Silver & Rupees

Banks in Japan have not yet taken to the notion of convenient opening hours. This includes CitiBank which, despite being a branch of an American business, has hours only between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday.

It was therefore Friday lunchtime when I slipped my way along the snow-packed street to see if I could acquire some Indian rupees for my trip in two weeks.

The answer was no.

But the woman at the branch did give me a map, directing me to the location of a currency exchange two blocks further south. Sliding along the ice and thinking this was almost thick enough for skates, I arrived at the "Travelex" kiosk, which was hidden inside a different bank, tucked out of sight of the entrance between the ATM and toilets, as if it were rather an embarrassing act to want to change Japanese Yen for any other currency.

Given the current state of the Euro, I could see where they were coming from.

"I'd like to exchange Yen for Indian rupees," I told the lady at the counter.

She checked her computer system, but then shook her head. "I'm sorry, we do not offer Indian rupees."

"... Can you not order them?" I could understand not having all currencies in stock, but surely they could be acquired.

Again she shook her head. "We do not offer them," she repeated. "I have Indonesian rupiah."

I appreciated the effort at a compromise, but unfortunately this was going to be an area where I stubbornly stuck to my original request quite beyond all reason.

"I really need Indian rupees," I persisted. "Since I'm going to India."

"Ah," the woman nodded as if agreeing this would be a problem. "You cannot get them in Japan."

No where in Japan?! I didn't quite know what to say to such blanket authority so I thanked her and left. It was only when I was half way back to campus (this taking a considerable period of time due to the weather) that I remembered reading on the website for 'The Rough Guide' that rupees were not supposed to be taken out of India. The guide had focussed on visitors with spare change and had said that, while this rule was not strictly enforced, there were currency exchanges at the airport for this reason. It had not occurred to me before now that such a rule would prevent me taking out cash in advance.

This wasn't a particular problem; since I was travelling to Delhi, any major bank in the city would likely accept either cash or credit card.

Clearly, this was just simply a case where it doesn't pay to be too organised. Literally.