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Guide to a Corporate Bank Account in Japan

In the business sphere, having a financial identity is essential in deals and establishing your business, and a corporate bank account serves as the foundation of this identity. Unlike personal bank accounts, corporate bank accounts are designed to cater to the financial requirements of businesses. They typically offer a range of services uniquely designed for a businessman’s ease of use. For example, corporate bank accounts may offer services such as payroll processing and separate employee debit/credit cards, which allow the company to pay for employee salaries and expenditures easily. Despite these benefits, opening a corporate bank account has become harder. 

Recently, the procedures and regulations surrounding corporate banking have become stricter, particularly when it comes to the verification of crucial details such as the CEO’s address. In the past, CEOs living abroad with a foreign passport could still open a corporate bank account in Japan. Today, banking institutions are imposing stricter measures that require the CEO to be a Japanese resident even with resident directors. But, with the right arsenal of know-how, you can be fully equipped to take on the challenge of opening an account. 

Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur looking to expand your ventures into the Japanese market or a budding business owner seeking to establish a financial foothold, this guide is written to help establish a step-by-step process of opening a corporate bank account in Japan, stocking you with the knowledge and insights necessary to navigate the intricate procedures with confidence. Feel assured in corporate banking in Japan and take the first strides toward a successful financial future.

Why would I want a corporate bank account in Japan?

Corporate bank accounts don’t sound like a must when you start, especially when the business is limited to small transactions but it’s best not to underestimate the effect having a corporate bank account has on your B2B business deals. The trust that partners and clients have in your company may also be dependent on whether or not accounts have been separated. Social credibility is low when a bank account is held by a sole proprietor as individuals are less trusted than a corporation. To better understand the social credibility each corporate structure gives you, be sure to read our article on Setting Up a Company in Japan.

Setting Up a Company in Japan

Who can open a corporate bank account in Japan?

Before we jump into the nitty gritty of each bank and its requirements, we have to give you the disappointing reality of an exclusive banking system. Visa requirements are harsh and clear-cut in most banks so there will be no point in trying to apply for any corporate bank accounts that don’t accept the Visa type that you hold. While numerous Visas exist, the types that the banks typically require generally fall under three categories which we will simplify here.

  • Permanent Resident [永住権]
  • Business Manager [経営・管理] or Highly-Skilled Professional [高度経営・管理]
  • Employment Visa: This is a blanket term for all other types of employment visas, including start-up visas.
  • Student visas are generally not acceptable for a corporate bank account in Japan. 

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4 Main Types of Banks in Japan

Opening a corporate bank account in Japan demands you to understand the Japanese banking sector. The sector is wide and caters to the different needs of its users by establishing a variety of banks for individuals, businesses, and corporations. The types of banks in Japan can be categorized into four distinct groups: megabanks, local banks, online banks, and credit unions which we will go into below.

  1. Megabanks:

Megabanks are some of the largest and most influential financial institutions in Japan. Corporations tend to place more trust in you if your business has a corporate bank account with a megabank.  If a megabank gives you a corporate bank account, it shows that your business and yourself were scrutinized/evaluated and the bank deemed you as worthy of a bank account. This improves credibility as a foreign business that no institution knows in Japan or trusts. They offer a comprehensive range of financial services to both individuals and corporations. Here are three examples of megabanks with whom you can open a corporate bank account in Japan:

a. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC): As one of the leading megabanks, SMBC provides a broad spectrum of banking services, including retail banking, corporate banking, asset management, and investment banking.

b. Mizuho Financial Group: Another major player, Mizuho offers a wide array of financial services, such as retail banking, corporate banking, securities, and asset management, catering to both domestic and international clients.

c. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG): MUFG is one of the largest financial groups globally, offering a range of services including retail banking, commercial banking, investment banking, and wealth management.

