Banking in Japan, Part 3

In which I prepare to receive an international transfer to my Japanese bank account.

Having determined that I would not receive a paycheck in time to pay for my language classes, I decided to transfer money from one a U.S. account to my new Japanese bank account.  Wire transfers have been around for a while, so how hard could it be?

First, a bit of background.  Upon moving to Japan — or within Japan — you are required to register your residence at your local ward office.  I did this on my second day in Japan, and my helpful translator informed me that I would be receiving an individual number (also called a “my number”) from them within “a few weeks.”  An individual number is similar to a social security number, but the system was only launched last fall, so it’s still very new.

As observed previously, Japanese banks are much more security and procedure conscious than most American banks.  At my bank in Japan, in order to send or receive money from international bank accounts, you have to provide the bank with your individual number (on a physical form, of course).  Around the time I needed to make the wire transfer, I received a piece of mail from my local ward entirely in Japanese, which had a number on it that Google Translate said was my “resident code.”  Guessing this was my individual number, I went to fill out my bank form, but discovered it had the wrong number of digits.  Confused, I asked my orientation consultant and found out that this was in fact a different number — one for which I have yet to find any purpose.  She advised me that if I needed my individual number right away, I could return to my local ward office and request a “certificate of residence registration” with the number on it.

So one morning before work, I walked to the ward office, filled out a form, paid 300 yen, and acquired the certificate.  I didn’t want to lose more work time that day, so I waited until Saturday to go back to the bank, shiny certificate in hand.  Wrong choice.  That particular Saturday, I was exploring a new area of Tokyo, but I had verified beforehand that my bank had a branch there.  Confidently, I walked into the bank and handed the representative my form.  His English wasn’t great, so I still don’t understand the reason, but he basically told me, “Sorry, your account is closed at this branch for today.  You have to go to a different branch.” Uh, what?

Irked, I returned Monday morning to my local branch, where the lady teller took my form and helpfully informed me that no, the certificate I had provided was not the appropriate documentation to notify the bank of my number.  Thankfully, I was able to point out that the certificate did in fact have my number on it, and she changed her mind.

Success!  Now I could… register an international bank account as a transfer source or destination?  Sigh.  To be continued…

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