welcome to hell: japanese banks

So if you’ve never had the japanese banking experience, you’re in for a real treat. First of all, they’re only open five hours a day (from 10am to 3pm) and never on weekends – thus the working week for a Japanese bank teller comes tooooo a grand total of 25 hours a week…

Oh and never mind that the ATM machines are cleverly located inside the bank and also have their own ‘business hours’. As a result, if you wanted to withdraw money during the weekends or when the ATMs are ‘closed’ you have to go to the ATM machines at a convenience store and pay a fee. 

It gets worse: as it is Japan, there is of course, online banking…however, you have to pay to use it. @$#?@?!?!

Lets just say that customer service is not their forte.

Also, a quaint little feature of the banking system in particular and the legal system in general is that most people still use their hanko, or stamp/seal instead of a signature to verify important documents. This is freakin 2007. How do you expect to be taken seriously if you’re still using seals??

Anyway, I opened my account at Sumitomo in February and although I got my bankbook immediately, by June I still hadn’t received my bank card. There were (as you would expect) multiple visits to the branch during which I displayed varying degrees of anger depending on the weather that day, but to no avail. In the end, I had to keep going to the bank tellers to withdraw money with my bankbook.

Now, this is where things get exciting. When you want to withdraw money you fill out a form with your signature (or seal) and secret number and submit it together with your bankbook. The teller checks the book and the number and then, get this, compares your signature to the sample signature you gave them when opening your account. Of course, if you’re using a hanko she compares hankos. Now, since when are bank tellers handwriting experts? And notice that they don’t ask for freakin ID? ID!! You’d think it was common sense. But nooooo.

Once, the teller thought the signatures didn’t match. I very patiently told her that I could show her ID if she’d like. What did she do instead? She called her girlfriends (other tellers) over and they had a ten minute discussion about whether or not my signature was legit? I honestly thought I was being punked.



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