Friday, September 7, 2007


My bank card arrived yesterday, by registered mail, and it is, indeed, quite dreamy. I took a picture of it, but the color just doesn't come through. Today, my security card came, so I could log into my account and activate the purple card.

The security for my online account is much greater than that at any of the banks I have used in North America. In the first place, you enter any information through key-buttons in the browser, as opposed to the keyboard. I suppose the mapping between these key-buttons and the information is then randomized or encrypted, so as to prevent people from simply sniffing the keystrokes.

Secondly, you are issued a security card that comes in a separate delivery by registered mail. The security card must itself be activated by keying in the requisite numbers through the browser. Then, every time you log into the account you are asked to enter random values found on the card.

As you can see from the picture, each of three slots is selected from an array of 50 cells, each of which can be either an letter of the Roman alphabet or a digit of the Hindu-Arabic number system. There are repeats on my card, so that gives 36^3 = 46,656 possibilities. But you effectively only have one shot at guessing the right one of these, since a different three cells are required each time. A cryptologist would probably try to determine the algorithm used to generate the array, but clearly the weakest link in the chain is the human owner of the cards.

Once I had everything set up, I now had an account that showed a balance of 0円, so I took some of my cash with me down to a local machine to deposit it. Despite the fact that Japan is obscenely safe - and I've taken to free-locking my bike everywhere and for long periods of time - I still didn't feel comfortable carrying all that cash on me.

The machines for my bank, Shinsei Ginkou (新生銀行), are bi-lingual, so it was all fairly trivial. I just put the cash in the slot and the machine counted it up. If you don't like the count you can just tell the machine to give you the money back. After I had deposited the cash I had brought, I tested the machine by putting in 23,000円, alternating 10,000 notes (万円) and 1,000 notes (千円). Naturally, the machine tallied it up with no problem, but I asked for the cash back anyways.

At around 7:30, I went over to Ken's place to help him move some furniture. He didn't mention anything about dinner when he asked me to come, so I had eaten already. It was a bad idea, however, because after we rearranged his office, we sat down for a five course meal. I tried not to eat that much but it was so delicious, I could barely move by the time I was ready to ride home. Luckily, Osaka - despite its name - is flat.

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