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Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business

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The last column of the year starts off with a problem regarding buying JR train tickets in Kyushu. Reader A writes:

I thought you might be interested in this issue that I encountered when using an automatic ticket machine in Hakata Station, Fukuoka.

Because I don’t read Japanese so well, I changed the machine to English language. As I went through the menu I could not select the “nimai-kippu” (two tickets of the same type) option, which offers a discount. The only options I had were two individual tickets — if I recall correctly the price difference was ¥2,000. I canceled the sale and went to the counter and had a conversation with the clerk, who confirmed that once English is selected, the cheaper two-ticket option wouldn’t be offered.

I was thinking how many hundreds of thousands of yen have been taken from people simply because they select English and don’t happen to know about the cheaper ticket options. My wife actually emailed JR Kyushu, but just got back a standard, “Thank you for your email.”

I spoke to a representative in JR Kyushu’s PR department. After some investigation, he confirmed that this situation still exists with some of the ticket machines once the foreign language option button (for English, Korean and Chinese) is pressed. It seems that there are two types of ticket machines, and while it isn’t a problem for the “two-ticket option” for shorter distances (kin-kyori), it does affect those for machines for longer distances (shitei kenbai). As our reader pointed out, this could result in non-Japanese customers paying quite a bit more if they purchase tickets through the machine.

“While JR Kyushu isn’t in a position to change the machines immediately, we will take this opportunity to discuss the situation and see how we can improve things for our foreign customers,” said the rep. He thanked the reader and Lifelines for bringing the problem to the department’s attention.

Has anyone encountered a similar problem with JR tickets in other parts of Japan? JR Kyushu’s spokesperson said it is possible the same situation could be happening in other areas, too.

Desperately seeking someone

Next, here are two more readers have hoping to reconnect with people from the past: Dorothy Brown Machat is looking for her pen pal, Keimi Matsumoto, who would now be in her 70s. They met in Japan in 1963. “Her last address was in Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, and she may have worked in fashion design. I lived in Oklahoma when I made my first trip to Japan, but now live in Paris, France,” Dorothy writes.

Brothers Paul and Stefan Lukas are trying to find a close friend, Michael (Mike) Collins, who came to Japan to teach English in 1981. Mike lived in Hokkaido for some time but it seems he moved to Tokyo in the mid-to-late 1990s, and may have been involved in the wine industry. “Mike was the best man at my wedding, and we would be very pleased to find out what has happened to our very good friend from former days,” Paul says.

Red tape for Canada travelers

Finally, some information from the Canadian Embassy, reminding travelers to obtain the correct travel documents before booking their flights to Canada:

“Starting Nov. 10, 2016, visa-exempt travellers (except United States citizens) will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to board their flight to Canada. Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, will need a valid Canadian passport to fly to or transit through Canada. To help minimize travel disruptions for dual Canadian citizens, a short-term measure is available to dual citizens whose second citizenship is from a visa-exempt country. These dual citizens can apply for a special authorization that will let them board their flight to Canada using their valid non-Canadian passport.

“This short-term measure, which will be available until Jan. 31, 2017, is open to dual citizens who have an imminent flight to Canada (leaving in less than 10 days) and whose Canadian citizenship can be verified by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). If approved, the authorization will be valid for four days from the date of travel indicated in the application.”

Further information can be found at www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/results-by-topic.asp?st=16.7.

Send your comments and questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp.