Opening A Bank Account In Japan 銀行口座
Opening a bank account in Japan is relatively easy. You will need your Alien Registration Card and your inkan or hanko (personal seal), though a signature may be enough in some banks such as Citibank (now SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia). A small deposit of 1,000 yen is enough to open your account.
Walk into your local bank of choice and fill in the necessary forms. You will be given the choice of your 4-digit personal identification number (PIN) and receive a bank book (tsūchō; 通帳), which you can use to update your account balance and transaction history in any of the bank's cash machines (ATMs).
You will be asked if you belong to a criminal organization, which is a new regulation. Your bank card and information on managing your account online will be sent to you in about a week or 10 days.
Your bank book or passbook will include your account name written in katakana or rōmaji (i.e., English), the 3-digit sort code (misebangō; 店番号) of your local branch and your 7-digit account number (kōzabangō; 口座番号). When your passbook is full you can obtain a new one from the branch where you opened your account, or automatically if you are updating your passbook in an ATM at your local branch.
The most common form of bank account in Japan is a general deposit account known as futsū yokin (普通預金). Interest rates are presently extremely low in Japan.
After opening your account you will receive in the post your cash card, which you can use to make withdrawals in any of your bank's branches. If you make a withdrawal at the branch of another bank, which is not your own, you may be liable to a service charge. There are also out-of-hours charges for services outside normal banking hours of 9am-5pm weekdays, unless you have a Japan Post Bank account, where withdrawals are always free.
The ATMs in Japanese banks and post offices usually have an English and sometimes a Portuguese menu and instructions. You need your PIN number and can withdraw, deposit, update your pass book, check your balance and make transfers to another account.
Japan Banking Hours
Japanese banks are usually open Monday-Friday from 9am-3pm for counter services. Banks are closed at weekends and national holidays. ATMs are open longer - usually until 6pm.
Domestic & Overseas Transfers
You can make overseas transfers from the counter of your bank or from special machines in your branch. Alternatively you can register a recipient for a wire transfer at Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia) either at a Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia) branch or through the post after filling out the specific form. The process normally takes about a week to register the recipient.
It is possible to send money overseas from a post office to a number of countries for a current fee of 2,500 yen per international transfer (gaikoku yūbin kawase; 外国郵便為替). You will need proof of identity such as a driving license or alien registration card. You pay in yen and the payment is made to the recipient at that day's exchange rate. Deposits of over 1,000,000 yen received from overseas are automatically reported to the Japanese tax office and can be considered as earned income.
Domestic transfers can be made through an ATM at any branch of your bank. You will need the account name, account number and sort code of the recipient and can print out a card with these details that automates the process in any future transfers to that payee.
Having a Japan Post Bank (Yūcho Ginkō) account can be advantageous in that, unlike other banks, transfers to other Japan Post Bank accounts are free of commission, and the money is transferred the instant you complete the transaction, rather than the next day. However, using the Japan Post Bank ATM will probably require some tuition from the friendly staff the first time you use it.
Read more about sending money overseas from Japan.
Which Japanese bank should you choose?
If you are deciding which Japanese bank to choose there are a few things on your location you need to take into account and whether you will be moving around Japan alot. If you are living in one of the major cities such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto or Osaka and need to conduct your banking business in English, then Citibank might be an obvious choice but if you are living in a small town in the countryside, Citibank is not so useful unless you are confident of doing everything online or via the telephone. Shinsei Bank is also foreigner-friendly with online services in English and no requirement for a personal seal (hanko) to open an account. Shinsei Bank ATMs can also be found in many convenience stores, Tokyo metro stations and Kintetsu stations. In rural areas, local banks and the post office will be more common than the big, national banks listed below.
The big three Japanese mega banks are Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Mizuho Bank. Other banks include Resona Bank, Aozora Bank and Shinsei Bank. Sony Bank is a completely online/telephone banking operation and specializes in mortgages (home loans).
Useful Japanese Banking Words
Withdrawal - ohikidashi; お引き出し
Passbook update - tsūchōkinyū; 通帳記入
Transfer - ofurikomi; お振り込み
Cash transfer - genkin furikomi; 現金振り込み
Direct transfer - kōza furikomi; 口座振り込み
Savings - chokin; 貯金
Bank - ginkō; 銀行
Deposit - yokin; 預金
Balance inquiry - zandaka shōkai; 残高照会
Time deposit - teiki yokin; 定期預金