  1. Local Banks:

Local banks in Japan primarily operate on a regional scale and serve local communities and businesses. They play a crucial role in supporting local economies and providing personalized banking services. These banks often have a strong focus on relationship-building with their clients. Some examples include:

  1. Shizuoka Bank: This regional bank serves the Shizuoka Prefecture and offers a range of retail and corporate banking services tailored to the needs of the local community.
  2. Aichi Bank: Based in the Aichi Prefecture, Aichi Bank provides financial services to individuals, businesses, and local organizations in the region.
  3. Hokkaido Bank: Operating in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido Bank specializes in catering to the unique financial needs of the local population and businesses.
  1. Online Banks:

With the advancement of technology, online banks have gained popularity in Japan as well. These banks offer convenient and digital banking solutions that cater to customers’ needs without the need for physical branches. Two notable examples are the following:

  1. Rakuten Bank: A subsidiary of the e-commerce giant Rakuten, Rakuten Bank offers a range of online banking services, including savings accounts, loans, and investment options.
  2. Sony Bank: Backed by the well-known electronics company Sony, Sony Bank provides online banking services that encompass savings accounts, loans, investment products, and more. It leverages the brand’s reputation for reliability and innovation to attract customers seeking modern financial solutions.
  1. Credit Unions:

Credit unions in Japan focus on offering cooperative financial services to their members, often based on common affiliations, such as workplaces or residential areas. These institutions prioritize the interests of their members and promote savings and lending within their communities. While not as prevalent as other types of banks, credit unions are still an important part of the Japanese banking landscape. Two notable examples are the following:

  1. Zentoei Credit Union (in Japanese, no automatic translation): Zentoei Credit Union serves its members with a focus on cooperative financial solutions. It caters to specific groups of people, fostering a sense of community and shared financial goals.
  2. Dai-ichi Kangyo Credit Union: Dai-ichi Kangyo Credit Union provides financial services to its members, drawing from its cooperative principles to offer tailored banking solutions based on common affiliations.

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How can I apply for a corporate bank account in Japan?

Securing a corporate bank account in Japan involves more than just filling out an application form. It requires a good understanding of the essential details and steps to manage it effectively. This includes choosing the right bank that suits your company’s needs, understanding the rules and regulations, and most importantly, making sure you have all the necessary paperwork ready, such as company registration certificates and financial statements. 

Not paying attention to these details can cause problems and delays. So, it’s important to approach the process with clear and careful consideration. In this section, we will outline some key components of an application. 

Do I need a stamp?

Japanese stamp

Yes, you need a stamp to open a corporate bank account in Japan and maybe a few of them. Seals, or inkan, hold a significant cultural and legal significance in Japan. They are used as personal signatures and replace a signature in most instances, despite efforts by the government to have them phased out. 

The three stamps you’ll need are the following:

  • Personal stamp – This stamp is not often used in official bank documents but may be requested for further identification. 
  • Bank stamp – This stamp contains the company’s name and is technically interchangeable with the representative director’s stamp but some applications require both. No registration is required for this stamp. 
  • Representative Director’s Stamp [代表取締役印] [実印] This stamp is officially registered with the Legal Affairs Bureau [法務局] and bears both the company name and the engraving of the Representative Director’s seal [代表取締役印] from the Representative Director’s registration card.

Yet, the stamp isn’t actually written in many application requirements because it tends to be a given. In applications, one of the most requested documents is the Seal Registration certificate or Hōjin no Inkan shōmeisho (法人の印鑑証明書). A seal registration is a crucial legal document in Japan that certifies the use of seals (hanko/inkan) in corporate or organizational transactions. This certificate verifies the authority and legitimacy of seals used by businesses and other entities operating within the country.

In a corporate or organizational context, seals are essential for validating agreements, authorizing transactions, and executing legal documents. To know more about registering your seal at your city office and purchasing it from a local store, you might be interested in this article from Tokyo Cheapo on getting your seal!

The Seal Registration Certificate serves as a form of documentation and authentication for the seals used by a business. Here are some key aspects of this certificate:

  1. Identification: The certificate includes essential information about the organization, such as its name, registration number, and address. This information helps identify the entity that owns the seals.
  1. Seal requirements: Be sure to only certify seals ranging from 8-25 mm with an outer border. Seals with nicknames are not permitted. 
  1. Authorized Personnel: It lists the names of individuals who are authorized to use the organization’s seals. This helps prevent unauthorized persons from misusing the seals.
  1. Periodic Renewal: Seal Registration Certificates typically have an expiration date, and organizations are required to renew them to ensure that the information remains current.

