A trip to real England

Town in Haworth
Although it was a bit while ago, I made a private trip the United Kingdom. It was not the British Hills, not an English village, not a British-style cottage in Tochigi Prefecture, not any other “fake Britain” in Japan. It was the real England, where I had wanted to visit before I died. I visited London and Haworth, West Yorkshire. Both of those places were introduced in a Japanese manga, Emma, by Kaoru Mori, which was one of my favourite comics I’d ever read.
Continue reading “A trip to real England”

iPhone5

I got iPhone5. I kept Sony Xperia Android phone, but iPhone is easier for me to use, with wider variety of accessories sold all over the world than Sony.
I haven’t got any Softbank’s nano SIM card, so I went to the nearest DoCoMo shop to get a DoCoMo nano SIM card for it, but they didn’t have any. I visited some other DoCoMo shops to ask for one, but none of them had it. Without a nano SIM card, it couldn’t be activated and it was just a small plate.
A DoCoMo shop in Tochigi-shi thankfully said they had a nano SIM card for iPhone5, although most DoCoMo shops in Tokyo said they didn’t have any. When I drove to the shop, there were dozens of people waiting in queue. A shop clerk said I should wait for one hour and a half to be served, but I actually waited 30 mins or so before being served. I managed to get one, put it in my iPhone I had bought before, and had it successfully activated.
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Off to Hong Kong

Gate 14
I’m going to Hong Kong tonight. I last visited there six years ago. I’ll be back to Japan on Sunday 6th.
Action items in Hong Kong: to get SIM-lock-free iPad2 and, if possible, iPhone4S at Mong Kok; registration of new address and passport number for my account of HSBC; and sightseeing at Stanley, Aberdeen and Lamma Island.

Continue reading “Off to Hong Kong”

Apples I’ve ever used

  • PowerBook 1400cs (Oct 1997 – )
  • Power Macintosh 6100 (Mar 1999 – )
  • iPod nano (Dec 2005 – )
  • MacBook Pro (Oct 2009 – )
  • iPhone 3GS (Mar 2010 – )
  • iPhone 4 (Dec 2010 – )

….thanks to Steve.

My current mobile devices

I bought Blackberry Curve 9300 in the middle of June for my main mobile phone I’m using on a daily basis, and switched an account from b-mobile into NTT DoCoMo again by the Mobile Number Portability service. The b-mobile SIM card was what I got together with an iPhone 4 Hong Kong version, but the iPhone 4 was not so good for telephone because its voice quality was not satisfactory and the manoeuvre was a little bit complicating. It’s just for web browsing, taking pictures and motion videos, playing games and other utilities, not for talking. I think the best device for voice calls is that of Nokia, but Nokia doesn’t sell any mobile phones in Japan any longer. Out of the phones available in Japan, Blackberry is for me. That’s why I’ve got Blackberry again.
Another reason why I chose Blackberry again is that it has a real QWERTY keyboard on the device, not displayed on the screen. You can type the keyboard to enter text, and doing this is much easier than touching the virtual keyboard on the screen. So I’m gonna use it for text messaging and email writing besides talking on it. Text messaging will be much more convenient because sending SMS to other carriers will be available next Wednesday.
Although iPhone is not so good for a telephone, it’s the best for a camera and a communicator with plenty of applications. I’ve got a Softbank SIM card too, so I still use iPhone4 used so far on a main basis with the Softbank SIM card inserted in it.
Now I’ve got three mobile phones carried with me —- Blackberry Curve 9300, iPhone 4 and a mobile phone my employer tells me to keep. Next I want to have some tablets like iPad or Galaxy Tab 😉

