Moving to Tokyo 101: Banking, Phones, Wifi and Jobs

Okay one more of these boring posts and then I promise it’ll be a lot more food, shopping, food and food.

This one will cover:

  1. Bank Accounts
  2. Cellphone Plans
  3. Wifi
  4. Finding a Job

Bank Account

This one is a little tricky and depends on what visa you’re on.

Owen is on a 5 year working visa so it was no problem for him to open a bank account. He went with Shinsei Bank which so far has worked great. They service available in English via phone (24/7), English internet banking, and if you go to their Tokyo Station location you can have counter service in English as well. Actually, if you want to open an account in English, you have to go to their Tokyo Station location.

He brought his passport and residents card, and within 30 minutes had a bank account and a cash card (basically a debit card but you can’t use it for purchases, only bank withdrawals.) Shinsei is great because they’re partnered with all the small ATM’s so you can withdraw for free at any 7/11 and most convenience store ATM’s. And they give you a little booklet of bright colours to choose from for your cash card! Not needed, but really cute and very Japanese. Honestly, who wouldn’t want a bright pink cash card?

My situation was a little more challenging. I’m on a working holiday visa from Canada, which means that I’m allowed to stay up to 1 year, but I have to pay 4,000 yen and re-new my visa at the 6 month point for an additional 6 months. Meaning that my visa technically says it’s for 6 months. Shinsei bank does not accept people who are not staying in Japan for a minimum of 1 year. Which I am, but my visa says otherwise.

I tried everything, but when I spoke to the Tokyo immigration office they told me that the earliest I could re-new my visa was 3 months after my arrival. So, no luck.

So I headed over to my local post office and opened a bank account there! Super easy, and even though I had slightly fewer choices of colours for my cash card, I survived. It’s a lot simpler than a large bank, I don’t think there’s even online banking. But it does the job. I got my little official bank book day of, which works for withdrawals. And my cash card came in the mail a couple weeks later. English service was not available, but the man at the counter did an amazing job coming up with a few words he knew in English when I wasn’t able to understand what he meant in Japanese.

Cellphone Plans

For cellphones we headed back to the Bic Camera, the place that has everything. We both had unlocked iPhones from home and just wanted SIM cards- so that made things a lot simpler. You should know though, that most things in Japan are on a contract basis, the minimum usually being 2 years. Canceling is simple, no jumping through hoops, just a fee.

Our friend recommended IIJimo which has cheap plans if you’re only really wanting data. We settled on a shared family plan of 10 GB of data per month with the ablibility to make calls and texts, for a small cost per call/text (incoming is free). This worked for us as we weren’t planning on making any calls or texts unless it was for an emergency or for work. This runs us about 4,000 yen a month, split between the two of us. It’s a 2 year contract with a low cancellation fee. The amount of the cancellation fee depends on how far into the contract you terminate it.

Getting it organized was easy. We researched before hand, then went in and told them what we wanted and asked if we could have someone who spoke English. They put our names down, we waited about 30 minutes and then sat down and figured everything out.

Things you need:

  1. Residents card with your address registered on the back
  2. A credit card (a foreign one is okay)


Again, back to Bic Camera. Honestly, just go there for anything. They have phone plans and wifi, every home appliance large or small, face wash to laptops.

We decided on a “pocket wifi” which is a little square device that creates a hot spot. It’s slightly less stable than having a little standing tower that connects to the wall, but as our apartment is tiny it works great and this way we can take it with us to coffee shops to create hotspots! We also bought a little charging stand for it, so when we’re at home we keep it plugged into the wall.

This is about 4,300 yen a month on a 2 year contract and hefty cancellation fee (about 20,000 yen) but when you work in all the other costs of other companies and installation fees for standing wifi towers, this was the cheapest.

Finding a Job

Finding a job before you come to Japan might land you a Working Visa, meaning the company that hires you sponsors you for a visa, usually lasting 5 years. Now this is independent from your contract to the company. Your contract could be 1 year with possible renewal, and your visa could be 5 years. This allows you to find a new job during those 5 years, stay with the original company, or just head home if you’re feeling homesick.

If you’re from a country that allows it (which is most, except America… sorry) you can apply for a working holiday visa. Choose carefully because you only get this once in your life, and you have to be under 30. I’ve been trying to do research on how the grand scheme of the Working Holiday Visa works. It’s really complicated, but this is what I’ve got so far; if you get a working holiday visa to a country, i.e. Japan, you will only be allowed one in your life time. I assume this means you are only allowed one working holiday per country per lifetime. But I’ve also heard that you’re only allowed one working holiday visa in your life time, period. I’ll keep looking into it, so in the meantime, chose wisely. But it’s the simplest way to get somewhere for a year. Apply through the country you want to travel to’s consulate in your home country. Example: I printed out all the forms online and then went to the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver to submit them. And then went back a week later to pick up my visa!

From there I searched for jobs once I arrived in Japan. The most common jobs are obviously English Teaching jobs, and if that interests you it may be worth your while to apply before you arrive in Japan because often they are very helpful with visas, accommodation etc. And it’s always nice to arrive somewhere with something like a job already set up.

I was looking for jobs in the pastry field so that meant I wanted to scope out the vibe of shops before I applied. I also didn’t feel comfortable enough with my Japanese to rely on it on a professional level, so I was also looking for jobs that involved speaking English. Because I knew this would take a little while, I got a job with an English speaking babysitting company to make a little money in the meantime. These jobs are also very common and easy to get.

As things continue to unfold, I’m sure there will be many hurtles to jump and learning curves coming our way, so I’ll keep you posted. For now, this is what I’ve got to offer in terms of clumsily obtained “wisdom” when it comes to moving to Tokyo.

Thanks for stopping by!



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