Repairs, fuel charges and a tax irritant

Upholsterer needed

Tony has a chair — actually more of a stool — that is in dire need of recovering as well as replacement of the stuffing material. He is looking for any shops in the Tokyo (Shibuya) area that do this work.

On this one, it’s probably best to throw it out there. Can anyone recommend a reputable upholsterer? Or maybe you personally undertake upholstery repairs and renovations at home? Do get in touch.

Fuel surcharge

Alex writes that he recently booked a ticket to London via Virgin Atlantic Airways in mid-March through the Shibuya branch of a well-known bucket shop in Tokyo.

“I paid the deposit, but days later a staff member rang to say there was a fuel surcharge to be added to the price agreed. It’s not so much, but that is not the point. Where is our protection from unagreed additional charges in the future?”

On Dec. 6, 2004, the Japanese government approved a fuel surcharge to be charged to passengers traveling from February 2005 onward. Not all the airline companies have added fuel charges as yet, however Virgin Airlines has decided to charge 1,870 yen for the flight between Narita and London from its March 10 departure flight.

It’s likely that VA’s decision came as much of a surprise to the staff member as it did to Alex. It’s a cheek really, because although we are told that oil has never been so expensive, it is in fact relatively cheaper than it was 20 years ago.

All we can do is protest by mail and fax and phone, and use an airline still not charging.

Tax & Residency

Reader Victoria writes in to voice her displeasure at the ward tax system.

She writes: “It appears that about 44 percent of the tax goes toward facilities for the elderly and about 24 percent toward child facilities — although this probably varies from ward to ward.

“However, as I do not intend to be in Japan past retirement age and will certainly not be having a baby, I really resent paying so much tax — especially when another country will be supporting me in my old age.

“Is there,” she asks, “no refund system?”

Victoria is also wondering if there are any advantages in getting permanent residency?

In a perfect world, you could pick and choose what taxes to pay. However, in Japan, like anywhere else, regardless of how the ward uses your taxes, you cannot pay a percentage depending on what benefits you receive from the ward.

On permanent residency, the advantages are substantial. You do not need to apply and re-apply for a visa every three (or so) years, and you can also apply for and likely receive loans and other benefits often denied to those with just a renewable visa.

For more details on residency, call (03) 6402-7654 and speak with Mr. Nakai or (03) 3582-7482 for Mr. Inomoto.

Credit cards

A reader writes: I’m a Filipino married to Japanese wife and have lived here for 7 years. I’ve been trying to get a credit card for Internet shopping etc. but have had no luck so far.

“Is there some prepaid VISA card here in Japan that I can get. I found some on the Internet but they’re just for U.S. residents. Or are there some banks here that will issue a VISA debit card?” he asks.

The best place to apply for a credit card is probably the post office. If you have a post office account or if you open one you should be able to apply for a post office credit card — they come through MasterCard, Visa and American Express. If your spouse is Japanese, you can have her co-sign the application and you should have no problem getting a card.