How to: Opening A Japanese bank Account and What to Expect
If you are a foreigner in Japan (like myself) you have probably had the struggle of opening a Japanese bank account up and running! When you are not native to Japan, everything seems to be harder for you. More paperwork, more screening, more questions etc. It’s a pain in the bum.
How Many Banks are There!?
Now after doing some research I was mortified to see that there was over 100 banks in Japan. I just needed 1. Why did it have to be so hard? There are at least 4 different kinds of banks in Japan: the Megabanks, Money Center banks, Foreign Banks, and Trust Banks. Notice I said ‘at least’ there are more, but it’d take a whole webseries to write about all of them!
Sadly, as a foreigner my american bank account was from Wells Fargo. Yet there are no active banks in Japan for Wells Fargo. (I looked when I lost my wallet and tried to find an office, so trust me). With no Japanese branch here, I had to come to terms with the fact that i’m going to have to get a new one in a new country. Exciting, or scary? Yikes.
Now of these banks, not all of them are foreign friendly. Also, not all of them are for general public use. So it was advised to me to open up an account with a Money Center Bank. This list is much shorter: Sumitomo Trust Holdings, Resona Holdings, Aozora Bank (formerly Nippon Bank), and lastly Shinsei-Bank (long-term credit bank of japan).
The Post Office Crisis
You could also, if you don’t have time to be going to inner city branches, go to the post office! Open up an account at the local post office for Japan Post Bank, a subsidiary of Japan Post Holding.
So let’s say theoretically you wanted to open up a simple Japan Post account, you are not going to need a Hanko (Seal/identification marker). This is used as your personal stamp and signature, so it is extremely important not to lose it, and illegal to loan it out to anyone that isn’t you.
Lucky you right? Well if you are confused by where to get a Hanko, you can go to some convenience stores and make your own! Then carry it around with you and hope it doesn’t get nabbed or lost.
So from here you’ve gone to either the nearest or largest post office near you and you say that you want to open up a “futsuuyokin” (ふつうよきん) a savings account, and a “kozayoukin” (こざようきん), checking account. They will tell you to take a seat, ask for your residence card (this card will have your address and other important information about yourself on it). It is basically your ID!
You can bring that around with you instead of your passport, less likely to lose something that's always in your wallet than at the bottom of your purse. No I didn’t experience that...okay I did, don’t judge me!
Now they will ask you, is this the closest post office to you, and if it isn’t they have some words for you my friends. Because rules have been updated and so forth, you are now required to go to the nearest post office to sign up for an account or they can not help you. There will be no point in trying to convince the desk people to give you an account otherwise; they will just bow and say sorry over and over again.
Yet being as stubborn as I am, not liking being told no, walked my silly butt five minutes down the road to another post office around the Shinjuku station, much smaller post office, and lo and behold! I asked if I could make an account with them, they said yes!
I presented my card like a magician and was then given a bunch of forms to fill out. The paperwork IS all in Japanese, so either be fluent enough to read and write-or bring along your unwilling translator!
Simple paper work though, they just needed your address, what accounts you wanted to open, your name, etc. The basics! After you’re done filling out your papers you have to sit and wait a little while, go back up, sign another document. You sit down again, wait for a while longer, then go back up for the third time and you get to choose your 4-digit pin number. After all that and a little bit of processing, they give you, your fancy little passbook! They then tell you that your bank card will be shipped to you in the mail, on average about a weeks time. So that’s how I got a basic checkings and savings account from my local post office. Now you can too!
If the post office isn’t what you’re looking for, the second most highly recommended bank account i’ve heard of is Shinsei Bank. They are friendly, and cater to foreigners. They have english services in addition to mobile and online banking. That’s pretty neat, it’s like Wells Fargo. Most Japanese banks don’t have online banking and such, they will usually always give you a bank book. Though you will need either your Gaijin card, or residence card, and visa or passport. You won’t need your Hanko here either!
With Shinsei, the process of banking is very similar to American banking, which is useful if your understanding of Japanese best. In fact, because of that familiarity of banking, foreigners will often have at most two accounts. One that will involve a passbook, and the other usually at Shinsei for its familiar banking style.
Shinsei is mostly in the Tokyo/Chiba area, so if you live around there, that’s the bank you’re going to want to get as a foreigner.
Hurray, congrats, I knew you could do it! Now that you know how to open a bank account at least two different ways and in different places, you are one step closer to becoming a responsible, semi-functioning adult!
Remember to stay curious, and if you’re curious-poke it with a stick. Poke it hard!
Also click here to check out our article on how to use the seven-eleven convenience stores in Japan
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