Japanese Banks = Frustration?

There are several banks in Japan and a small list of the major ones that come to mind:


Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ

Shinsei Bank



Of course there are your local banks, but too many to list here.

When using a bank in Japan everyone (including foreigners) will require an Inkan or Hanko to open an account. Customized Inkan’s cost around 500-1000Yen. You can see some here.  The inkan is used as signature to verify identity. For common names like Tanaka or Satou, Inkans can be purchased at shops selling pre-made inkans. One thing I don’t get is that it would be very easy to pick up the same inkan as another person and do some bad stuff. But it is the system they swear by, so no immediate change is foreseeable.

NOTE*  From Wikipedia: “The increasing ease with which modern technology allows hanko fraud is beginning to cause some concern that the present system will not be able to survive.”

My bank is with Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ. Most Japanese banks are notorious for having strange hours of operation and closing early all the time. UFJ closes at 3pm on weekdays and is closed on weekends. There are times outside of these hours that I cannot even withdraw money from an ATM – which can be frustrating.

Like this for example at UFJ:

November 8th 5p.m. and all day Nov. 9th, no ATM access nationwide.  Stuck for money?  Too bad!

From November 8th 5p.m. and all day Nov. 9th, no ATM access nationwide. Stuck for money? Too bad!

My bank back home, TD CanadaTrust, has great customer service and is open till 8pm on weekdays. Awesome.

WTF!!!  A.K.A. Frustration Story about Japanese Bank:

Since losing my Japanese bank card while in Canada last month, I have not had the chance to go to my UFJ to cancel my old card and get a new one (I have to go during working hours). Today was the day I would venture to my UFJ bank to get a new card issued to me.

I went over to my bank with my Canadian passport, Inkan and insurance card for I.D. purposes.
Now, I had to fill out 1 paper to say I lost my card and that I want it to be cancelled.
Then I need to get a new card, so another paper to fill out. The new card, I was told, would take 2 weeks to issue after the cancellation of the other card is complete!

I have to wait 10 days for the lost card to be deactivated, then 2 full weeks after that time to be reissued a card. If I wanted a new card issued on the spot, it would cost me 2100yen.
So what do I do in the next 3-4 weeks, without a bank card?

Surely, I can withdraw money from the branch if I speak to a teller and show all my i.d. right? NOPE.

Even if I have my passport, Japanese insurance card, and Inkan, I am not allowed to withdraw money from my account. It is against the bank’s policy to allow customers to withdraw money without either their bankbook or ATM card.

Then I think long and hard for a loophole to withdraw some cash, there is always a loophole.
I’ve got it!

What if I close out my account (they tell me that my passport and inkan would be enough i.d.), thus withdrawing all the remaining money, then reopen an account minutes later?

The teller told me that it would be possible!
Isn’t it the same thing? WTF!

How does that make any sense?
So I didnt end up withdrawing money in the end.
I smiled at the teller, said thank you have a nice day and take care, then I went on my way.

I laughed and got on my bike for a ride back to the office.

*EDIT*  I found this blog here that explains why the UFJ bank sucks ass and that its all prehistoric BS rules that govern the system.

To end on a positive note:  I learned a new word today 喪失 sou-shitsu そうしつ loss, forfeit (of something) i.e. a bank card.  but the more common term would be 紛失 fuun-shitsu ふんしつ losing something.

~ by frischfarms on September 26, 2008.

12 Responses to “Japanese Banks = Frustration?”

  1. >There are several banks in Japan…
    >Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ
    >Shinsei Bank

    All of the ones on your list are the products of mergers of two or more banks.

    I remember when those banks were:
    Bank Of Tokyo
    Mitsubishi Bank
    Sanwa Bank
    Tokai Bank
    Asahi Bank
    Sakura Bank

    (By the way…Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ’s name in Japanese is 三菱東京UFJ銀行 (Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank)…I wonder why they write it in reverse in English.)

  2. 東京5, true. I havent been in Japan that long to know about them before the merger. Also Sumitomo Mitsui Ginko writes it in reverse too. weird. its all marketing things.

  3. I can’t stand the archaic bank system in Japan. I often want to update my bankbook in the evening but can’t, all that’s available at that time is a check of my current balance.

    BTW, just a note that the color choices of this post make the article hard to read. I would have given up if I didn’t have a personal interest in the post’s subject matter.

  4. Still have my Fuji Bank card – and it still works at Mizuho!

  5. Jason,

    I agree with the frustration. Thanks for the tips about the site. I see you do your own site design, so what could you suggest for my site?

    Thats great news. Are you at japaneconomynews looking for writers?

  6. Get an account with Shinsei. You can use any 7-Eleven ATM for free 24 hours a day, you’ll receive your cash card the same day you open the account, and you can do all your banking online or over the phone in English. Oh and no, I don’t work for them!

  7. Yeah dude, I almost drop kicked this one teller. She was asking why I wanted to take a lot of cash out, and I was like “I need to take out my money. I’m going back to Canada and I make zero interest saving it here.” Hell, I could spend all that cash on bubble gum if I felt like it.

    But yeah, most of the banks over there act monopolistic, knowing that they all offer equally crappy service (poor hours, low interest savings rates). On the plus side though, loaning money is ridiculously cheap.

  8. bugle boy, i totally agree! its your money anyway, so you should do what you want!

  9. Yes…Shinsei bank rules…free withdrawls 24/7 at all 7 Eleven stores, Internet bank in English, 24 operation ATM corners in Tokyo at selected locations. Mitsubishi UFJ sucks!, so does Sumitomo…

  10. every japanese bank sucks – HSBC Premier Japan in Tokyo also sucks…after relocating back to my home country, I am still struggling with cancelling my bank account…one month already…thinking about it makes me go ballistic. Unbelievable how such an inefficient country can still survive.

  11. Japan Efficiency,
    I agree with your frustration, how could it be 2009 and still be this archaic in many ways!

  12. […] May 18, 2011: I just found a blog post from a fellow Canadian who also has high blood pressure due to the UFJ […]

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