Friday, October 26, 2007
A lot of things have changed since I quit my job nearly two years ago. Some of those changes like feeling more relaxed and having more free time were to be expected but others are things I never would have imagined. One of those changes was that I actually had the time and experience to get to know people who work around the neighborhood on sight. It may surprise people to know that, aside from the landlord and our immediate neighbors, I didn't really recognize most of the people who live and work here.
There are a variety of reasons for this and none of them are that I wasn't paying attention or was too busy to notice. When you work full-time, you tend to encounter businesses and people at more varied hours. You also tend to shop less at one particular place and, when you do shop, you're often in a mob with all the other folks headed for home at the same time. Being a "housewife" means I'm at the same shops again and again and during times when they're not so busy and fewer people are around and therefore fewer clerks on duty. Being a housewife who also works freelance part-time has brought me into contact with the local delivery folks with such frequency that I recognize the two deliverymen who work at the local Yamato distribution area when I see them running about the neighborhood.
The fact of the latter was brought home today when I returned from a shopping trip and one of "my" two common delivery contacts was running to his truck as he did some business with a neighboring tenant. Normally, you don't say "konnichiwa" (good day) to everyone you see but you do to the people you "know" and we exchanged a greeting. Two things occurred to me after this encounter. This was the first time I ever said "hello" to a deliveryman I randomly encountered on the street. Also, I realized that this was a person who had seen me dazed, in my nightgown, and completely unkempt on occasions when delivery was earlier than expected and I stumbled out of bed to hand him over a C.O.D. parcel full of corrected reports for my former company. It was a bit of a bizarre feeling to know he'd seen me in a semi-private (but not the least bit revealing) state and I was running into him on the street.
The delivery center closest to us is a branch of one of the big animal-themed places. Yamato is also known as "kuro neko" or black cat (as their logo shows a black cat delivering a kitten). The other service is Nippon Express (aka Nittsu) which is known by its pelican logo. Oddly enough, I used to talk to employees of both of these companies as part of my former job. For all I know, I've done telephone training with the fellows schlepping my parcels around though somehow I doubt it.
Most companies go with whichever service suits them based on location rather than on price. Amazon Japan delivers to us via the kitty service. The Foreign Buyer's Club delivers via the pelican. While I've never priced the services side-by-side, I'd be surprised if there was a big difference in service costs. For us, Yamato is better because they're close by and, on the off chance that we miss a delivery, they can easily bring a parcel to us with just a phone call. It's a little more complicated with Nittsu and sometimes we have to wait until the next day to get packages from them.
Yamato and Nippon Express are mainly concerned with domestic parcel delivery as is the Japanese postal service. They are used more frequently by businesses than the postal service because they have more pick up points (including convenience stores), go door to door for pick up and delivery and can guarantee delivery times based on the service you choose. This includes same day delivery within certain areas.
If you stay in Japan for any length of time, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with how these takkyubin services work because they can be very helpful in a society that relies heavily on public transportation. Besides sending and receiving paperwork for my freelance work, we have used these services to have large boxes of Costco purchases delivered, computers relayed to repair outlets, large boxes of books shipped to used book shops and luggage sent to or from the airport. Even if you can't read the Japanese forms, you can get some help filling them out from convenience store clerks whose shops act as pick up points for such services. It's often far better to pay the reasonable fees of these services than break your back or struggle to haul things around Tokyo.