Money MattersIn Japan, both the banks and the post office service offer 'banking' services, including overseas remittances. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, while the financial services of post offices are available Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Banks and Post Offices are usually closed on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, though in recent years the ATMs have remained in operation.
At the time of publication, there are two persistent and frustrating problems. The first is that for the most part bank ATMs are still not open 24 hours a day as has been the custom in most countries for several decades. Many ATMs are shut at 8pm and are unavailable on Sundays or public holidays. The second is that again for the most part bank ATMs will also not accept overseas issued credit or debit cards - even when they carry the mastercard/visacard sign. This is one of the reasons why for foreigners the post office is a popular choice of bank. All Post office ATMs will accept most overseas issued Visa (and most other) cards, and the post office ATMs often have longer hours of operation - until midnight in the case of the Central Post Office just south of the AEON shopping center.
Opening a Bank AccountThere are different types of accounts, from ordinary savings accounts (futsu kouza) to time deposits and installment deposits etc. For most foreigners opening an account the "futsu" account is what is required. You will need identification. The requirements seem to differ from bank to bank (and sometimes from branch to branch). As a minimum you'll need an Alien Registration Card. If you haven't obtained an "alien card" yet, time to head to City Hall with your address (or the address of someone willing to allow it to be used as a registered address with City Hall/town office registration), 2 passport photos, and your passport and register for the "gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho". Please note that this takes a few weeks to process. If you need a bank account immediately and can't wait, also ask for a document that will act as a substitute for the card so that you can open a bank account. This document is called a "touroku genpyou kisai jikou shoumeisho". Once suitable equipped, take your card (or substitute) to a bank with your passport (and/or any other form of documentation such as a Japanese driver's license or Health Insurance Card) and ask to open an account. Some banks/branches will also as insist that you need an Inkan (name stamp/chop) as well, if that is the case, the inkan will also need to be registered. As of 2004, this is another reason why many foreigners prefer to use the much more customer friendly post office.
Automatic Payment of BillsThe easiest way to pay your electricity, gas and water bills is by automatic withdrawal on a fixed day each month from your account. The utility companies will also send you a notice of payment and copy of the bill so that you know how much it cost. You can apply for this at your bank or post office. (Note it is also easy to pay bills at a convenience store - you just need to remember each month).
Overseas Remittances and Foreign Currency ExchangeRemittances can be made from both banks (bank transfer) and post offices (giro). Remittances from foreign banks to post accounts are not possible. Cashing of travellers checks, exchange of foreign currency etc can be done at both banks and post offices. Cashing of bank drafts (especially in foreign currency) can take up to a month. Please note that with some smaller branches, there have been cases where the staff have refused to perform the function and send people halfway across town to a major branch. As usual, the service provided by the banks tends to be slower (as of 2004) than the Post office.