Opening a bank account in Japan is a relatively simple process. Items required for opening a new account include your Alien Registration Card, your passport, and in many cases, your personal stamp (called “inkan” or “hanko”).

As is described in the “Visa” section of this expat guide, foreigners intending to stay in Japan for longer than 90 days are legally obligated to register with their local municipal office to obtain an official Alien Registration Card. This registration card, among other uses, enables the holder to open a Japanese bank account. The application process for an Alien Registration Card generally takes two weeks.

Surprisingly enough, many Japanese banks don’t want your signature when opening account, and instead require an inkan (a small stamp with your name written in Japanese that is used for several official purposes, although most situations in Japan allow for a signature – instead of an inkan – and thus many expats opt not to get one). Inkan’s can be created rather cheaply at most large department stores and subsequently registered with your Ward office. This is one reason why expats tend to gravitate towards foreign banks as the international players do not require an inkan for application.

Once you have the required materials, you can proceed to the bank of your choice – no appointment is necessary – and request a “Futsu Yokin Koza”, or regular savings account. There are a number of other saving accounts available but since Japanese interest rates are so low, many expats choose to go with the standard account setup.

After your account has successfully been setup, your bank will mail you your ATM card (usually within a few days) and a bank book (called “tsucho”) which is used to automatically record your transactions at Japanese ATMs. International banks do not provide tsucho, so transactions are instead recorded in the standard fashion either through a printed receipt or simply indicated on the ATM screen.