Foreign iPhone fans, be aware of Softbank's two-year visa rule

by Louise George Kittaka

A pot pourri of topics this week. Later, we take a step back in time with two readers hoping to re-establish connections from the past. But first, a decidedly modern topic: upgrading to the iPhone 5 with Softbank.

“Softbank just rejected my friend, a customer that has used their phone and service for two whole years, from upgrading to a new iPhone 5,” writes an angry reader. “The reason was that her visa needed to be renewed in August 2014. (If she had a Japanese driver’s license they may have let her, but she does not drive.)

“When she signed up in 2011 she had a three-year visa. Now, after using their service and paying promptly for two years, with no problems, she wanted to get a newer phone.

“They said no! The only thing she could do was buy the phone [up front] for ¥40,000. She called the English helpline and the guy said [paying in installments was] ‘muri‘ [it’s impossible]. And the English help guy eventually escaped by asking to speak to the Softbank service guy at the store and then having the service guy hang up.

“Using their math, anyone who uses their service for two years on a three-year visa will now be rejected when trying to upgrade their phone.

“The system the service guy used was that he took her resident’s card and scanned it so that it was sent it in to their compliance system. The compliance section rejected it because of the expiry date.

“No thank you for the past two years. No service rewards. Nothing. Very racist, in my opinion.

“My question to you is, where are the more friendly Softbank stores that you talk about in the article ‘Softbank’s policies on foreign customers hard to pin down’ (Lifelines, Dec. 4, 2012)?”

As Ashley Thompson wrote in this previous column, Softbank officially requires that you have at least two years remaining on your visa if you wish to pay for a new handset in monthly installments rather than fork out for the whole lot up front — although experiences notoriously vary from store to store.

Have any readers been able to upgrade to the iPhone 5 and pay for the handset in installments despite having less than two years left on their visa?

Either way, please let us know about your experiences.

Clues from fatal flight wanted

Reader EL from Canada is looking for any information about CPA (Canadian Pacific Airlines) flight 402, which crashed and burned on landing at Haneda airport back on March 4, 1966. His father was among the 54 passengers and crew who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Being only 18 months old at the time, our reader never really knew his father but thinks about him often. “I am trying to find a passenger list or manifest and wondered if there are other surviving children of people killed on board that day. It has been very difficult for me to find information on the accident.”

American tribe’s lost son sought

Next we have AR, a teacher at Kingston High School in Washington state. She is hoping to find a gentleman born in 1921 with the last name of Webster. His father was Suquamish tribal member Lawrence Webster, who visited Japan as part of the Suquamish tribe’s baseball team from Seattle.

It is believed that Lawrence Webster’s Japanese girlfriend came from Yokohama. Their son made a visit to the U.S. many years ago but did not receive a particularly warm welcome from his father’s people.

Lawrence has a great-grandson currently attending Kingston High who recently came to Japan with AR as part of a visit to their sister school, Shimokitazawa Seitoku in Tokyo. “His family asked that I try to find this relative, as they are curious about him and want to welcome him.”

More about Lawrence Webster and the Suquamish tribe’s baseball team can be found here:

Kiwi Louise George Kittaka has been based in Japan since she was 20. In the ensuing years she has survived PTA duty for three kids in the Japanese education system and singing live on national TV for the NHK “Nodo Jiman” show, among other things. Send all your comments and questions to