Opening a Bank Account in Japan
Opening a bank account in Japan is a relatively easy process, but like all things here you will need to have patience and be armed with all of the required documents before you walk into your closest bank branch.
Most Japanese banks are open from 9:00-15:00, Monday to Friday, except for national holidays and New Year’s. They offer a full range of account options including savings, current, and foreign currency accounts.
Here is a list of the most common types of accounts:
- ■ General deposit account (Futsu yokin)
- ■ General savings (Tsujo chokin): this is a post office account and generates a slightly higher rate of interest than a general deposit account.
- ■ Time deposit account (Teiki yokin): usually have higher rates of interest but may require notice for withdrawals.
- ■ Current account (Toza yokin): usually provide the option of using checks, but are mostly for businesses.
- ■ Foreign-denominated currency deposits, foreign-currency term deposits (Gaika yokin, Gaika teiki yokin)
The most widely used accounts are general savings and general deposit accounts.
Japanese Bank List: Your Best Options
When opening a bank account in Japan, you have two main choices: A traditional Japanese bank or a foreign bank. If you do not have very good Japanese language skills, then the foreign or foreign-friendly banks are usually the best option.
Mizuho is a very traditional domestic bank. To set up an account with them, you will need a decent level of Japanese language ability. Almost all transactions with them will require a personal seal (inkan/hanko).
UFJ (The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi)
UFJ is Japan’s largest bank and a global institution that is strongly tied to its investors. International pedigree notwithstanding, while you might be fortunate enough to talk with an English-speaking clerk while there, you must still have a personal seal (and a Resident Card, details below) in order to open an account. On the plus side, there is no charge for taking out money, updating your passbook, or checking your account balance, which may explain the bank’s popularity among certain foreign groups such as students.
SMBC Trust Bank and Shinsei Ginko
If your Japanese language skills are limited or you don’t have a bilingual person on hand, then SMBC Trust Bank and Shinsei bank are much better options. You won’t need an inkan/hanko to open an account and telephone and online banking come as standard. While you should probably not expect perfect native English, all services are bilingual, which is a massive bonus.
Both banks offer the option of a savings account which comes with a separate foreign currency account. This will come in very handy if you frequently travel to Europe or the US, for example, as you can benefit from currency exchange rate fluctuations.
Japan Post Bank Account
Opening a Postal Savings Account is also an option. This can be done at most Post Offices across Japan. If you are lucky, you may find a branch with an English speaker who can assist you. However, as most postal workers there will probably be speaking primarily Japanese, it is advisable to bring a Japanese friend or colleague with you when and if you do decide to open an account.
The main benefits of a Japan Post bank account are that there are no international fees when transferring money from abroad; in addition, no matter what time of day you choose to make transactions (such as withdrawals), there is no service fee.
Opening a Bank Account in Japan: The Basics
What you will need
Before walking into your closest bank branch to open a bank account in Japan, it’s important to have all of the required documents at hand.
Here is a list of documents which will be required in most instances when opening a bank account in Japan:
■ Passport with valid visa: if you are only in Japan on a 90 day visitor visa then you won’t be able to open a bank account.
■ Gaijin Card, which is officially called a "Residence Card" (Zairyu Kado).
■ Tax identification number if issued in your country.
■ A recent utility bill stating your current address: This is commonly required however Shinsei bank will not require a utility bill if you apply for a bank account at one of their branch offices.
■ Personal seal (inkan/hanko): most Japanese require a hanko to open an account and the domestic banks will require this also. You may get away with just a signature at a foreign bank, but it’s advisable to get a hanko as it’s used a lot for official documentation in Japan. Hanko used for banking are sold at special stores and are hand carved, making them individually identifiable. When “signing” documents with your hanko, make sure that the seal is not smudged or damaged. Hanko are typically cylindrical and round at the base, but most have a groove on the outside that tells you where the top is supposed to be as you stamp. It will save you the embarrassment of signing your name upside-down!
Things you might need
- ■ Marriage certificate - if your partner has a different last name
- ■ Meishi (Name card) - to prove where you work
- ■ Jyuminhyo (Certificate of residence) - its best if you have your "my number" number at the bottom of the certificate. You may request this at the ward office.
Now we will go over how to open a bank account in Japan. Once you have all of your documents ready and have decided on which bank to go with, it’s just a matter of walking into your closest most convenient branch. You can open an account over the phone, via the Internet, or by submitting an application by post. Going into a branch in person will be the easiest option.
You will have to complete an application form and in most cases make an initial deposit. This can be as little as ¥1,000. Most banks do not require a minimum balance, but they may charge a monthly fee if the account balance isn’t above a certain figure.
After the account is established, you can apply for a debit card (kyasshu kado) and PIN number (ansho bango). The debit card will be sent to your home address in approximately a week afterwards.
You will be given a bank book which will include your account name written in katakana or rōmaji (i.e., English), the 3-digit sort code of your local branch (misebangō) and your 7-digit account number (kōzabangō).
The ATMs in Japanese banks and post offices usually have an English menu and instructions. From ATMs you can withdraw, deposit, update your passbook, check your balance, and make transfers to another account. If you use your debit card at the ATM of another bank, you may be charged a service fee, so it’s advised to always try using your own bank’s ATM for withdrawals.
You can make arrangements to pay most of your bills directly from your bank account, which is the most common method of bill payment in Japan and saves the hassle of going into a branch or a shop.
Opening a bank account in Japan is actually not so difficult. Things can be very straightforward if you come prepared with all of the required documents and have researched which bank is going to be best for you. As has been mentioned several times, if you are not confident to enter a branch on your own then it’s always a good idea to take a native Japanese speaker with you. Once you understand how to open a bank account in Japan, there’s nothing you can’t do here!