[How to Start Life in Japan] Open a bank account

Japan Racing Association


Moving to Japan and starting a new life can be very stressful. Being prepared by knowing what procedures are needed and how to perform them can reduce unnecessary problems. In this series, written by people who have lived in Japan for several years – your sempai – aims to make your transition to Japan as smooth as possible.

How to manage money is an extremely important issue for most people who come to Japan. You will need to pay for school materials and living expenses, for which a bank account can be very useful. Still, it can seem daunting to open a bank account in Japanese.

We have what you need. Here are some answers to questions to help you navigate through the problem and make your transition to Japanese life as smooth as possible.

Should I open a bank account in Japan?

Answer: Not necessarily!

These days, there are options to hold money online simply and cheaply, for example through Wise, Revolut, which allow you to hold money in multiple currencies. Therefore, you may be able to skip the step of setting up a bank account in Japan.

However, some universities or scholarship programs may require you to have an open bank account in Japan.

What should I do then?

It is likely that your school, university or company is affiliated with a bank and helps you open a bank account. If so, it will likely be with one of the major banks, such as MUFJ, SMBC, or Mizuho.

If not, they might at least have a preference for which bank account you need to open, in order to receive funds and pay rent, so asking for it is recommended.

Which bank should I contact to open a bank account on my own?

If you need to create a bank account by yourself in English.

One is Sony’s online bank, which is user-friendly and entirely in English.

Alternatively, another option is Japan Post (JP), also known as Yucho (ゆうちょう).

Shinsei Bank has good English support, but only if you have been in Japan for more than six months from the date of your residence card approval.

For reference, find here a handy guide on how to complete the forms in Japan, just as one does at the district office to register your residence.

Below we use Japan Post (JP) as an example, but please check with the bank you choose. What you will need will depend on the bank you are applying to.

What do I need to open a JP bank account?

Things you will need:

  • Residence permit (Zairyu card), valid for at least three months.
  • Valid passport
  • Hanko (personal seal), or if you don’t have one, a signature can be accepted.
  • If you are a student, a student card.
  • Proof of address may be required.

There is an English website where you can apply or create an application form to take to a post office.

Otherwise, if you have a friend who speaks Japanese, you might want to go to a Japan Post office near you and have it done there.

What will I receive with my JP bank account?

You will receive:

True to its name, the main purpose of this card is to collect money (inflow or withdrawal) at the ATM. With this card, cash withdrawals are free from a JP ATM.

At other branches or convenience stores, ATMs are subject to a small fee, usually between ¥100 JPY and ¥200 JPY (0.8 USD to 1.6 USD, approximately).

The payment card also allows you to perform certain transactions from a JP ATM, such as bank transfers in Japan, by paying a small fee. However, you will not be able to use this card to pay in restaurants or make purchases online.

  • Jsuucho (通帳) a paper booklet.

The passbook will keep track of all financial transactions on your account. Open it to the most recent page with space, insert it into the slot with the instruction showing a booklet (visual design) and it prints for you. If you prefer to have a paperless account, choose the appropriate form to complete.

An example from Tsuucho, with JP Bank, Wikimedia.

What if I want to send money abroad?

Online banks and services such as Wise and Sony Bank are a convenient way to do this, as they allow you to do this without incurring high fees through the traditional banking system. Since these examples aren’t from well-established banks, be sure to check the fine print and terms, as you might be less protected if things go wrong.

If you prefer to send money from a Japanese account like Japan Post, you will need to connect your bank account to a My Number (マイナンバー)) card, which you can get at the local neighborhood office.

What if I need a debit or credit card?

It’s a little counter-intuitive, but with traditional Japanese bank accounts, you just get a payment card and you have to apply for it. separately have a debit or credit card. This is not part of opening a bank account.

At the same time, you may need a credit card for tasks such as signing a phone contract.

In this case, there are many options, including almost all banks, although the length of the application and the chances of your application being accepted can vary, so be sure to inquire first.

An online option for applying for credit cards is Rakuten. Find more information on how to apply here.

What are the useful expressions?

引き出し(ひきだし| hikidashi ) cash withdrawal

振込 (ふりこみ| furikomi) bank transfer (in Japan)

海外送金 (かいがいそうきん| kaigaisoukin) international transfer

通帳 (つうちょう| tsuucho) bank book

銀行 (ぎんこう| ginko) bank

口座番号 (こうざばんごう| kouzabango) bank account number

現金(げんきん| genkin) in cash

円(えん| en) Japanese yen (currency)

Let us know if we missed anything in the comments section below, and we hope you enjoy starting your life in Japan!

Read more articles on [How to Start Life in Japan] on JAPAN Forward.

Author: Arielle Busetto


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