Opening a bank account in Japan

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Updated 2022-12-21 12:46

Welcome to the Land of the Rising Sun. Now that you have completed all your administrative paperwork, you can relax for a few days and go out to discover your new environment.
Once back home, back to your daily routine and its formalities, you are now wondering how to open a bank account in your new host country. Check out the following practical guide. It will help you understand all the processes and formalities you will need to go through to serenely open your bank account in Japan.

Is it necessary to open a bank account in Japan?

Considering the ongoing war between neo-banks and traditional banks, the question has to be considered. If you are only staying in Japan for a few months, it might be pointless to open a bank account. However, should you plan to stay for a longer period of time, a bank account might prove very handy. Some people prefer online accounts like N26 or Revolut, for their simplicity and convenience. Others prefer to have a traditional bank account, especially if they plan to work in Japan or are currently working. Take the time to weigh the pros and cons of both systems. And, of course, you can also opt for a Japanese online bank.

Be aware that even if you are a Japan WHV holder (1-yr Working Holiday Visa), you too can open a bank account. If you are planning to immigrate to Japan for a long time, you are advised to open a bank account there.

Who can open a bank account in Japan?

One must hold a long-term visa to open a bank account in Japan. In that sense, WHP holders, students, workers, entrepreneurs, and permanent residence visa holders can open an account. It is, therefore, impossible to do so with a tourist visa.

Reasons for opening a bank account in Japan

To know if it is worthwhile for you to have a bank account in Japan, first ask yourself what the account will be used for. 

  • What do you need? 
  • Have you checked with your bank in your hometown before leaving? Do you have an international option?
  • Do you need an account to receive your salaries?
  • Do you plan to deposit cash, like, for instance, the money you converted before coming to Japan, into an account?
  • Do you plan to make international money transfers?
  • Do you have any long-term plans in Japan (renting or buying an apartment or a house, various financial investments, buying a car, plans for marriage, children, etc.)

What are the benefits of opening a bank account in Japan?

Opening an account in Japan offers several advantages, especially when you have cash in hand. The first one is security. Rather than keeping your currency with you or in your home, it is better to keep it safe in a bank account. You will be able to withdraw cash at any time and also to deposit money whenever you want at an ATM with the debit card that will be provided to you when you open your account. Such operations with Japanese banks are generally free of charge, unlike with foreign banks, cards of which are not always accepted by all Japanese ATMs.

With a Japanese bank account, you will have no problem working in Japan. You will be able to send your bank details to your company, which will deposit your salary directly into your account. This advantage is not only for people with permanent jobs. Even if you have a small job in Japan, it is in your interest to have your Japanese bank account readily working.

In addition, a bank account will allow you to easily subscribe to Internet offers in Japan. This advantage might be irrelevant if you live in an accommodation where the rent covers internet costs (a sharehouse, for example). But if you rent or buy your home and want to subscribe to an Internet offer, you will need a Japanese bank account. The same logic applies to all big purchases, loan applications, for any project requiring banking operations.

Steps for opening a bank account in Japan 

The list of documents presented below is the one requested by banks in general, for both traditional and online. It may vary from one bank to another.

Documents usually requested by banks are the following:

  • Your resident card ("zairyû"): the card must mention your current address. If you have changed your address, you must first go to your local city hall to report the change. Then, go to the city hall of your new district to register the new address on your card.
  • A Japanese telephone number
  • Your seal or "inkan": In Japan, the "inkan" serves as a signature. It is engraved on a stamp called "hanko". “Hanko”s are very simple to make, and the cheapest ones cost between 300 and 400 yens. Depending on the bank, the "inkan" may or may not be mandatory; if it is not mandatory, a handwritten signature will suffice.
  • An initial deposit of 1000 yens

Other documents that may be requested by the bank

  • Your passport
  • Proof of address (you can obtain it from the city hall).
  • Your “My Number” details (Japanese identification system linked with social security and tax authorities)
  • A work certificate or a school attendance certificate (depending on your situation)

Procedures for opening a bank account in Japan

There is actually no need to make an appointment. Simply go to the counter of the bank you have chosen. If you opt for an online bank, register on the bank's website.

Filling in the application form

Simply fill in the form that will be given to you. Make sure you write your name in "katakana". It is one of the 3 writing systems prevailing in Japan, along with "kanji" and "hiragana". “Katakana” is used to transcribe foreign words. So, practice writing your name in "katakana" as it will turn out to be very useful for other formalities in Japan. Also note that in Japan, one has only one family name and only one first name. If you have more than one, write them all down. Do not hesitate to specify it in case you are asked.

The form is a classic one with fields for name, date of birth, nationality, phone number, etc.

