A Guide to Banks and Banking in Japan

If you are a new arrival in Japan, we hope this article will come in handy to you. Please read through this article to know how banks work in Japan, and how to utilize the services of banks as you may want to choose one of the mentioned banks.

Table of Contents

  1. Overview of Banks in Japan   
  2. Types of banks in Japan
  3. Foreigner-friendly banks in Japan 
  4. How to utilize a Japanese bank   
  5. Conclusion

Overview of Banks in Japan

There are around 200 banks in Japan. A variety of options are available, ranging from international banks to domestically licenced banks like city banks, regional banks and trust banks along with a variety of traditional Japanese banks and foreigner- friendly (having services in other languages) banks.

Japan banking hours are from Monday through Friday, 9am to 3pm.

If you are new in this country and are intending to stay long, you will be able to open a bank account in Japan and utilise the banking services. However, short-term visitors cannot.

Types of Banks in Japan

Your employer may request that you use a particular bank, or you may need to choose one yourself. Here are the various types of banks you can find in Japan.

City Banks

They are the largest banks in Japan. They provide both domestic and international banking services, mainly to large corporate customers. These banks are usually the easiest to find ATMs for and most ATMs in convenience stores offer services from these banks.

Banks in this category are: MUFG Bank, Mizuho Bank, Resona Bank, Saitama Resona Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

Trust Banks

These banks are licensed to carry out both banking and trust activities. They combine financial services with asset and wealth management services to customers. 

One good example of this is Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking (MUTB)

Regional Banks and Tier 2 regional Banks

Regional banks and tier 2 regional banks are smaller than city banks and are limited in some services. 

Shinkin and Credit Cooperative Banks

These are normally smaller than city banks and regional banks. They provide their services within their local area.

Japan Post Banks - Yucho

Yucho is a bank service provided through Japan Post, the country’s post office system.  It provides the services at comparatively lower rates, and you can find the ATMs quite easily as they’re not only available in the post offices, but also at convenience stores.

Foreigner-friendly banks in Japan 

These are the go to banks if you are looking for banking services in English:

Shinsei Bank

Shinsei Bank is considered to be one of the easiest to set up especially for new arrivals in Japan. You can immediately open an account if you are employed by a company in Japan; otherwise you might have to wait for at least 6 months (this may vary and is subject to change). The best part about this bank is being able to open an account with just your signature and  telephone number (rather than having to have all the things listed below under Opening an Account) and you'll be able to access online banking in English and Japanese. 

SMBC Prestia

SMBC Prestia is another popular bank in Japan. This bank also provides banking services in both Japanese and English. For opening the account, your signature will be sufficient. And they offer the option of a savings account with a separate foreign currency account.

How to utilise a Japanese Bank 

Opening an account

In order to open an account in banks, you will need to provide a residence card, your personal seal (called hanko) and your signature.

Once you make the choice of your prefered bank, you can walk into the bank (make sure you go well before closing time at 3 pm but avoid noon when many people go to banks during their lunch break) and fill the required forms. After due diligence, you’ll be provided with a cash card, after choosing your four digit PIN and given a bank book or passbook to update your transactions.

The information on managing your account online and debit card if you signed up for one (if available) will be sent to you within 10 days.

If you need help in English, you need to make sure that the bank provides it - we recommend going with SMBC Prestia as very few do - and calling ahead of time to make sure they have the English speaking staff at the time you intend to go. 

Closing an account

In order to close your account, you’ll need to visit the bank counter with a copy of your ID card (passport or residence card), your passbook, cash card and hanko.

Same note applies to English language assistance as above. 

Other services provided by banks

The Japanese ATMs offer a variety of services and are available in English and Japanese language (sometimes, other languages like Chinese, Korean, even Portuguese sometimes  too). They can update your passbook automatically, too. ATMs in Japan can even be used to pay bills, transfer money to another account, buy tickets etc, basically any purchase which requires deposit of money.

Please note the ATM bank transfers are chargeable (except Japan Post Bank) and the charges are depending on the amount you intend to send to the recipient. However, automatic payments aren’t charged. Also, cash withdrawals after banking hours are chargeable even from own bank ATMs or if using another bank's ATMs. 

Overseas Transfers

You can make overseas transfers from the counter of your bank or from special machines in your branch. It is also possible to send money overseas from a post office to other countries which is chargeable. Of course, like in other countries - you need to show an ID proof, you pay in the country’s currency - in this case, yen - and the payment is made to the recipient at that day's exchange rate. 

Internet Banking

Of late internet banking has been widely available in Japan. Most banks do provide online banking services and yes, they do charge a nominal fee for this service. However, there are just a few banks which provide this service in both Japanese and English too such as Shinsei Bank, Sony Bank, Prestia Bank etc.

Last things to Remember

Banks in Japan work very similar to banks in other countries. Initially, new arrivals may find a few things different than in their native countries.

For example, many ATMs close between 7:00pm-8:00pm every day, often times as early as 5:00pm on Sunday; nevertheless, some, especially ones at convenience stores, are now open 24-hours. You may find some ATM machines closed on holidays, so be sure you have money withdrawn before a national holiday. 

Moreover, once you get the hang of using the bank, it will be very convenient and easy. Plus most of the staff at Japanese banks are very helpful. So don’t stress too much. Get all necessary documents ready for the service you need and you are sorted!

You don't have to worry alone anymore A Q&A community about Japan

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