Japan’s mobile environment today

Sorry for not updating the blog for a long time. These days I’m hanging out in Facebook and Twitter, rather than writing blog entries. Please visit my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/masayuki.kawagishi or follow @_Yuki_K_ on Twitter 😉
I see that the world of mobile phones are rapidly changing for years. Nokia, one of the dominant mobile phone manufacturers, is disappearing and Apple is expanding the market with iPhone, its flagship mobile phones with a music player, games and other applications all-in-one. Following apple, various mobile phone manufacturers, from Samsung to small makers in China, are releasing smartphones with Android operating system developed by Google.
In Japan, I think that mobile phones are rapidly “globalised” for recent years. A few years ago all you could see here was the “Galapagos” handphones sold only within Japan and unavailable once you brought them out of Japan. But recently in the train or on the streets you see the same devices as those seen in the rest of the world — iPhones, Android smartphones and even Blackberry phones (very rare though).
More than that, this month I had a good news showing Japan’s globalisation of the mobile phone environment. A news says that from 13 July this year you can send text messages (SMS) to the mobile phones of the different carriers from yours. That is normal in the rest of the world, but that isn’t here in Japan — if you have a mobile phone sold by NTT DoCoMo, you can send SMS only to NTT DoCoMo users, not to au, Softbank or any other carrier’s users. As the SMS gateways are closed to different carriers, you can rarely see here such services as balance enquiry, network configurations, service registrations and purchasing something by sending text messages to service providers as you can see in Singapore, Hong Kong or some European countries. The opening the SMS gateways will probably enable you to have such services even in Japan in the near future.
Japan and the countries other than Japan don’t stand in opposite. Japan is an extension of other countries, and any country is an extension of Japan. It is essential that anything available in the world is available in Japan too.

I’ve got iPhone4!

iPhone4_bmobile.jpg
It’s a little bit late, though.
I had used Nokia N82 with Softbank Mobile’s SIM card as a main mobile phone so far. I had told my friends the phone number of it. But it had been kind of inconvenient because it had had narrower signal reception areas than the mobiles of NTT DoCoMo so if you had gone underground or deep into a big building you couldn’t have had it communicated. More than that, (it’s the situation peculiar to Japan, though) you can send SMS only to the mobiles of the same carrier as yours. Most of my friends had NTT DoCoMo mobile phones, so I’d wanted to change the carrier of my handphone into NTT DoCoMo.
NTT DoCoMo had released Samsung’s Galaxy S handphones in November and they had been very attracting for me, but they had been in so short supply in those days that I couldn’t have got any. I’d given up waiting for one.
At that time, Japan Communications had begun releasing b-mobile’s micro SIM cards together with unlocked iPhone4 imported from Hong Kong. JC had been selling the imported iPhone4 to its customers on hire purchase. JC was providing mobile phone service using NTT DoCoMo’s network, so if you had a mobile with b-mobile’s SIM card installed you could use it in almost the same manner as NTT DoCoMo, including sending and receiving SMS to and from NTT DoCoMo’s phones.
That’s why I purchased b-mobile’s micro SIM card called "b-micro talkingSIM" and iPhone4. Prior to the purchase I had cancelled the contract with Softbank Mobile and had the phone number used in it reassigned to the new micro SIM card so that I could use the same phone number as that I had told to my friends.
bmobile.jpg
The b-mobile SIM card was completely the same as NTT DoCoMo’s, but you had to set up b-mobile’s original APN, user name and password manually to the iPhone4 to have it activated. Besides, you could set up configuration of tethering, which only JC allowed its customers to use while NTT DoCoMo didn’t.
I cut the micro SIM card off the frame, put it on the micro SIM card tray of the iPhone4, inserted the tray into it, plugged it in my MacBook Pro where iTunes was operating, and turned its switch on.
iPhone4_activated.jpg
A couple of minutes later the iPhone4 was activated with no problems. Applications were downloaded from iTunes to it, and the sync of other data including contacts and email accounts was successful. Of course, SMS can be sent to friends with NTT DoCoMo mobile phones!
Q-SIM.jpg
A gadget: it’s Q-SIM Dual SIM Card, which allows a normal SIM card together with a micro SIM card to be installed in iPhone4, so that you can use two different SIM cards in one iPhone4. Two SIM card slots are connected with a thin link, one of which accepts a micro SIM card and the other a normal SIM. By sandwiching the micro SIM card plate of it with a micro SIM card and a micro SIM card tray, putting it into iPhone4’s micro SIM card slot and folding the rest of the link so that it reaches the back of iPhone4 which is put into a included case, you can use two different carriers in one iPhone4. Auto-switch between the two SIM cards is also available.