In Japan, the process of obtaining a Seal Registration Certificate involves submitting an application to the local municipal office with your seal registration card. If you have a MyNumber card, you can obtain this certificate at a convenience store machine. The handling fee for one certificate in a municipal office is 300 JPY.

In short, the Seal Registration Certificate is a crucial document that safeguards the integrity of seals used in corporate transactions in Japan. It serves as a tool for authentication and validation, ensuring the legality and authority of seals in various legal, financial, and official contexts.

Do I need to speak Japanese?

English banking in Japan is limited and not recommended. While SMBC is well-known for better English service than the rest, this service is not included in applying for a corporate bank account in Japan. Translators may or may not be rejected so it’s best not to take the chance. Additionally, all applications must be filled in Japanese. 

speaking in Japanese when making a corporate bank account in Japan

What are AML and KYC?

In Japan, banks strictly adhere to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. To comply, businesses are required to provide essential documentation and information that have been listed above and below. Japanese banks have robust AML and KYC procedures, including customer identification and monitoring for suspicious activities. Businesses must provide information about their identities, ownership, and operations, along with documentation to verify beneficial owners, funds’ sources, and transaction purposes. This approach ensures transparency and aligns with Japan’s commitment to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

How do I know which bank to apply to?

Choosing a bank to open a corporate bank account in Japan with is a daunting task. With a diverse array of banks and financial institutions available, making an informed decision requires careful consideration of your business’s requirements and preferences. For personal guidance, listen to our podcast on Banking and Loans in Japan with Larry Greenberg, CEO of Urban Connections, where he gives his own personal bank recommendations in Japan.

Think you’re ready to open a corporate bank account in Japan? To help you with which bank to choose, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for the big three banks along with their requirements and application procedures so you can see which ones meet your needs. Afterward, you will find some general information on other popular banks in Japan.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC)

Requirements

  • Seal Registration Certificate
  • Certificate of all Historical matters (Rireki Jikou Zenbu Shomeisho or 履歴事項全部証明書)
  • Lease contract of your main office
  • Identity verification documents of the person opening the account (English identification if the person opening the account is a foreigner)
  • Sublease agreement (if the tenant of the main office is a separate corporation)
  • Power of attorney (If the person completing the procedure is not the representative).
  • Visa Status Required: Employment Visa

Pros

  • Cheapest online banking service
  • Support for opening corporate bank accounts for business entities of non-Japanese corporations in Japan
  • Flexible online banking with numerous options

Cons

  • Hefty documentation requirements
  • Long wait times 

Other key points

  • Minimum Wait Time: 1 month approximately after submission of documents
  • What you can avail with the Corporate Bank Account in Japan:
    • Corporate credit card
    • Free sending and receiving payments internationally (Global e-Trade)

Application procedure

Applying to SMBC for a corporate bank account in Japan is divided into two separate flows depending on whether you apply online or offline. The table below outlines who can apply for each application type to guide you on which would best suit you based on your status. 

Application typeWhen opening a corporate account onlineStatus required
Online applicationsWeb-only applicationCustomers whose legal entity is a corporationCustomers whose business is other than investment business, financial business, or special purpose company
Customers whose representative is the person completing the procedure on the web (*1)
Customers who can receive mailed documents at the address (*2) of the certified copy ( certificate of all history items or Rireki Jikou Zenbu Shomeisho or 履歴事項全部証明書) (forwarding is not possible)
Pre-registration online and then complete at the bankCustomers with a corporate status labeled as “Limited,” “Joint Venture,” “Joint Name,” or “Limited Partnership Company.”Customers whose primary business falls within the categories of investment business, financial business, or special purpose companies.Customers whose designated agent is the individual responsible for completing the online procedure.Customers whose address on the certified copy (certificate of complete history) lacks a room number and building name.Customers utilizing virtual office spaces.
In-bank applicationsIndividual business ownersCustomers of associations/foundations without juridical status (associations, industry groups, circles, etc.)Customers who are foreign corporations, national/local governments, or independent administrative institutions
Customers who cannot apply using a computer
(*1)You need to have either a driver’s license or My Number card and a smartphone.
(*1)When opening a corporate account online, you will need to verify your identity using a smartphone camera and upload various documents. Please note that if the uploaded image is unclear, you may need to visit our store.
(*2)We will mail the documents you need to start using the service to the address listed by “simple registered mail” with no forwarding required. Please note that if the room number or building name is not listed, or if it is a virtual office, etc., it will not be eligible for online completion.

