Yesterday I dug out real clothes to meet my friend Yorkie at Inner Noodle. I had big, dramatic hair and make up fully exposing my Southern roots. Tall wedges. I was towering at 6 foot 2 at least. When shopping in Japan, no jeans. Full make up. Look the part. Or get ignored. As I might have mentioned a few hundred times previously, cash, cash, cash in Japan, so I pit stopped at the ATM where I was informed by a bowing cartoon couple that my bank had issued a “hold” on the bank card. Must be a mistake. I went to another cash machine at the train station. Another cartoon couple bowed in apology, eyes closed, and informed me that I did have money but they were unable to give me any. Gomenasai.
Yorkie and I would have to stop at the bank. I was ushered, silently, to a woman’s desk. She looked up the account without a word.
“Have you moved?” Strange question.
“Yes- in September- we moved from a temporary apartment in to a permanent one.” How the HELL did they know that? All statements and communications from the bank arrived electronically. We’re very green.
“You just need to fill out a change of address form.”
“That’s the problem?”
Dumbfounded that a) the bank had information regarding our whereabouts from an unknown source and b) would cut off access to our cash over a change of address unnerved me. If that doesn’t put the fear in you- I started to wonder if I’d done anything wrong accidentally that could cause serious trouble. There was that questionable signature with the grocery store card that kept coming back as not matching….
I filled out the form. She reviewed it. We talked about the form. She copied my alien registration card which some of you know is a pet peeve of mine. (Alien Registration Card identifies Spouse as the “Head of Household” which was hotly debated on that post)
“How much cash do you require?” She so politely inquired.
Still having a hard time with the number of 0’s attached to the yen, I wrote down the number. She accessed the account.
“Ouiser-san- I’m so sorry- It appears Spouse is the primary account holder. I can’t give you any money and he will have to perform the change of address. Even though you are listed on the account, and have a bank card, you can not perform any banking functions as his spouse.”
Not only does Spouse not know what bank we use, he doesn’t know our address.
Apparently the horns growing out of the top of my head alarmed her.
“Have him fill out this form, copy his alien registration card, and give it back.” She gave me the form and an envelope.
I gathered up my purse, broom and flew out.
Yorkie had to buy lunch.
The next day, Andretti-san dropped me by the bank to turn in the signed paperwork so Spouse could stop borrowing money from people at work. A clerk took the papers, escorted me to a chair where I waited for 20 minutes.
“Ouiser-san, I’m so sorry, but my boss says your Spouse must turn in the papers.”
“I was told yesterday that he could sign these and I could then drop them off.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, but as his Spouse, you are not allowed to conduct any banking activity- you must mail in the forms. Unless you have income of your own, you can’t conduct bank business.”
At this point, I felt the “ping, ping, ping” as talons popped out from the tips of my fingers. Bloody tears of anger seeped from my eyes. My head fell back and a scream of rage rocked the bank. I was having an ExPat moment. The people in the bank weren’t alarmed- they’d witnessed this before. Western wives aren’t used to the clipped wings that come with moving to Japan.
How do the Japanese women put up with this? How can this be?
There was one poor soul standing by the car, unaware as to the cause of the falling glass from the skyscraper above. My talons, horns and stupendous yet horrifying bat wings did not seem to register on his face as I approached, breathing heavily, drool pooling around the corners of my mouth.
“Andretti-san- 2 things. 1) We have to go to the other bank where you must impersonate Spouse and 2) why do women in Japan put up with this?”
I realized that Spouse told me not to coerce Andretti-san into conducting illegal activity on my behalf and once the bank personnel saw the picture on the Alien Registration Card they’d realize that Spouse wore glasses and my ruse would be exposed. I put the x-nay on the bank run.
“In the old days, men had the heart of a Samurai, now they have the heart of a child. They just want to lay on the couch and play video games. The women would rather stay independent and make money. They want a man from my father’s generation.”
This I could understand. As I make futile attempts to learn Japanese, I watch the period dramas on tv- Taiga. One doesn’t need to understand Japanese to follow the action. Samurai/Prince/Strong Male Figure falls in love with Geisha/Farm Girl/Orphan. The girl is somehow brought to the palace where the couple fall hopelessly in to an unacceptable love. A vicious plot by the male hero’s mother/jealous palace women condemns the young beautiful female lead to death/expulsion. The young woman usually evades death but is always evicted from the palace. Someone confesses to the plot. The Prince/Samurai/Strong Male Figure fights his way to the Geisha/Farm Girl/Orphan who is now playing guitar in a brothel and the two live happily ever after. It gets me every time.
Gamers vs Samurai? Ouch. One study found that Japanese men spend 23 minutes on housework and childcare while the women spend 4.5 hours. Most had never changed a diaper. Hey! I was a Japanese male before I got married and had kids. Apparently the women have decided it’s an all or none equation- find someone more willing to share the load or go it alone without kids. Gulp- Gasp- Life fulfilled without children? How dare they! All for the want of free access to the bank account and a fulfulling career? Apparently so. Only 1% of Japanese women have children out-of-wedlock. Women in Japan are now among the world’s oldest at marriage, 29-30. Very quietly voting with their feet and ignoring the parents who’ve hired match makers or forced them in to spinster hobbies like flower arranging, learning to drive, or performing the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Remain independent, free of the shackles marriage brings until “Absolute Mr. Right” comes along.
What does that translate to? A population crisis. More people are dying in Japan than are being born. The population is not replacing itself. Bad news for the future of Japan.
Fellows- brush up on the Samurai skills….really, it’s easier than changing a diaper.