Once in Japan and eager to start your business, you need to start to set up a bank account for yourself and the company. Typically, as a visitor, you would never even require a bank account since visitor visas are granted only for a maximum of 90 days. Being a visitor means that you have probably brought all the money you needed to go to Japan in cash. However, as a resident, you need to know how banking and postal services work.
Basics of Having a Bank Account in Japan
For many foreigners with little experience in Japan going to a bank may be daunting since they might not have the Hanko (Japanese name or corporate seal) and might not be fluent in the Japanese language. Fortunately, there are banks offering services in English both at the branches and online.
There are many advantages of having a bank account in Japan:
- ATMs around Japan and in convenience stores (conbini) are located everywhere, and a lot of them do not charge extra fees when withdrawing money.
- Banks’ local offices are located all over Japan.
- You will receive a bank passbook which will allow you to keep track of transactions.
Most banks require you to stay in Japan for at least 6 months to open a bank account, but there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are employed by a Japanese company and your company vouches for you, you can get an account earlier. Japanese banks are usually only open from 9 AM to 3 PM and closed during all weekends and holidays. Remeber that ATMs are usually opened until 6 PM.
How to Open a Bank Account in Japan
Unlike in many other countries, if you as a foreigner want to open a bank account, an ID card, a passport, and letters that prove the address registration is not enough in Japan. You will need to do some more paperwork.
First, you will have to collect all the necessary documents. Requirements may vary depending on the bank. However, the minimum includes:
- Work visa or other documents proving your residency rights.
- Proof of residency, a copy of which one can obtain from the government office in your area.
- Japanese residence card.
- A phone number.
- The amount of money you want to deposit for the first time. The initial deposit amount usually is not too high (only a few thousand yen at most).
Also, when setting up a bank account in Japan, be prepared to answer questions about having a criminal record.
After you have brought all the items, it is time to start to fill out the paperwork and choose the type of account you would like to open. The common options are:
- regular cash account to be able to receive money to your card and withdraw them)
- saving one to gain interests.
You will receive a cash card or another type of card corresponding to your account type. Sometimes it is possible to customise it. For example, add a SUICA travel card feature.
Remember, cash cards are not debit/credit cards. They serve as a wallet for storing money without gaining interests.
Most institutions will not accept payments with a cash card. Japan is a cash-oriented country and electronic transactions are still not as common as one might expect even though they are becoming more and more popular. It is common to withdraw money from a cash card first, and then use the money elsewhere.
Many banks now also offer some kind of remittance function, allowing a foreign worker to send money to their home countries. You will need to provide:
- your address in Japan.
- your name in Japanese katakana script. You can ask a bank employee for help, use online spellers, or learn your name in Japanese by heart.
- your Hanko, if you have one. Usually, it is not a problem if a foreigner will use the signature instead of a hanko.
- your birthday date.
- a PIN that you have decided to use for the account.
- information about your gender.
Choosing a Bank
Here we will introduce several banks that may be a better choice for foreigners because they provide services in English.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
SMBC is one of the biggest banks in Japan with roots going back as far as 1876. No wonder they are in the frontline when it comes to accommodating foreign businesses and entrepreneurs in Japan by proving services in English. You can find more about their services here.
One particularly foreigner-friendly bank is Shinsei Bank.
In this bank, you do not even have to show up at the bank at all to open an account since it can be done online. You will receive a PIN (4 digits), a cash card, and a security code card. Although a cash card cannot be used to withdraw money from any ATM’s, Shinsei bank has a network of partnering bans in which you can withdraw money. Some of the common places include Seven Banks ATMs, ENet ATMs, JR East Japan Railway ATMs, and much more. As of now, there is no longer a charge involved with these ATMs.
Another online banking option is Seven Bank, which is associated with the 7-Eleven store chain. They have an informative website in English, describing all the procedures, stating all the precautions and explaining the identity verifications documents that you will need to present when opening an account with them. This bank has ATMs in 7-Eleven stores which can be easily found all over Japan. Other ATMs locations include shopping centers and airports, where ATMs have multilingual interfaces. You can find more information here.
Japan Post Bank
Japan Post is, of course, a postal service, but they also offer bank services. Japan Post Bank is a good option since you can find postal offices everywhere in Japan, the bank has no withdrawal limit, no international fees, and you will receive a passbook and a cash card.
There are many other options available. You can always visit some of the major banks, such as Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho, Sumitomo-Mitsui, etc., but they are predominantly Japanese-speaking and opening an account there may take longer, you may have to go through more bureaucratic procedures or will need to handle your bank issues in Japanese. Still, even if you decide to get your banking done in one of the English-speaking banks, it is a good idea to have a Japanese-speaking friend to help you with the process to be on the safe side and clearly understand what needs to be done.
Important Banking Vocabulary
Here are some important banking-related terms to help you:
- Bank – ginkou
- Cash – genkin
- Balance – zandaka
- Dollar – do-ru
- Registration – kichou
- Passbook – tsuuchou
- Euro – yu-ro
- Yen – en
- Debt – shakkin
- Deposit – yokin
- ATM – e-tee-emu
It can be a good idea to get some Japanese dictionaries to help you with the process. Even Google Translate can be a good resource when used correctly. The new app has a function that translates written text that is in front of the camera.
Postal System in Japan
If you stay in Japan for an extended period of time to do business, it is likely you will need to deal with postal services, too. There are many postal boxes around every city in Japan, or you can take your letters to a local post office and they will handle it.
Japanese houses have small mailboxes. Thus, bigger objects will not fit them. When you receive a larger item, you will need to sign papers in order to receive the given item. Similar to other countries, if you missed the opportunity to receive the package, you are able to pick it up at the post office yourself. You may also call the distribution center to request a new time for delivery.
The process of receiving packages is a bit longer. You will not be able to seal your package before heading into the office because of security reasons. Sending packages overseas is not a cheap service and can go anywhere from 5,000 yen to over 10,000.
Opening a bank account in Japan used to be a quite challenging task for foreigners as it required Japanese-language skills and a long bureaucratic procedure. However, today there are several banks that make banking for foreigners easy by offering online banking and English-speaking services.
In Japan, banking is tightly associated with postal services. While the Japan Post has a bank of its own, many other banks are associated with the Japan post and a lot of financial operations can be done a the post office.
Banking and Finances FAQ
How long does it take to ship my cards after I set up my bank account?
Between one and two weeks.
Is it better to set a bank account online or in person?
Setting a bank account online might be easier since you might get all the instructions in English and the procedure is easy. However, going in person with a Japanese speaker might be better since you are able to ask questions and understand more about the services you receive.
How long does it take for my items to get shipped?
Shipments from Japan can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. For example, when shipping to America, it can easily take as long as two weeks since there is a lot of customs involved. The shipment time also depends on your location in Japan: shipments from smaller towns and/or remote locations can take longer.
What is not allowed to be sent to Japan?
Beside such obviously illegal things as drugs and guns, it is quite often prohibited to import medicine that might be obtained with a prescription in other countries (e.g., antidepressants, migraine painkillers, etc.) because it can be illegal in Japan. Thus, make sure you are importing allowed substances in allowed amounts not to get into trouble by accident.
If you are not sure about what you are allowed to take, contact the immigration service to find out more about the regulation or to obtain the contacts of other institutions that can comment on your questions. Make sure to find out in advance how you can get the medicine of a similar nature in Japan in case you cannot take your current medications with you.
Can I send parcels from home?
Yes, Japan Post offers such services. You can book a pick-up service, and an employee of a local post office will drop by your place to check your package and take it to the post office to forward to the assigned address.