January 07, 2009
Japanese currency is quite simple: coins are minted in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 denominations. Bills come in 1000, 2000 (introduced in 2000 but still not often seen in circulation) 5000 and 10000 denominations. Remember the Japan currency is called the yen, 100 yen ~ 1.18 US. The one yen coin individually cannot buy anything but is good for paying the 5% consumer tax and paying poker antes.
New designs for the 1000, 5000 and 10000-yen notes was announced in mid-2002. The new designs are to make use of the latest anti-counterfeiting techniques.
Banking is a little bit different in Japan. Chequing accounts are possible, but they are more for businesses than for private individuals. Even a single bounced cheque or missed payment may result in very serious consequences. If you bounce two cheques, your bank will terminate your relationship.
The most widely used account in Japan is the General Account (futsu yokin). Businesses might use the Current Account (toza yokin), which usually comes with chequing privileges. Opening an account is very simple, involving little more than filling out the necessary forms and showing an alien registration card. The bank will then issue you a bank book (immediately) and a cash card (mailed to your home). Banking hours are from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekdays; banks are closed Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.
Using a Japanese ATM may be a little tricky. Most major cities offer an English guidance system, but if you're in the countryside you better learn the Japanese steps. Usually there is someone employed by the bank to help customers use the machinery. ATM's are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends, and closed holidays. Some larger branches offer 24-hour ATM service but his is usuall in bigger urban areas.
If you use an ATM after 6:00pm during the week or at any time on the weekend, you will be charged a 105 yen premium. You can use your bank card at virtually any bank but the 105 yen charge applies to this also. Recently, convenience stores have started installing bank ATM's, making 24-hour banking possible even for people not in the center of the metropolis. The last few years have seen quite an upheaval in the Japanese banking system. Many of the major players have merged, creatin five main nationwide banks. There have also been some new banks ariving on the scene, including one backed by Sony.
Below is a list of the major Japanese banks:
Asahi Bank (plan to form Risona Bank with Daiwa Bank)
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (part of MTFG).
Mizuho Bank (includes former Fuji and Dai-ichi Kangyo Banks)
Sumitomo Mitsui Bank
UFJ (United Financial of Japan, includes former Sanwa and Tokai Banks)
For more information on money and prices, see The Japan Zone.