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Miyagi AJET - Newcomers' Info - General






Getting Started in Japan


When you first arrive in this third world-first world country. There are several things you will have to do, or have done to you. First, deal with the fact that everything in this country takes longer than it should. Once you realize that it is not just because you are a foreigner (though sometimes that will cause delays as well) you will hopefully begin to deal with delays patiently and develop the inner peace that I have never managed to develop (I still spend a great deal of time cursing the incredible slowness, inefficiency and inconvenience that one so often encounters in Japanese society). Anyway on to my explanations...




This is the driver's license-like card that you must have with you at all times. It tells helpful police officers who want to deport you that you actually have a reason to be here. Until you receive this piece of bureaucracy, you should carry your passport with you. I have never heard of anyone having any trouble in Miyagi with these checks, but you should be aware of the rule. Once you have your gaijin card, it is best to leave your passport in a safe place.


HANKO (Japanese equivalent of a signature)


This is the stamp that will be made for you to use when you sign anything official (it is especially important for PAYDAY!). You should actually carry this with you at all times, because most banks and post offices will not let you make a cash withdrawal without it. Because it is a registered stamp, you should be careful that you don't lose it. Officially, any person who has your stamp has the right to access your bank accounts and sign your name (or so I understand).




In Japan there are two different banking systems: the post office and official banks. I have found that the post office is the more convenient system - especially in small towns. The main reason for this is that regular bank cash machines cannot communicate with each other. Therefore, you must use the cash machine of the bank you have an account with as there isnít a network system.


The post office system is very extensive and therefore you may use any cash station in the country. But basically, when it comes to Sundays and national holidays with either system you are pretty much screwed if you need to get money.  Sendai station is the only place I know to get money during limited hours on Sundays. The best advice is to make sure you have enough cash on Fridays before the machines close (yes, they CLOSE).


Cash machines here do not provide 24-hour service. They are usually open only an hour or so longer than the regular office hours. What is the point of having the machines then? you may be asking. I haven't figured that out yet. It may be just a play to appear advanced to the outside world.


In order to set up either of these accounts to stash your huge cash envelopes every 21st of the month, you must simply go to the local branch of your post office or bank, with your hanko and money. It is best to take an interpreter along, because there will probably be tons of paperwork you will need help with (speaking to those who are coming to this country illiterate, as I did). Once you receive your cash card and book, you are on your way. One word of warning: donít try to write in your account book yourself (as I did). The handy post office/bank computer will update your book every time you make a deposit or withdrawal.




The most convenient way to do this is through automatic transfer. When you are applying for services, you may fill out an extra form, and then the offices will direct debit your bank or post office account. The only problem with this system is that sometimes certain services will only have a relationship with certain banks, so for some bills you may have to remember to make the payments on your own. Usually, you can make your remittances at any local bank, post office or even some convenience stores. Just be sure to remember which bills you have to make an effort to pay, and which ones are done automatically and when they are debited.




You probably received a lot of information at the Tokyo and Sendai Orientations. Your best bet is to actually look through it (especially the Tokyo information). A lot of companies use that time to introduce you to the services that they provide AT A DlSCOUNT RATE.  If you want to subscribe to an English newspaper or try out some foreign food importing systems, these are the best deals you will get.






This page was last updated: 02/14/00

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