31 August 2005

Which Bank?

I now have a real Japanese bank account. Last week, I went to the Ikebukuro branch of Shinsei Bank to open an account. Things were slightly complicated as my alien registration card hadn't arrived yet and I don't yet have a mobile phone, but despite these minor hiccups, I have now started a whole new way of banking.

Upon arrival at the bank, a finely dressed security guard asked me my business.

‘Well, I'd like to open an account at this very fine establishment.’
‘Ah hai, please go upstairs and you will be attended to.’
‘Why thank you.’

(Please note that he spoke in Japanese and I spoke in English and neither of us understood the other, but this was the general feeling I got from our exchange.)

Halfway up the stairs I am met by a dapper young man who ushers me up the remainder of the way. I look around a large room plushly carpeted and full of beautiful people. It makes me think of an old style bar and I am waiting for a martini to be placed in my hand and for Frank Sinatra to appear.

A lovely looking woman steps forward to greet me and sits me down on one of the comfortable armchairs dotted around the room. I give her the receipt for my alien registration card and she disappears for 5 minutes or so. When she returns, looking serene and impossibly impeccable, she helps me fill out an application form and that's it! I had my passport with me but no need to show that. In the eyes of the Japanese, a couple of documents from the Kita-ku ward office hold far more influence than an Australian passport.

The most difficult thing about the whole process was deciding which bloody colour to choose for my ATM card. Seriously. There was a mellow shade of blue, my signature black, racy hot pink, lime green and a couple of other colours I don’t remember as I was too overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the cards before me. In case you’re wondering, I chose the pink to match my pink mini iPod.

I was told that I would get my PIN and card delivered within 7 – 10 days and they packed me on my way with many thank-you’s and lots of bowing. I honestly think it will be a pleasure to do banking in the future.

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