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editorials>>Scamming Train Fare - By: Drew

Well boys and girls, sometimes when you are staying in one of the most expensive countries in the world you have to do things that are somewhat unethical and are considered borderline stealing. I’m not talking about stealing bikes as yours truly was somewhat famous for during my stay in Japan, I’m talking about a kind of free train ride.

Let me set the stage, I was meeting a girl who I met at work at work one day--her and her mom had previously taken me out to dinner a few times. Maki (the daughter) and I decided to get together for a few hours in Osaka one night. I was on somewhat of a budget at the time, those days before the next pay check when you run quite low, so I said to myself: "I will only bring X amount of money so I could only spend X amount of money". That was the first mistake. Anyways, as always happens dinner was a little more expensive than expected, she had decided that it would be nice to try out Hard Rock Café. That was the second mistake of the night. I ate the most overpriced nachos in the city, on top of that the mood wasn’t right with a kind of a lull in conversation so I decided if I have to be here and be polite I’m going to enjoy it, so the beers started coming. Well, I had drank my share and had enough loot to get back home and have a drink with some friends at the bar near my apartment, so we paid the bill and were on our way--or so I thought. Now, I had been on a few dates by then and even thought this wasn’t a date I should have been on the up and up on what always happens but I was a little tipsy and not thinking like a Japanese girl does. After dinner we still had a little bit of time for a nice cup of coffee together to chat more; wouldn’t that be nice she says……yea, well, there went time with my friends, but maybe they could spot me for a few days until the next paycheck.

After that as any guy who’s been there can guess, print club. Now, don’t get me wrong, print club is great, cute, etc., etc, but at that point I was thinking I could either embarrass myself and tell her that I spent all my money on beer and couldn’t afford the ticket home if we got print club, or go take the pictures and smile extra big because it would be funny to see if I really could get home or not. So I took the pictures, pretended like it was so much fun and said my good-byes at the train station and went it to buy my ticket home, or at least my ticket part way home.

Now, to put this in perspective, I was in JR Osaka, about to catch the last train to Otsu, where I was staying. The ticket is about 1100yen or so for the full fare, and I was sitting with 200yen in my pocket, and the ticket to get to just the next station, JR Shin-Osaka was 190 yen. That left me with very little choice, so I bought the ticket for 190 yen and got on and tried to think about what I would do when I got off. Now, I had heard of people getting away with this type of stuff before by either doing it when a station was really busy or at rural stations and not speaking a word of Japanese, just saying that they don’t understand. I had heard of this but never tried, and didn’t really want to try because I think it’s wrong--I try to keep out of trouble in foreign countries. Anyways, there I was on the train back trying to think what to say, contemplating if I should stick to English or try out my broken Japanese. Should I put on a big display of searching for my ticket but pretending I can’t find it? What would I do if they guy could speak English? I’m sure all of you have done something bad at one time or another so you understand how my mind was racing.

I got off the train and put on my show. Of course, I had to put on a little bit of a display like I was concerned I lost my ticket, and then I went to the gate attendant and put my arms up and gave him a “I’m sorry” look. He asked me in Japanese where I came from and I looked at him like I had no idea what he just said, then he confirmed in Japanese that I couldn’t speak Japanese and I said “I’m sorry I don’t understand” and then I got a dirty look and he waved me through.

Now, I’m sharing this story not so much to say hey you can get away with this all the time but if worst comes to worse you can pull it off. That’s the only time I did it during my stay and I have heard of other people who try to pull it off all the time but if someone knows what happens if you get on the train and then don’t have the money to pay, email me or post it, I’d like to know. But if you do get caught without loot somewhere you can try buying a ticket to the next station and riding all the way through. I hear it’s pretty fool proof but if you’re ending at a major station there’s a good chance someone there speaks English and is going to bust you, so if you’re ending in Tokyo or Kyoto or somewhere I wouldn’t try it. However, if you’re going to be ending your ride there during the busier times I heard you can pull it then because it’s so hectic that the workers there don’t even want to try to yell or get around the mobs of people. Good Luck!