Choosing options

  • Withdrawal

You can choose between a debit card and a payment card. In most cases, you will automatically receive a withdrawal card upon account opening. It allows you to withdraw money from your bank's counter or from ATMs, which are present everywhere in Japan, especially in convenience stores such as konbini, the 24-hour convenience store chain. If you withdraw money from a bank other than your own, you will certainly have to pay a fee, on average 100 yen during the week and 200 yen on weekends. But some banks, such as Shinsei Bank, charge 110 yen per withdrawal (100 yen tax), even if you make it at a branch counter.

To activate your withdrawal card, the bank will ask you to choose a 4-digit secret code. You will also be able to choose the color of your card from the catalog provided by your bank. Some colors will allow you to have the card right away (like blue at Shinsei Bank, the bank's color). However, if the color is not available, you will have to wait a few days to receive your card.

  • Credit card

If you want to use your Japanese account to make payments (on the Internet, for example), you will need a credit card (payment card). You can apply for one when you create your account. Your application will be reviewed.  This examination is not only for foreigners but also for Japanese customers. Your bank, bound by a contract with a credit institution, is urged to examine and verify that your financial situation allows you to have a credit card.

Review criteria:

  • Employment status: are you in sustainable employment? How long have you been working?
  • Salary: What is your annual salary? A yearly salary of less than 3 million yen is often insufficient to apply for a credit card in Japan.
  • Visa (checkpoint for foreigners): What is the duration of your visa? If you are the holder of a short-term visa (less than 3 years), there is a considerable risk that you will be denied a credit card.
  • Outstanding loans (checkpoint for Japanese customers): if the applicant has several outstanding loans, the card application is more likely to be denied.

Is a credit card essential?

Again, it all depends on your spending habits and plans. For a few years, payment by card has been gaining ground in Japan, including in supermarkets. But many people still pay with cash, even for large amounts.

  • The bankbook

You may receive a bankbook that you can use at the bank to withdraw and deposit money. You can also use it to make bank transfers and check your accounts. Many Japanese people have a bankbook. But not all banks operate on this system. For example, the Japan Post Bank issues a bankbook. Shinsen Bank does not, but it offers an online service to check your accounts and do other banking transactions.

Banks in Japan

They are called "gaikokujin"– friendly banks, where "gaikokujin" means foreigner. What are the benefits of opening an account in one of these banks?

Shinsei Bank

Probably the most popular bank among foreigners in Japan, it is one of the few banks to offer services entirely in English, just like its website. Every bit of information is translated into English, and its branches have English-speaking staff as well. You can open an account either at a local branch or on the Internet; the account opening is fast, and the debit card is free of charge. 

The drawback is the 110 yens charged per withdrawal, even within the branches. To avoid this, you will have to go upmarket and subscribe to a paying banking offer.

Japan Post Bank

This is the reference bank in Japan. Many Japanese have an account there. The Japan Post Bank also appeals to international students because it requires few supporting documents to open an account. However, its services are not 100% in English. Only the registration formalities are available in English, French and other languages. But once registered, everything else is in Japanese. This is a significant barrier for foreigners who are unfamiliar with the language. Moreover, it is even harder for a foreigner to get a credit card at the Japan Post Bank.

Online banks

Online banks are also making their revolution in Japan. The advantages like lesser fees, and sometimes no fees at all, user-friendliness, etc., are the same as in the other countries. Seven Bank and Sony Bank are two online banking institutions that offer all their services in English, which is a good point for foreign residents. However, while they allow international transfers at a good rate, they also have the following drawbacks: 

At Seven Bank, it is difficult to obtain a credit card if you are a foreigner without a regular income. At Sony Bank, you will have to prove that you have a regular income or wait 6 months before you can open a bank account.

Recommendations for opening a bank account in Japan 

Check with your bank in your home country before you leave. Prepare your move to Japan with your advisor, especially if you have bankbook accounts. Some of them might not be transferable abroad. 

You are not required to close your account in your home country before leaving. 

Forget the checkbook, it simply does not exist in Japan. 

At the bank, you will be asked about your possible involvement in criminal organizations. Don't be surprised: this question is required by law and is asked of anyone opening a new bank account. 

Watch the time. In Japan, bank branches close early, usually at 3 p.m. Their opening hours are indicated on their websites and storefronts. 

Inform your bank of any change in your situation: relocation, job, school, visa (its duration, your resident status, etc.). If you forget, your account could be suspended. 

When you decide to leave Japan, as much as you need to inform the bank of your country of origin of your arrival in Japan, you must inform your Japanese bank of your departure from the country. If you don't, they may charge you for account maintenance. Therefore, close your account, even if it is empty.

Useful links:

Shinsei Bank

Japan Post Bank

Mizuho Bank

Resona Bank

SMBC Trust Bank

Seven Bank

Sony Bank

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.