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Opening a Japanese Bank Account

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…with minimal Japanese skills. The language barrier was not so much an issue for me, as I understood the key words involved in opening a new account, and was familiar with the general procedure – this is key.

Japanese banks don’t charge anything for you to open a regular account. I doubt that’s the case with issuing credit cards or other less common transactions, but if you’re just looking for a place to store your millions of yen, consider it done.

Anytime you want to have your Japanese skills called into question, be sure to visit a bank – they speak quickly and in a language almost dissimilar from Japanese. On top of that, it’s a bureaucratic organization, with multiple forms, checklists, and immutable procedures.

That having been said, I had no problems. Maybe I was lucky.

Step one: walk into the bank. Take a number card from the machine (chances are all banks have these). Depending on the bank and branch, they may have a different button for you to push for a different number card: loans, new accounts, general transactions, etc. Be sure you get this right the first time, because if you approach the wrong window, you won’t be able to just sidle over to the next one in the event of a mistake… you have to start all over again.

Before you approach the teller window, however, be sure you pick up the correct form. This is the greatest difficulty for both foreigners and Japanese – finding the proper paperwork. Fortunately I had someone point out the correct carbon copy paper to me ahead of time. Nevertheless, you should ask for help on this one, as there could be as many as thirty forms for a variety of tasks.

Next, approach the window (shinki, 新規), present the number, and state “futsuu yokin o onegaishimas.” Futsuu yokin (普通預金) is a standard account. Although some banks may be willing to write the kanji for you on the papers, I’m willing to bet most tellers will not, as it is technically against the rules; you’ll need to be able to write your name in katakana, to scribble your address inkanji (and be sure it matches the address on your gaijin card – if you’re new to the area, it’s safer to wait until you get the actual card rather than just a certificate, as some banks will reject this), and to post your inkan stamp.


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