Before moving to Japan, there is the slight ignorance almost every expat has that things will be the same, if not, more efficient than things back home. Most people have the illusion that Japan is so far advanced than everyone else, that when I tell friends or family that's not necessarily the case they are surprised.
As an Australian, we generally like no fuss when it comes to anything administrative (actually anything, really. It's our 国民性 [こくみんせい/Kokuminsei - 'National Trait']). So when it came to something like opening a bank account, my mind almost exploded from the difference.
There have been other things were a bit of a shock, or maybe a slight annoyance as a few friends had wished they knew about this stuff before moving to Japan. Not that it's a bad thing; I think it's better to be informed to avoid embarrassment and surprise!
Opening a bank account.
When I first moved to Japan, I was on a working holiday visa. The way it works in Australia is that you renew your visa 2 times, every 6 months. This gives you a total of 18 months stay in Japan which is more than any other country.
To create a bank account in Japan, your Foreign ID/Alien Registration Card (在留カード ざいりゅう・かあど Zairyuu Kaado) must have a minimum of 1 year stay. Any less they will decline your application unless you bring in a contract and authorisation letter from your boss requesting for a bank account. I suggest allowing at least 2-3 hours to open a bank account because the process is very long. Which brings us to...
Cash, not card.
Most stores in Japan, whether it be retail or hospitality, do not accept card. Of course the major chain retailers, department stores and fast food outlets do, otherwise more often than not, card is not accepted. One of the things that also confused me is that when I opened a bank account I received a Key Card. I assumed that "Well, this is just like a keycard in Australia, right? I don't have to carry cash around, sweet!" Not in Japan. Your key card is only to withdraw or deposit funds in your account.
Debit Cards are also basically non-existent and credit cards are almost impossible to get your hands on. There are many factors which judge whether or not you get one, such as length of residency, where you work, how much tax your workplace pays, how much you earn monthly, etc.
ATM opening hours and fees.
Depending on the bank that you are with, your bank may close from a certain time and therefore blocking you from making any withdrawals for a set period of time.
For example, I am with a small Osakan Bank. My bank account is blocked 11pm to 6am weekdays, and 9pm to 7am on weekends/public holidays. Even if I use a public ATM, I am still blocked. This may be different with bigger banks such as Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ.
If you wish to take money out before 9am and after 6pm on weekdays from an ATM other than your own, the withdrawal fee doubles from 108yen to 216 yen. This of course varies depending on your bank and which ATM you are withdrawing from.
Many people don't tend to move once they find their apartment, unless they are relocated or get married. This goes for expats and Japanese people. Why?
It's very expensive.
Mainly because there are surprise fees such as the Japan-only 'Key Money'. This is often explained as a cultural custom that began from the post-WWII economic growth when there was no real estate and so you'd pay an extra fee to get ahead in-line. Luckily, a lot of property owners don't charge this fee anymore.
There are also other fees such as deposit (1-2 months rent), monthly maintenance fees, fire insurance fee, guarantor fee, lock exchange fee, agency commission and rent renewal fees. So you can be looking at paying 3-4 times your monthly rent when you first move in.
Bicycle Registration Papers.
It's kind of similar to having a license in the form of a thin pink piece of paper to prove that your bike is indeed yours. Surprisingly, a lot of bikes are stolen around Japan, and if your bike so happens to look like a lot of other bikes the probability of it being stolen grows. However, if the suspect is caught riding without registration papers they may be arrested. So, keep your bike registration papers with you at all times.
Get your mothballs ready! Japan has a crazy mould problem. Make sure you keep your tatami, closets, drawers, etc regularly ventilated especially during the very humid Japanese summer. Micro-cities of mould building up in your home isn't fun to clean up nor to find suddenly during a spring clean.
Everyone kind of knows that in Australia we have some crazy bugs. We secretly pride ourselves on the fact that we have survived this far without dying from some bird-eating spider or some other venomous whatever. However, when I first laid eyes on one of the hornets here in Japan, I just about jumped out of my skin and ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction.
The Suzumebachi, also known as the Giant Asian Hornet, is massive. If you spot a nest, tell your landlord or whoever is in charge of the building where the nest is located immediately. Simultaneous stings from multiple hornets have been known to be fatal.
(Suzumebachi comparison to a honey bee. Aka abort!)
Mukade, or the Red Head Centipede, are also another weird alien-like creature which resides here in Japan. Luckily I have never come across one myself, I didn't even know they existed until I saw them on TV. They cannot kill you, but their stings are very painful and requires medical attention.
Tattoos not permitted.
It's general public knowledge that onsen (bath houses) do not allow tattooed individuals inside to bathe. This is mainly to ward of the infamous Yakuza aka Japanese mafia. However, did you know that there is a lot of other public establishments that disallow them? Here's a few...
I've gone to the beach many times with my tattoo covered friends and we have never been told to leave the area. However, I have had friends escorted out of the gym with their membership immediately cancelled without refund. Most gyms will state in their contract that if you lie about having a tattoo (or anything else), they are allowed to cancel without reimbursement. So please be careful that you don't show your tattoos anywhere at any time and take a shower at home. I also have been to the ice rink, but I dealt with the issue by just covering my tattoos and it was no problem.
This blog entry is told from my experiences, they aren’t what’s wrong or right, it’s just what I and friends have experienced.
That's it for now! Is there anything you would like to know about? Is there any information you would like to add to this post? Let me know via email!