can you not bring a Japanese friend?
That was the point when my blood started to boil. She had not used the word “friend” on Friday, I would have understood that, it being one of the first Japanese words I learnt. She then gave me the impression that things could be sorted out on Monday. To the question whether there were other post bank branches where people would be able to speak English, she replied she did not know of any, and besides this is the main branch, so other branches’ staff would send me here anyway.
That was the point when I got angry – for the first time in the two years I spent living in Japan. I had not gotten angry at the immigration officer who personally grilled me at Kansai airport in February last year; I had not gotten angry at the immigration officer who sent me for the correct sized envelope. But this time, I did get really mad – and even a bit loud. I did rein in my anger comparatively quickly though, thanked the person who had translated, and left the Post Bank, without bank account. I have no intentions to go back there ever again.
In the end, I did get my second bank account that Monday morning after all. There is a Bank of Kyoto nearby, and although they were not my first choice because they have hardly any branches outside of Kyoto, I went there after all. Similar situation there: A woman handing out forms to whom I posed my request: I want to open a bank account please. From there, it took us five minutes to fill out a single piece of paper and put my hanko at various places; and after a waiting time of about 25 minutes, I had sucessfully opened a second bank account. And she did not speak any English either…