If you’re staying in Japan for longer, it might be useful for you to have a local bank account. Please note that it can be a painful process, especially if you don’t speak Japanese (surprisingly little Japanese employed in banks know any English).
I’ve had luck opening a bank account in the following banks:
- Shinsei Bank – branch near Shinjuku Station. The staff speaks English there and I was able to open a bank account with a student visa. Shinsei Bank also has internet banking in English. They also give you an ATM card. If you need a credit or debit card, you may have some luck if your income comes from a Japanese company. Please note that there is no information about debit/credit cards on the English parts of their website.
Unfortunately, very soon I found out that banking in Japan, as many other things, quite different than banking in other parts of the world, and it doesn’t mean it’s better here – so I had to look for a different bank. The problem was paying my UR properties apartment rent. It’s simply not possible to do a bank transfer from Shinsei Bank to UR properties account. Shinsei Bank staff even suggested that I withdraw the money in cash (I had to pay 1 year rent + 2 month deposit) and go to a competing bank next door which was supposedly “compatible” with UR properties payment. In the end, I left the bank with a paper bag full of money and made the payment in UR properties office which thankfully was nearby. I bet in other countries carrying these amounts of money and paying 1 year rent in cash would be sort of a grey area… Go figure.
- Mizuho Bank – I’ve tried two branches in Tokyo, one in Yotsuya (was not able to open an account there, even though they had one employee speaking Japanese) and one near Shinjukusanchome metro exit (no English speaking staff there, but somehow I’ve managed to do it). You will need a long-tem visa, hanko and some kind of proof of your employment. Mizuho Bank’s web interface is Japanese only.
Please note that all of your utilities payments (water, gas, electricity bill etc.) can be made in a local convenience store.