In order for people visiting Japan from overseas to open a bank account, they need to bring a number of documents and signature stamp.  A bank account is something that you must have for both personal usage and if you want to start a business. Today we will explain the items that you need to bring with you to open a bank account and go through the banks that are foreigner-friendly.

What are the conditions for opening a bank account in Japan?

Whether the procedures are conducted online or face-to-face, you must be a Japanese resident to open a bank account in Japan. This condition does not apply to short-term or tourist visa holders. If you hold either of these visas:

  • staying in Japan for more than 6 months
  • working in Japan

You are able to immediately create a bank account without any restrictions. If you are staying in Japan for less than 6 months, it is possible that you won’t be able to send money out of your account. It will be useful for receiving income payments and money sent from overseas.

Special characteristics of Japanese banks

When you go to a country different to your own, there are many elements of general knowledge relating to bank procedures. Before you experience surprise or confusion due to unfamiliar Japanese banks, let’s go through their special characteristics.

there is no monthly account maintenance fee

There are cases where overseas banks charge a few dollars as a maintenance fee for simply having a bank account, but in Japan, the maintenance fee for personal accounts is practically non-existent.

It is common for there to be a processing fee charged for ATM usage on weekends/national holidays/non-operating hours

Although there is no account maintenance fee, it would be wise for you to use ATMs within operating hours (Monday – Friday, 9AM – 5PM). In Japan where people generally pay in cash, there are often long lines for withdrawing cash at the ATM during consecutive national holidays.

all transactions made on the weekend/national holidays/non-operating hours, including online banking, will be processed on the following day

Online banking in Japan operates in the same period as regular shops. For example, money sent at 9PM on Friday (outside of operating hours) will be processed after 9AM on the following Monday. Please be careful of payment deadlines.

A signature stamp is required for all proceedings, such as opening a bank account, updating your name, and to cancelling your bank account

A Japan-only custom is that a signature seal is required for all proceedings related to banks, government offices, and many real estate contracts.  A signature stamp is a stamp that you get your surname or name engraved on from a specialist shop. When you are not using it, you should take care of it.

The signature stamp is required for transferring money between accounts

When you want to automatically debit money from your Japanese bank account for things like monthly phone, water and electricity bills, you need to submit an application using your signature stamp.  Your signature stamp is not required in most cases if you are automatically debiting money from a credit card.

Which bank should I choose to open an account with?

In Japan, there are a variety of financial institutions, such as ordinary banks, city banks, regional banks, trust banks, credit unions, credit associations etc. Functionally, there are no large differences between them. However, there are few banks which provide English customer support for people staying in Japan. Furthermore, we should take into consideration whether the banks’ ATMs are located close to your home, school or workplace.

If you are opening a personal bank account, the 4 banks recommended for foreigners are Shinsei Bank, Mizuho Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFG) Bank, and SMBC Trust Bank. SMBC Trust Bank allows you to open a bank account on the internet, via phone, or at a counter of a branch store. Their internet and phone service has commendable English customer support. All of the above should have an English-speaking staff at a large branch store in metropolitan areas. All 4 banks have ATMs at their branch and convenience stores, where you can withdraw or deposit money.

SMBC信託銀行 – SMBC Trust Bank

Number of branch stores: 32

Methods of opening a bank account: online, phone, in-store (English available in all cases)

※What was once the retail bank Citibank has now merged with SMBC Trust Bank

みずほ銀行 – Mizuho Bank

Number of branch stores: around 800

Methods of opening a bank account: online, in-store (Japanese only in all cases)

三菱UFJ銀行 – Mitsubishi UFJ Bank

Number of branch stores: 754

Methods of opening a bank account: online, post, in-store (Japanese only in all cases)

※The old name was “Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank”.  Please be aware that they are always changing their name.

新生銀行 – Shinsei Bank

Number of branch stores: 32

Methods of opening a bank account: post(English)

SMBC Trust Bank and Shinsei Bank have few branch stores, so they specialise in dealing with procedures online or by post.  Their websites have full English-support so you shouldn’t have issues with opening a bank account. If you are able to speak Japanese at a conversational level, going to one of many branch stores of Mizuho Bank or Mitsubishi UFJ Bank is most convenient.

Please note that money deposited into a Japanese bank account will earn a significantly small amount of interest, around 0.001%.  You don’t need to take into consideration the difference in interest rates when choosing a bank.

What items are necessary for opening a bank account?

In Japan, where people value the trust of face-to-face interactions, especially in the banking industry which upholds traditional, it may not be possible for you to create a bank account from just online procedures.  In those cases, you won’t be creating your bank account whilst overseas, but after you’ve arrived in Japan.

You need to prepare the following documents and information for opening a bank account, even if it is online

  • パスポート – passport
  • 在留カード – residence card
  • ビザの有効期限を示す証明 – proof of your valid visa
  • 日本の住所(自分宛の郵便が届く場所) – your Japanese address (where your mail should be sent)
  • 電話番号 – phone number
  • マイナンバー – My Number
  • 印鑑 – signature stamp

Depending on the bank, other items may be required, such as your public utilities bill, a copy of your certificate of residence, your insurance card, and licenses that you have in Japan.  Please check with the bank’s official website for details. When you are opening your bank account, general practice is for you to choose an ordinary bank account.

How do I open a business bank account?

If a foreigner is to start a business in Japan, there are a minimum of 2 steps to create a business bank account.

Open a bank account with your own name and deposit your capital

Unfortunately, you cannot create a bank account with your business name in the beginning. The founder of CEO must deposit sufficient capital for opening a business into their personal account.

Prepare the necessary documents and signature stamp

  • 法人登記簿謄本 – certified copy of corporate register​
  • 法人の印鑑証明書 – certification of official registration of corporate signature stamp
  • 会社の定款の写し – a copy of the company statue
  • 法務局へ届け出た法人実印(銀行に持参)- officially registered seal of the corporation that was used to register with the regional legal affairs bureau (bring it to the bank)
  • 法人の印鑑(銀行印として使用するもの) – the corporate signature stamp (to be used as the stamp for bank transactions)
  • 代表取締役の身分証明書 – ID of the representative director

Different to a personal bank account, there are many cases where you can’t open a corporate bank account in one day.  Your business model, amount of capital, and whether or not you have Japanese business partners or employees will be checked in detail.

Opening a bank account is the first step to having a stable life in Japan.  If it’s difficult to go it alone, bring a Japanese-speaking person along as support and take on the challenge of opening a bank account!

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