The following flowchart gives you a visual on how to apply for a corporate bank account in Japan through the web. Note that for in-bank applications, the bank only requires you to go to the nearest bank to your office and bring your requirements. 

Regarding submitting required documents for a corporate bank account in Japan, please prepare a PDF file when uploading, a copy when mailing, and the original when visiting a store.

Mizuho Financial Group 

Requirements

  • Certificate of all Historical matters (Rireki Jikou Zenbu Shomeisho or 履歴事項全部証明書)
  • Presentation of the tōkibotōhon during the interview (notarized registration documents)
  • Submission of ID or document from the representative and/or interviewee that can confirm the name, address, date of birth, etc. of the representative, corporate seal (if applying in-bank)
  • Visa Status Required: Business Manager Visa

Pros

  • Mizuho offers the cheapest option for making transfers through online banking.

Cons

Other key points

  • Minimum Wait Time: 1 week from the initial interview
  • What you can avail with the Corporate Bank Account in Japan:
    • Corporate Credit Card
    • Mizuho’s internet banking service

Application procedure

Mizuho Bank allows you to apply for opening a corporate bank account in Japan either online or in-bank. For a list of compatible bank branches for opening a corporate bank account online, check this list of branches.

Applying to Mizuho for a corporate bank account in Japan is divided into two separate flows depending on whether you apply online or offline. The table below outlines who can apply for each application type to guide you on which would best suit you based on your status. 

Application typeStatus required
Online applicationsAnyone except the following:

Customers whose country of establishment (head office location) stated on the registration certificate is other than JapanCustomers whose industry is a financial institutionCustomers whose main business purpose is investment management
An unlisted company whose investment income ratio is 50% or more of the total income in the previous business year, or whose assets generate investment income is 50% % or more of business entities
Newly established customers whose tax residence country of the beneficial controller is other than Japan and there is no immediately preceding business year (Check this list for confirmation of beneficial controller)

In-bank applicationsSole proprietors and (optional) group customers
Customers who wish to open an account other than a savings account
Customers who already have a corporate account with Mizuho BankCustomers who wish to apply and have an interview at a store
Customers whose registered head office location (country of establishment) is outside of Japan

The following flowchart gives you a visual on how to apply for a corporate bank account in Japan through the web. Note that for in-bank applications, the bank only requires you to go to the nearest bank to your office and bring your requirements. 

As a note, applying online requires you to apply for Mizuho Business WEB, Mizuho Web Form Service, and Mizuho Business Debit altogether as one.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG)

Requirements

  • Seal Registration Certificate
  • Certificate of all Historical matters (Rireki Jikou Zenbu Shomeisho or 履歴事項全部証明書)
  • ID for the company representative and interviewee (if separate people)
  • Interview with a bank employee (after the application)
  • Visa Status Required: Business Manager Visa

Pros

  • Cheapest online banking service
  • Support for opening corporate bank accounts for business entities of non-Japanese corporations in Japan
  • Same-day walk-in applications are allowed
  • The online interview process is relatively straightforward and quick to arrange

Cons

  • Inflexible online banking with fewer options than competitors
  • Long wait times (at least a month for opening a corporate bank account)
  • BizStation has set processing times, with no payments processed between midnight and 8:00 a.m., and transfers after 3:00 p.m.
  • Fees for transfers are fixed, which may not be cost-effective for certain transaction sizes
  • The interface of the online banking platform is considered extremely outdated when accessed via a web browser

Other key points

  • Maximum Wait Time: 4 weeks (From application to completion)
  • What you can avail:
    • Corporate credit card
    • Free sending and receiving payments internationally (Global e-Trade)

Application procedure

Applying to MUFJ for a corporate bank account in Japan divides its applicants into whether they’re up for the challenge of opening up a domestic business or not. The flow chart below outlines who can apply for each application type to guide you on which would best suit you based on your status. 

