Opening a Bank Account in Japan Guide

As a new Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) one of the first things that I did when I arrived in Rumoi City in Hokkaido Prefecture was to open a bank account. Like a fish out of water, it was confusing for me as the procedures and requirements were different compared to my home country, and to top it off there was also a language barrier. Lucky for me, I was accompanied and helped by the school's staff which made the process a whole lot easier.

Opening a Bank Account in Japan Guide

I'm writing this comprehensive guide to help those who would do this task alone. However, keep in mind that there are numerous banks in Japan and each bank may have a different procedure. Regardless, the differences are very minimal. Aside from that, I won't be promoting a specific bank so the requirements and procedures here are common to all the banks in the country.

Requirements

Like in any country, you need to present and submit requirements in order for you to open a bank account in Japan. Here is the list of requirements that you should bring with you before going to the ginkō (bank). 

1. Passport with Valid Visa

Unfortunately, you won't be able to open a bank account if you only have a tourist visa. Your visa should show that you will be working/residing in Japan for a considerable length of time.

2. Residence Card (Zairyu Card)

This card is a very important government ID here in Japan. It contains your address and also confirms your Visa Type. 

3. Personal Seal (Hanko / Inkan)

Have your last name translated to Kana before purchasing a hanko / inkan. This serves as your signature here in Japan. Most banks would require this but some banks are already accepting signatures. Heads up, once you use your hanko in opening an account, it officially becomes your link (ginkō-in) to the bank which means that it is your ONLY valid "signature" for the said bank. Losing it would really be very inconvenient that's why some people would avail of twin hankos as a security measure. In my case, my school already prepared my hanko and they also own a duplicate of it in case I lose my hanko

4. Japanese Phone Number

Most banks in Japan would require you to provide a phone number for verification. In my case, since I didn't own a Japanese phone number yet, the bank allowed me to use my school's number. 

5. Deposit

The bank will require you to make a small deposit. Minimum is usually 1000 yen. However, no one will stop you if you plan to deposit a large amount of cash. However, keep in mind that the interest rate here is almost nil. As japantimes.co.jp puts it "Japan's long-suffering savers have put up with virtually zero interest for years, but at least their bank accounts have remained free."

Application Process

1. Personally go to your preferred bank. Bank hours are usually from 9AM - 3PM. Inform the teller that you want to open a bank account. 

2. You would usually be ushered to a different window where an English-speaking bank staff would be more than happy to assist you (There might not be one in provincial banks so prepare to use whatever Japanese you know). 

Here are some helpful words:

Bank - ginkō 銀行
Deposit - yokin 預金
Savings - chokin 貯金
Transfer - ofurikomi お振り込み
Time deposit - teiki yokin 定期預金
Withdrawal - ohikidashi お引き出し
Account number - koza bango 口座番号
Passbook update - tsūchōkinyū 通帳記入
Balance inquiry - zandaka shōkai 残高照会
Direct transfer - kōza furikomi 口座振り込み
Cash transfer - genkin furikomi 現金振り込み

3. The bank staff will give you the application form to fill up. You should ask if there are some things that you don't understand. If they can't explain it to you, use your Google Lens App. 

4. You would be asked to provide a 4-digit personal identification number (PIN). Make sure to remember it. Some other personal questions might also be asked. 

5. Once everything is confirmed, the bank would give you your bank book which contains your 7-digit account number (koza bango). Some banks would also give you a small welcome and thank you gift. I received a towelette. 

Congratulations on opening your own bank account here in Japan

Congratulations! You have now opened a bank account in Japan. Some banks will ask you to wait for the cash card that comes with your bankbook so that you can immediately withdraw in ATMs. Other banks will mail it to your home, so make sure to ask before leaving. 

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