Banking in Japan

Today I had to make the payment for a day trip to 山形 (Yamagata) offered by the Student Exchange Division on November 3rd. I went to the local bank office, where they also have ATMs that I can use to transfer money. I cannot use a written form at the branch office, because I don’t have a seal as the Japanese use instead of a signature. This means I would need to go to the bank’s main office in downtown Sendai, where I can use my signature, if I wanted to do a transaction without my bank card.

The ATM’s interface was completely in Japanese with a lot of kanji, and in the end I had to ask a bank employee for help (also in Japanese). With his help, I was able to order the transfer. Quite a few things were unusual, though: First of all, there is a fee for the transfer, although it was made using the ATM and to an account at the same bank. On the other hand I got two things I wouldn’t have received at a German bank machine:

  1. A paper receipt for the transfer, and
  2. a card, similar to the bank card but made of cardboard, that I can use to do transfers to the same target account. I’m not sure if I’m going to need it, but it’s definitely something new. 😉

Another useful feature was that the ATM showed me the name of the account owner after entering the account number. While I imagine this might cause privacy problems under some circumstances, it is very useful to make sure the money goes to the right recipient. Of course, the card for further transfers also has the recipient’s name on it, so that there won’t be a problem if I end up having more of those.

Afterwards I wanted to check my account balance. Surprisingly, I could not do that at the ATM: I had to hand my bank book (you know, paper) to the clerk, who then printed the transactions and current balance into it. The thing that surprised me most was something entirely different, though: The money I transferred arrived on the same afternoon! I know that because I got the confirmation email from the university. With German banks you’re unusually lucky if a bank transfer arrives on the next day. Now I will only have to find out how to withdraw money from my account…

While I’m talking about money: If you want to travel to Japan, don’t bother bringing traveler checks. I did that and had to travel to the my bank’s headquarters to get cash for them. My advice would be to bring enough cash. EC/credit cards can be useful, too: They are not widely accepted in shops, but you can use them to withdraw money at some ATMs, and I could also use my card to pay for the Shinkansen trip from Tokyo to Sendai.

I don’t have a bank-related picture right now, so here’s one of the 広瀬川 (Hirose river) riverbed near 牛越橋 (Ushigoe bridge), where @home organized an 芋煮会 (Imoni party) on Saturday. Imoni is a traditional regional dish which people here like to cook and eat outside, kind of like a barbecue party. Quite a different sight than the Sumida river in Tokyo, isn’t it?

River in a flat riverbed with big, round stones. Trees on the opposite riverbank in the background.

2 thoughts on “Banking in Japan

  1. heya Thomas, found your blog entirely by accident! nice one 😀
    (this is Laura, you helped me to the Imoni party)

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