How to Open a Bank Account in Japan : If you plan on staying in Japan longer than your three-month tourist visa allows, it’s a good idea to open a bank account for a number of reasons. Today, I’m going to discuss the different ways long- and short-term residents can benefit from opening a Japanese bank account, which banks to choose, and what documents you’ll need to bring along when signing up.
Why Open a Japanese Bank Account?
Japan is world-renowned for its safety, and the people are hospitable, helpful, and considerate—even to complete strangers. If you happen to leave your wallet behind on a train seat, more than likely you’ll feel a tap on your shoulder from a person who has chased you down to return it to you.
Be that as it may, it’s still not advisable to carry around a fat wad of Japanese yen in your pocket everywhere you go. Just because theft and pickpocketing cases are few and far between in the land of the rising sun, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen on occasion. I personally have had my wallet stolen in Japan, so I can attest to this. Be safe and store your funds in a bank account.
In addition to protecting your hard-earned, if you ever plan on working and receiving a paycheck in Japan, automatic bank transfers are in many cases the only way a company can pay your wages. A few companies I’ve worked for have even required me to open a new account at a specific bank in order to receive my salary. So, as you can see, in some cases you may not have a choice whether or not to open a bank account.
Apart from safety and necessity reasons, having a Japanese account is also convenient. One particular convenience is automatic bill pay. All you have to do is sign up, and your utilities, phone bill, credit card bill, magazine subscriptions, etc. are all deducted and paid for via bank transfer. Sure beats having to walk to the convenience store and pay bills manually every month!
What Bank Should I Go with?
There are a variety of different banks in Japan, including ones that operate exclusively online. Each bank is different in terms of features, interest rates, convenience, accessibility, foreign-friendliness, etc. Those who are staying for six months or less may find it difficult to open an account at a traditional bank due to the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law.
That said, new online banks that cater to internationals are popping up all the time. Short-term residents may find these much easier to sign up with. However, those who plan on staying longer-term may want their money held at a safer, more established bank with a wider variety of account types, rock-solid insurance, and a long-running track record of customer satisfaction. Below are a few recommended banks for short-term and long-term residents.
- GMO Aozora Net Bank (online)
- AU Jibun Bank (online)
- Shinsei Bank
- Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Bank (Japanese)
- Yuucho Bank (Japan Post Bank) (Japanese)
Since AU Bank is online and doesn’t have a physical bank presence, the fees are lower and the interest rates are higher than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. However, be aware that there is no overseas remittance service, so if you plan on sending or receiving money from overseas, you may be better off with the other online bank GMO, as they tun provide this service (though limited). These two banks will cause the least amount of headaches for short-term residents on working holiday or studying abroad for a short while.
Shinsei, Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, and Yuucho Bank are more established banks with a physical presence. Shinsei has English services, and you can open an account online. Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ is the largest bank in Japan and known for its reliability and stability (with that, however, also comes more stringent requirements to opening an account). And Yuucho runs in tandem with the Japanese postal service. Of the three, this one is the easiest to open an account with, as the account is made available instantly as opposed to the wait times with other banks. Be aware, though, that those staying in Japan less than six months will not be able to remit money overseas with Yuucho.
Remember to check the bank’s website for specific information regarding account features and fees.
What Documents Do I Need to Open an Account?
If you choose to go with a brick-and-mortar bank, you will need to bring these things with you in order to open an account.
1. Identity Document
Your Residence Card (Zairyu Kaado) is the most widely acceptable form of identification in Japan, so it is a good idea to bring this. If for some reason you don’t have one, then you might be able to get away with a Special Permanent Resident Certificate (tokubetsu eijusha shomeisho), health insurance card, passport, or driver’s license. You may also be required to submit your student or employee ID.
2. Proof of Address
The most acceptable way of proving your mailing address is by bringing in some kind of bill (utility, internet, cell phone, etc.) that was mailed to you or any other letter with your name and address displayed. You cannot bring copies, they must be original documents.
A personal inkan (ink stamp) functions as a legal signature in Japan. Many banks will not let you open an account without one. Yes, that means that your handwritten signature will not be recognized as a legal signature (I learned this the hard way). Inkans can be bought for as cheap as 100 yen ($1) at 100-yen shops. Just make sure the Japanese writing is as close to the sound of your actual name as possible.
4. Telephone Number
Make sure to have a working telephone number, as many banks will not let you open an account without one. How else are they going to contact you if you owe them money, right?
Having a bank account during your time in Japan is a smart idea for the sake of safety and convenience. It may also be the only way to receive your hard-earned wages!
Many bank accounts can be opened and transactions completed entirely online, making it more convenient for short-term residents and international students. Larger, more established banks, however, are more reliable and offer more features for longer-term residents.
When you sign up for an account at a physical bank, don’t forget your proof of identity, proof of mailing address, and personal inkan. Also, make sure you have a working telephone number to receive calls.
Good luck with opening your account!