Going back to Japan

The last night of the trip I stayed within Changi Airport because if I had stayed in a hotel room I would’ve miss the returning plane departing at 7:10 in the morning. Fortunately, Changi Airport opens 24 hours a day and it doesn’t close at midnight. Because UA check in counters were closed until 4:30 am, I had to stay in a bench in the departure floor.
However, sleeping on the bench wasn’t successful. When I lay on the bench, security guards came to wake up and said, “There’s no oversleeping here, sir.” I moved to another bench and slept hiding from them, but I couldn’t sleep very well, just slept only for an hour, because every time I heard the sound of somebody’s footsteps I was afraid that the security officers came to wake me up. Later I saw guests in the coffee shop on the same floor sleeping very well. I should’ve do it!
At 4 am, I saw UA check-in counter open and began check-in. Although there was automated check-in machines, it became error while processing. I finally was led to a human-operated counter by UA staff and managed to have a boarding pass.
Soon I entered into a departure gate. I was surprised to see that there was just a screening machine for luggage, no security gates nor screening officers. Its security check was very simple. After luggage screening there were immigration counters, where a piece of the disembarkation card I had got at Woodlands Checkpoint was taken away and a departing stamp was stamped on my passport.
While in a restricted area, I went in front of the boarding gate for UA804 to Tokyo and opened my laptop to surf the net, because duty free shops were closed until 6 am so I had nothing else to do. I was disappointed that there was no free WiFi spots even in the boarding gate areas in Changi Airport, unlike other international airports. Priced WiFi operated by StarHub was all in that airport. Even if I tried to pay for the WiFi by my credit card, the authentication of the credit card failed. I found that if I sent an SMS by a Singaporean mobile phone I had an SMS by StarHub with user id and password. I tried to do it and once successful, but ten minutes later the connection became unavailable. That’s why I rate Changi Airport very bad in international airports in the world.
At 6 am, the duty free shops began operation, but we had not so much time to shop because the boarding on UA804 was to begin at 6:30 am.
Departure gates
More than that, there were strict security checks at the entry of the boarding gates while there were simpler screening at the departure entrance, so I had no time to take a rest in front of the gate.
UA804 to Tokyo
Anyway the airplane arrived at Narita at 3:10 pm, just on time. I managed to return to Japan alive 🙂

Singapore – the second day

I purchased a prepaid SIM card with 3-day broadband service at M1 counter in Changi Airport. Unlike normal mobile phones like Nokia, iPhone didn't receive an APN or other network setting information needed for internet access. The M1 counter lady said I needed to bring the iPhone to the M1 shop at Paragon and have it installed settings there.
MRT Changi Airport station MRT Changi Airport station
I asked the MRT station staff where I could get to Paragon and she answered I should go to Orchard station, so I took MRT train to Orchard.
Paragon
Here's Paragon. It was very large.
M1 shop was on the B1 level. When I waited in line in front of the shop, a shop girl came to me and asked what she could help me. I told her I wanted to activated internet service for my iPhone. Then she led me to the front of counters in charge of activation or other services and gave me a paper printed a queue number to let me wait until the number was called. Tens of minutes later I was called by a counter girl. The activation took a little more time because my iPhone hadn't been purchased at M1 shop but in Hong Kong. Anyway the activation was successful and I could have access to the internet with my iPhone.
After activation I went to Little India.
Little India
There were dozens of gold jewelry shops on the streets selling golden stuff and buying items with gold. I wonder if there are many such stores in Asian cities.
There were plenty of Indian restaurants as well. The below is one of the local restaurants. People were eating foods put on a banana leaf by hand, like people in India do.

Because Singapore is very close to the Equator and today was almost autumnal equinox, the Sun passes the top of the sky. This video is when the Sun was on the top at solar noon. Vertical sunshine can never be experienced in Japan.

Trip to Singapore and Malaysia

I’m going for trip to Singapore and Malaysia until next Thursday because we have the “Silver Week” in Japan, with two national holidays (next Monday and Thursday) and three days of leave. For me this is this year’s second trip to foreign countries. As I have 20,000 miles of United Airlines’ frequent flyer program, I can get a round-trip ticket from Japan to south Asia. I chose Singapore because Singapore is the country where I enjoyed six years ago and I have looked forward to visiting again. This time, I’m going to visit Johor Bahru and another city of Malaysia because they are close to Singapore and maybe I can have easy access to those cities.
I’ll bring unlocked iPhone bought from Hong Kong other than regular cell phones I use on a daily basis, so as to use it at cheaper costs by replacing Softbank’s SIM card I always use in Japan with prepaid SIM cards I’ll get at destination countries. Skype is installed on the iPhone so that I can receive calls at any time regardless of countries I’ll be in, even if a phone number will be frequently changed.
UA803 to Singapore
United 803 to Singapore
The plane departed Narita at 1735 and arrived at SIN at 2330. It was earlier than scheduled. Seven hours’ flight in the economy seat of United Airlines was kind of tough and I had severe back pain when I got off 🙁
Arrival gate
Arrival Gate
Changi Airport immigration
Immigration
Arrival level
Arrival Level