A walk along Broadway at the start of the new year holidays

Nakano Broadway that is.

I hadn’t been to Nakano for years, but today I needed to go over there for a minor iPad repair. It turns out there is an inexpensive, and very nice and professional repair shop just a 2 minute walk from the south exit of Nakano station. Check out Apple Juice if you need something done on your iPad or iPhone, like fixing a broken lightning connector, changing a battery, fixing a broken screen, etc.

While waiting for it to be done, I walked over to the north side and lots of memories came flooding back to me. I used to come to this area often when I lived in Hounancho. It was very easy to get to on my moped.

I walked through the “Sun Mall” to the end, into what is called Nakano Broadway. There I checked out some used computer shops to see what the going rates were for used iPads. I was surprised to find that for the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 the used rates were only about ¥5,000 yen ($80) different from the new prices straight from Apple. I guess iPads really hold their value!

I really like the Sun Mall and Nakano Broadway. It’s not the most modern, nor the most “chic” of shopping centers in Tokyo. But I think it probably has the most variety you can find anywhere. Hundreds of tiny shops selling everything you can imagine: all kinds of food, clothes, accessories, electronics, medicines, anime items, cell phones – even a clutter of antique stores! You can even stay overnight if you get stuck and miss the last train because there is a capsule hotel right in the mall! It was at Nakano Broadway that I bought that old Edison wax cylinder a long time ago.

Anyway, I really like the feel of that place. The old lady in the information booth is a real character, and loves explaining where to find what you are looking for. And you really need someone like her because the whole place is multi-floor maze of shops you can easily get lost in.

But it’s a nice place to get lost in. It has a bustle and good feeling of an older Tokyo right in the middle of new Tokyo. There were even two drunk young guys (obviously starting the New Year holidays early) sprawled on the floor, apologizing as little old ladies stepped around them while laughing at them. But it was all in good fun. Everybody was having a good time.

The weather today is also beautiful. It was a great start to the week long New Year holidays. Very nice to get out of the house.



Apple Pay – NFC payments done better

People were making fun of Apple Pay in Japan because we’ve been using NFC (near field communication) technology there in cell phones and payment cards of all kinds for two decades now.

One cartoon I saw showed Tim Cook demonstrating Apple Pay to an audience of Apple fans who were amazed by the NFC technology. In the cartoon, one person asked Cook, “Did Apple invent this?” to which Cook replied, “Yes. Yes we did!”

I’ve been using Apple Pay here in the U.S. during my trip and I have to say, while Apple did not, in fact, invent NFC they have made the experience much better and safer than anything I’ve experienced in Japan.

First, the overall experience is better. In Japan you typically have to wait until the cashier finishes and presses some button, at which point the NFC terminal is activated and you can then touch your card to it (except for the trains and buses, where it’s very easy to use by just touching your wallet to the gate).

At the stores here with Apple Pay terminals, all I need to do is hold my iPhone near the terminal, I can select an alternate card other than my default card if I want, but other than that I just use the fingerprint sensor on my iPhone 6 Plus and it is ready to go. Meanwhile the cashier can still be adding things to the purchase and there is no wait.

But the most important thing is the extra security. The NFC cards I have in Japan can basically be used by anyone who finds a lost wallet with my cards. There is no real security. Instead the cards have limited balances, which is the only real protection you have.

But with Apple Pay, your fingerprint is required for each purchase. So if your iPhone is lost or stolen it can’t be used for Apple Pay purchase.

It’s probably safer than using credit cards directly because the card number itself is not stored in the iPhone. And, as everyone knows, a lost credit card can easily be used by someone else.

I hope Apple Pay comes to Japan. It wouldn’t be very convenient for daily public transportation use – the existing Japan system works better for that. But for store purchases it seems better.

The screenshot shows a recent purchase!

And the same “Wallet” also contains flight boarding passes.


Using a Japan KDDI AU locked iPhone 6 Plus in the U.S. with AT&T

I’m visiting the U.S. for 5 weeks and have a normal, KDDI AU iPhone 6 Plus. When I arrived in the U.S. I noticed the carrier signal said AT&T. So out of curiosity I went to an AT&T shop this morning and they said as long as it shows AT&T you can use it with a GoPhone prepaid contract.
So they took out my AU SIM and put in an AT&T SIM and sure enough it works as is! No unlocking necessary!
I got the $45/month unlimited talk and text + 1.5 GB plan.
I’m happy that I could use my Japan iPhone in the U.S. so easily and so just wanted to let others know who might be in a similar situation.
When I turned my phone on, by the way, I also got a text message in Japanese from AU welcoming me to the U.S. and telling me that for a flat rate of ¥2,980/day (expensive!) I could use my iPhone 6 Plus as is. Checking online, it appears you need to turn on roaming for that, which I did not do.

It seems much better to just get an AT&T domestic card for your trip.


Update 4 October 2015: It turns out this is a new AU smart phone feature since June. In major countries, AU now basically automatically unlocks the iPhone and other smart phones for certain major carriers in other countries. In the U.S. that carrier happens to be AT&T.