International Credit/Debit Cards
Most bank ATMs in Japan accept only cards issued by Japanese banks, but ATMs at Seven-Eleven convenience stores, post offices, and Shinsei Bank accept foreign bank cards operating on the Cirrus and PLUS systems. Be sure to check the following with your bank or credit card company before using international ATMs:
Upon Arrival in Japan
TUJ recommends you have 80,000 – 100,000 yen with you when you arrive in Japan (you can exchange money at the airport). Banks are not open on weekdays after 15:00 or on weekends, so you may not be able to withdraw money from overseas accounts or exchange travelers checks on a weekend or in the evening. In your first week or so in Tokyo, you will likely need resources to help get settled, buy books, and purchase items for everyday use. Be sure you have additional funds available when this money is depleted.
For U.S. Students Using Financial Aid
Be sure you have sufficient funds available while your aid is being processed and disbursed. Disbursement does not take place until after you register for classes. Your funds can come as quickly as one week after classes start but could take up to six weeks. Please read the U.S. Financial Aid page for details on disbursements.
Money Exchange and Traveler's Checks
All banks in Japan displaying an Authorized Foreign Exchange sign can exchange currency and cash traveler's checks. Exchange rates are usually displayed at the foreign-exchange counter.
Students staying under TUJ visa-sponsorship for more than one semester are encouraged to open a Japanese bank account. TUJ wires tuition refunds to bank accounts, as well. Many businesses also rely on bank transfers for the payment of bills and providing salaries to their staff.
Most major banks are open weekdays from 09:00 to 15:00. In Japan, due dates for many kinds of payments fall on the 20th, 25th, or the last day of every month and banks tend to be crowded. When possible, we advise that you take care of your banking matters earlier in the month or through an ATM.
Note: utility bills with a bar code can be paid at convenience stores.
Most bank ATMs are available past their regular business hours. The machines found in convenience stores, for example, are often available around the clock. However, you will pay additional fees for withdrawing money during non-banking hours or on weekends, even if you are withdrawing money from your own bank.
How to Open a Bank Account
By opening an account, you will be able to deposit, transfer money, and arrange automatic withdrawal for rent, utilities, mobile phone, etc.
What You Need:
- Residence/Alien Registration Card
- Address and phone number in Japan
- Personal seal (inkan) or signature
- Official Residency Record (for Shinsei bank)
- School ID (for Mizuho Bank Azabu branch)
Passbook and ATM Card
Depending on the bank, you will receive a passbook 通帳 (tsucho) which is either issued on the spot (JP bank), or will be mailed to you within 7-10 business days by registered mail). You must be present and sign for the mail in order to receive it or your mail will be held at the post office up to 10 days after initial delivery. Re-delivery can be arranged by calling the number on the delivery notice.
Receiving Money from Abroad
There are several ways you can receive money in Japan from overseas.
For students who do not speak Japanese, finding a part-time job may be difficult. Part-time jobs at TUJ exist, but students need to consult departments individually. The Career Development Office on the 6th Floor has information on companies in the area looking for part-time workers, Check the part-time section on Blackboard and the 2nd floor bulletin board in Azabu Hall.
Useful websites for students who do not speak Japanese:
Employment Tax information
If you work in Japan, check if your company does the year-end (tax) adjustment 年末調整 (nen-matsuchosei) on your behalf. If not, be sure to keep your certificate of income and withholding tax 源泉徴収表 (gen-sen-choshu-hyo) that you will receive in January. You can use this to file your taxes in February at the city/ward office where you live. If you only work one part time job, your company will complete your income taxes on your behalf.
Tax Information Center
- 03-3821-9070 (English)
- Weekdays 09:00 - 17:00.
- Information about Income Tax — National Tax Agency
Living on a Budget in Tokyo
Tokyo has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, but it is not really that different from London, New York, Paris or any other major city in developed countries. Along with the cost comes unparalleled service, quality control, and the privilege of being in one of the world's greatest cities. For those on a limited budget, it can be a challenge to constrain spending, but it certainly is possible and many students do live on a tight budget while studying at TUJ.
While in Japan, Do as the Japanese Do
Much of the spending done by non-Japanese comes from a tendency for newcomers to live a kind of extended tourist life -- overspending on entertainment, eating out, or shopping.
A positive aspect of Japan's highly developed economy is a wide range of options, with prices to match. You can get just about anything in Japan , but you often have to pay a premium to get imported items that are not the daily fare of a typical Japanese family.
The daily shopping for food and routine items are best done in local supermarkets, street markets (商店街-shotengai) or at discount chains like Hanamasa, Okay, Olympic, Don Quixote or any number of 100 yen stores (dollar stores).
Living like a Japanese person in practical terms would involve not just shopping locally, but also eating a genuinely Japanese diet. Meat in general is particularly expensive, thus the main staples are those that are readily available and cheaper – seafood, rice, and vegetables.
The Economies of Scale
A Japanese family eating together incurs a considerably less per person cost than a single person who makes each meal for him/herself. However, you can achieve similar economies of scale if you batch cook and store portions for future meals. Many students simply eat out rather than go to the trouble to pull together a meal. While 400-500 yen for a beef bowl doesn’t seem too expensive, over time, this can begin to really add up, not to mention the health costs of eating fast food on a regular basis.
If you do eat out, look closely at the menu costs: often a drink will cost 1/3 to 1/2 of the food portion, and so you can save money simply by not ordering drinks. Note as well that except for family restaurants, it is rare for a typical Japanese restaurant to offer free beverage refills, so always check to confirm.
Choose Your Battles, Protect Your Money
One of the great things about being in Tokyo is all the wonderful food and consumer items that are available, but to "splurge" on a daily basis will undoubtedly affect your budget. While it may seem unduly restrictive, consider the possibility of eating out (and drinking) only on weekends or special occasions.
Often students end up spending a disproportionate percentage of their overall budget in the first few weeks after they arrive as they want to explore new places and go out with friends. This may affect your ability to budget money for TUJ activities or overnight trips and excursions and limit your choices later in the semester. If you intend on joining school-arranged outings, we suggest you register and pay at the beginning of the semester; otherwise, those funds will disappear incrementally and not be available later in the semester.