MUFJ Bank allows you to apply for opening a corporate bank account either online or in-bank. However, some banks only allow in-bank procedures. We strongly recommend navigating the MUFJ Bank website for lists of bank branches that are compatible with your preferred procedure. 

The following flowchart gives you a visual on how to apply through the web. Note that for in-bank applications, the bank only requires you to go to the nearest bank to your office and bring your requirements. 

These three banks have the best outlines in the banking industry for the corporate bank account in Japan niche but how do you get a bank account if you aren’t in Japan? A few business processing outsourcing companies actually offer this service and we are in touch with some that can help create SMBC accounts. Contact Scaling Your Company to get in touch with these companies if you’re serious about entering the Japanese market and willing to pay medium-tier rates (100,000 yen+ monthly). 

Otherwise, the big three banks offer startup accelerators that may allow you to apply after the program. One known example is Mizuho. The rules may have changed or may change over time but look out for these opportunities. To learn more about startup accelerators, be sure to read through our article on Top 10 Start-up Accelerators in Japan.  

Resona Bank

  • Requirements: Seal Registration Certificate, Certificate of All Historical matters (Rireki Jikou Zenbu Shomeisho or 履歴事項全部証明書) dated within three months (shorter than the usual six months), Two pieces of identification for the representative opening the account, Lease agreement for the main business premises
  • Visa Status Required: Business Manager Visa
  • Minimum Wait Time: 10 days
  • Pros:
    • Well-located for businesses in major metropolitan areas.
    • The app and well-designed online banking service allow for streamlined financial management.
  • Cons:
    • Requires more documentation compared to most other banks, resulting in a paperwork-heavy application process.
    • The online banking service is relatively expensive, which may not be economical for smaller businesses.

Japan Post Bank

  • Requirements: Paper-Based Application Form, Original Registration Documents, Two Pieces of ID, Corporate Number, original certificate of Seal Registration (Rireki Jikou Zenbu Shomeisho or 履歴事項全部証明書), a list of company officials, balance and income sheets, a lease for your main business premises, and a copy of the Representative Director’s residence card (if they are not a Japanese national) 
  • Visa Status Required: Employment Visa
  • Minimum Wait Time: 4 weeks
  • Pros:
    • Low transfer fees with the online banking service (Yucho Biz Direct).
    • High level of scrutiny during account opening, resulting in a very low rejection rate.
    • Relatively affordable monthly fees for online banking.
  • Cons:
    • The application process is inefficient and laborious, involving extensive documentation.
    • The online banking system is considered archaic and may not offer the same level of modern features and convenience as some competitors.

Can my application for a corporate bank account in Japan be denied?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: In an article by the official Kobe City website, we learn three main reasons behind denied applications for a corporate bank account in Japan. Banks take tight measures in seeking a company’s legitimacy. This can be done by taking a look at three factors. 

  1. First, they will look at your capital. If it is too small, the bank may be concerned about how feasible it will be for you to sustain a corporate bank account in Japan. 
  2. Second, concerns about wire fraud and other banking-related crimes in Japan prompt banks to be stricter. For example, if your company does not have a physical office, you might not be deemed credible enough. 
  3. Lastly, if your company seems like its purpose does not align with the bank’s code of conduct or corporate responsibility in general, your application will likely be denied.

Final Thoughts

In the realm of Japanese corporate banking, thorough knowledge and meticulous preparation are your best allies. A corporate bank account in Japan is the foundation of your financial identity as a business, offering tailored services crucial for managing transactions, salaries, and credibility with partners and clients. Choosing the right bank in this case is like picking which battles you’d like to fight with all the pros and cons of each one. Most people, though, would recommend SMBC to start out, because of the more relaxed Visa requirements. With any choice, you’re bound to run through problems if you don’t prepare so start collecting your documents and ensure your business is well-equipped for success in Japan’s financial landscape.

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