Moving to Japan and starting a new life can be very stressful. Being prepared with knowledge of what procedures are required and how to complete them can reduce unnecessary trouble. In this series, written by some people who have lived in Japan for several years – your senpai – aims to make your transition to Japan as smooth as possible.
How to deal with money is a massively important issue for most people coming to Japan. You will need to pay for school materials and living costs, for which a bank account can be very helpful. Yet, it might seem daunting to open a bank account in Japanese.
We have you covered. Here are some questions answered to help you navigate through the issue, and make your transition to Japanese life as smooth as possible.
Do I need to open a bank account 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 several currencies. Therefore you might be able to skip the step of setting up a bank account in Japan altogether.
However, some universities or scholarship programs might require you to have a bank account set up in Japan.
What should I do then?
It’s likely that your school, university or company will have an affiliation with a bank, and help you set up a bank account. If so, this 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 it’s recommended to ask for that.
Which bank should I go to to set up a bank account on my own?
If you need to set up a bank account on your own in English.
One is the online Sony Bank, which is user friendly and completely in English.
Alternatively, another option is the Japan Post (JP), also called 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, starting from the date of approval of your Residence Card.
As a reference, find a handy guide on how to fill out forms in Japan here, just like one does at the ward 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 will I need to open a JP bank account?
Things you will need:
- Residence Card (Zairyu Card), with a validity of at least three months.
- Valid Passport
- Hanko (personal seal), or if you don’t have one, a signature may be accepted.
- If you’re a student, a student ID.
- You may be asked for a proof of address.
There is a website in English where you can apply, or create an application form to bring to a Post Office.
If not, if you have a friend who speaks Japanese, you might want to go to a Japan Post branch near where you are living and have it done there.
What will I receive with my JP bank account?
You will receive:
- A cashcard.
True to its name, this card has the main purpose of cashing money (in or out) at the ATM. With this card, cash withdrawals are free at a JP ATM.
In other branches or at convenience stores though, ATMs are subject to small fees, usually between ￥100 JPY and ￥200 JPY ($0.8 USD to $1.6 USD, approximately).
The cashcard also allows you to perform certain operations from a JP ATM, such as bank transfers in Japan, by paying a small fee. You will not, however, be able to use this card to pay at restaurants or shop online.
- Tsuucho (通帳) a paper passbook.
The passbook will keep a record of all financial transactions on your account. Open it to the most recent page with space, insert it in the slot with the instruction showing a passbook (visual design) and it prints for you. If you prefer to have a paperless account, choose the appropriate form to fill out.
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 so without incurring high fees by going through the mainstream banking system. Because these examples are not part of well-established banks, take care to check the fine print and conditions, 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 ward office.
What if I need a Debit Card or Credit Card?
It’s slightly counterintuitive, but with mainstream Japanese bank accounts, one just receives a cashcard and you will need to apply separately to have a debit or credit card. It is not part of opening a bank account.
At the same time, you may need a credit card for such tasks as signing a phone contract.
In that case, there are many options, including nearly every bank, although length of application and chances of your application being accepted might differ, so make sure to inquire first.
What are some 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 passbook
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 ) cash
円 （えん| en) Japanese yen (the currency)
Let us know if we missed anything in the comment section below, and we hope that you enjoy starting your life in Japan!
Author: Arielle Busetto