It’s easy to open a bank account in Japan, though your options will be limited if you don’t already have a strong command of the Japanese language. Fortunately, several Japanese banks now offer telephone support and online banking in English, and may even have English-speaking staff available at certain bank locations. Let’s take a look at the most practical banking options for foreigners living in Japan.

Credit cards in a pocket

What to bring

To open a bank account in Japan you will need the following: work/student visa (bring your passport), Japanese ID (Zairyū Card), and telephone number. Some banks require a hanko (or inkan (), which is a personal seal used to sign official documents, but don’t worry if you don’t have one – certain banks will allow you to use your signature instead. Keep in mind that if you are here on a tourist visa, you won’t be able to open an account.

Foreign-friendly banks

Shinsei bank is the easiest option for newcomers who want to open a bank account in Japan. Some of the more traditional Japanese banks such as Mizuho and Sumitomo are fine for those who are fluent in Japanese and plan on staying here for the long haul, but for overall convenience and ease of use, Shinsei is a better choice.

You aren’t required to sign with a hanko/inkan, and all services – including telephone support and online banking – are available in English as well as Japanese. Shinsei also offers a separate foreign currency account, which is useful for anyone planning to travel or send money from Japan to the US or Europe. SMBC Trust Bank is another great option for foreigners who need English banking services and support.

Japanese stamps

Japan Post bank

Checking and savings accounts can also be opened with the Japanese post office. While not as English-friendly as Shinsei or SMBC, opening an account is easy and does not require a hanko or inkan. Additionally, there are no fees when transferring money from overseas to a JP bank account. This is also the only Japanese bank that will allow minors to open their own bank account.

Types of accounts

Most likely you will need a regular deposit account, or Futsū Yokin (普通預金). A deposit account comes with a bank card (essentially the same as a debit/check card) which can be used at most ATMs throughout Japan, and a passbook (tsūchō, 通帳) containing your account information and transaction records. The passbook can only be updated at your bank’s ATMs. Savings and business accounts are also available for those who are interested.

Words to know

While you might be able to find English-speaking staff at bank locations in some of the bigger cities like Tokyo or Osaka, you may find yourself in a situation where knowing the basics will come in handy. Here is some of the most commonly used banking vocabulary:

  • Bank: Ginkō, 銀行
  • Withdrawal: Hikidashi, 引き出し
  • Deposit: Yokin, 預金
  • Transfer: Furikomi, 振込
  • Account number: Kōza bangō, 口座番号
  • Cash: Genkin, 現金
  • Fee: Tesūryō, 手数料
  • Passbook update: Tsūchō kōshin, 通帳更新
  • Cash transfer: Genkin furikomi, 現金振込
  • Direct transfer: Kōza furikomi, 口座振込
  • Balance check: Zandaka Shōkai, 残高照会

Good luck!