Posts forthcoming on practically all of Japan… but first, an explanation of why we haven’t posted in almost two weeks. (Warning: This is long. You may just want to skim):
We were fastidious about what we packed, particularly in the electronics category – thanks to my dad. He spent hours and hours researching the best products, recording every model number and weighing every item on a kitchen scale (then preparing a fantastic spreadsheet, of course); and ensuring that every device had a back-up power/energy source. Well, every device except our new computer. The logic was sound: Carrying two USB connectors for your iPhone is a bit more practical than hauling two computer chargers. We agreed and set off on our trip with our 10.8 pounds of electrical goods.
When I finished the last post from the cozy common room at our guesthouse in Kyoto, the “your battery has 5% remaining” warning flashed on the screen. What? The adapter was plugged in. I figured I must have been sitting next to a bad outlet, so I made my way around the hostel testing every outlet. Nothing. After testing in the tenth socket outside the women’s toilet on the second floor, panic set in. Patten calmed me for a few minutes (a recurring event), then I tried again. The charger worked. This allayed my fears for 24 hours until I tried the thing at the next hotel. Nothing. The hotel after that? Nothing. We officially had a dead adapter.
Life and death. One of the same. Buddhist philosophy in this land of temples. I would get through this and we’d easily find a replacement. This is Japan, after all.
Plan A: We’d find one in an electronics store. A few days into our predicament, we found a Bic Camera in Okayama. I’d heard about these stores, which supposedly carried every possible gadget imaginable. While they did carry 150 different hair dryers, the manager promised us they didn’t have adapters for this computer.
Plan B: We’d order one from Amazon and ship to Japan. When we realized you cannot order from Amazon.com and ship to Japan, we tried Amazon.co.jp. Here, my brother found an adapter that looked exactly like what we had. Great! But when I tried to fill in the shipping information in a half English/half Japanese entry form, I got a bit nervous. Luckily, we had a friend in Tokyo (Yohei), who we recruited to order this for us and ship to his house. We’d be seeing him in a few days and could pick up the charger then.
Plan C: None. Harass the HQ receptionist in Taiwan, where Asus is based? The adapter came in a lovely package, which we opened ceremoniously after the delicious breakfast that Yohei’s wife had prepared for us that morning. When fully unwrapped, we realized this was not what was pictured online, nor did the adapter fit our computer. Yohei kindly offered to return this for us – at least Amazon JP does have free return shipping. “You are in Tokyo,” Yohei assured us, “This is the one place in the world where you’ll definitely find this.”
The next day, desperation had sunk in. We spent hours trying to book flights/hotels for our next leg (Taiwan) using just cellphones and a Nexus tablet – a task that would have taken 30 min on a computer with a keyboard. We needed that adaptor. Hungry, but determined, we set off for Akihabara, the electronics capital of Tokyo. Yohei’s earlier words of encouragement kept us afloat, as we visited store after store, asking/pleading/begging for help with finding our charger. Finally, a kind man at one store drew us a map of the area and sent us to Yodobashi Akiba. Imagine Best Buy + Staples + Macy’s home section times 1000. Seriously. We were sent to the 3rd of 9 floors first, where we got lost in a row of keyboards and mice, before finding the adapter section. We found an Asus adapter replacement, but SURPRISE (!!!), it would not fit our model.
Next, we escalated down to floor 2. Momentarily sidetracked by the 230 or so various telescopes, we found yet another employee, who sent us down to floor 1. We found the laptops and a manager, who introduced us to a man with a blue vest on which the word Asus was printed. My heart skipped a beat. This could be it! He led us to our computer, which they were selling for 63,000 yen. For a moment, I considered buying it, just for the charger. We tried the display charger in my computer and it worked.
“Can I buy this one?” I asked, tugging at the display. He shook his head no, vehemently. “Please,” I begged, and then he disappeared for a while and brought back an English-speaking interpreter.
“We cannot sell you this one, but we will look for one,” she told us. Both of them scuttled off. We waited, while charging my computer on the display shelf. Classy, I know, but we needed all the juice we could get.
She came back with a box. “He says this will work with your computer model, but he can’t assure you it will work in other countries.” We asked if we could test it out. She shook her head no, looked at him, looked at us, looked at him, and then she finally allowed us to open the box, but said we could not try the adapter in an outlet until we bought it.
“If it doesn’t work, we can return it?” Patten asked. Through some lengthy explanation, she told us we could not return it if used, even if only used for one second in the store to test out if it worked. But, we could return it if it were defective. Huh? We went back and forth on this for a while.
“Does he think it will work?” I asked, looking at the Asus guy. She asked him in Japanese and he shook his head in the affirmative. That was enough for me.
We bought the charger. The ASUS guy took it out of the box, escorted us to a counter with an extension cord, plugged it in to our computer, and voila: That little red light that means “I’m charging” lit up. We’d found (we owned!) a working computer charger.
Bottom line: Long-term travel is not all zen gardens and pork cutlets, though there have been plenty of each. The constant problem solving — from finding a place to sleep each night to locating obscure power adapters — keeps your mind sharp, your legs strong, and your competitive spirit alive. It’s also exhausting. While we’ve still got a bit more mental energy, we want to discover a few more Asian cities. Then… it’ll be time for the beach.