Banking in Japan

Online banking is revolutionizing bookkeeping in the west where you can easily download transactions straight from your bank’s website into your accounting program and upload payments from your accounting system to your bank, thus saving time and increasing accuracy.   The Australian BPay system further simplifies the payment process.  Paper cheques and bank statements are quickly becoming a thing of the past, as are bank branches, needless to say.  In fact, even banks are disappearing in the west, with both Britain and Australia down to just a handful of main retail banks each these days.

It’s a completely different story in Japan. There are about 26 different national banks and about 109 regional banks. Until not so long ago, you simply had to trot down to your local branch and, armed with a wad of furikomi kado (a card for each supplier with the supplier’s bank details on a magnetic strip which you feed in to the ATM), process each payment at the ATM; which explains why there are usually half a dozen ATMs at each branch.   So it made a lot of sense to bank with a bank with a branch nearby, which is why most businesses here in Hirafu bank with the Hokkaido based Hokuyo Bank, which has one of the two bank branches in Kutchan.  While Hokuyo Bank is a household name in Hokkaido, it’s pretty much unheard of in the rest of Japan and Hokuyo Bank customers would find it difficult to do their banking outside Hokkaido.

Hokuyo Bank does offer an online banking facility which lets you make payments and view account statements so you can reconcile as often as you like; you cannot yet download and upload transactions as you can in the west but, no matter how small your business is, it’s well worth the small monthly fee.  Hokuyo Bank’s online banking is all in Japanese, mainly katakana, so you can do your banking and practice your katakana all at the same time!