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I'm quite confused about what the process is regarding getting settled in Japan.

Once someone gets a work visa sponsored by a company, how does one get an apartment if the apartment requires a phone number and a bank account, the bank account requires a residence and the phone requires a bank account?

It seems like an recursive chicken-and-egg problem and I'm not sure which I'm supposed to get first without having the other.

Any tips much appreciated!

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You can use any address for bank account. Also you can use any phone number for apartment and not every apartment requires bank account.

  • I'm not sure this is correct. The bank account address needs to reflect the one on the back of the visa from what I've read. – DaniG2k May 23 '17 at 14:29
  • You can register any address for resident card. Noone ask any evidence you live there. – Rambalac May 24 '17 at 11:24
  • It's been a long long time, but I'm pretty sure my first bank account was registered with my employer's address. And stayed that way through four or five apartment moves. – Kent May 25 '17 at 0:07
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Yes it is a Catch-22 but the key is that the phone number doesn't have to be yours.

It's been a few years since I did it now, but this is the order I think will be most effective.

  1. Get a contact number for yourself. You can register a 050 VOIP number via Skype, for example. You can also get a data-only SIM card if you want to be able to use it outside. Or you can use a friend's number, work number, whatever (but if you tell people it's not your personal number when registering for stuff, things could get awkward).
  2. Get an emergency contact that speaks Japanese and has a phone number. Useful for forms. Maybe your employer?
  3. Find somewhere to live. It can be anywhere that doesn't mind you registering it as your residence. Register your address at the local authority and get it recorded on your residence card. (Yes, this is the step that also triggers your My Number generation - but that didn't exist when I did this so I'm not sure how it works for new residents).
  4. Buy an inkan of your name (or a butchered version of it that fits) to act as your Japanese signature.
  5. Use your address-inscribed residence card, contact number, and inkan to open a bank account (catch-22 item #1)
  6. If you want, use your residence card, contact number, and bank account to get an apartment (catch-22 item #2). Be aware that many places also require a guarantor too - good luck with that
  7. (Can be done before the bank account, if you pay by card). Use your residence card, contact number, and maybe bank account to get a proper phone number that accepts calls and SMS (catch-22 item #3)
  8. Use your new phone number to register a Line account (catch-22 item #4)

Then you just need the holy-grail that is the Japanese credit card. My main advice for that would be to make sure that the work number your provide goes to the department that will actually confirm your employment details to the credit card company - not just a generic front desk or something. There are other non-credit plastic options that are easier to get - for example Rakuten Bank does a debit card, and Line Pay does a prepaid card.

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After some head bashing, it seems the process is as follows:

  • Try to get a temporary phone or SIM card.
  • Find an apartment that does not require paying via a Japanese bank account.
  • Once that's done, go to the local bureau and register as living there.
  • They will write your address on your resident card (visa) and send a MyNumber card to that address.
  • Go to the bank with the details from your visa and your temporary phone.
  • Open a bank account.
  • Return the temporary phone.
  • Open a phone contract using the newly created bank account.
  • Notify the bank of the changed phone number.

It's quite convoluted, and really seems Japan is still not exactly a foreigner-friendly country. These steps may also vary depending on what bank or apartment agent you are going through.

  • 1
    Why "resident card (visa)"? Residence cards and visas are two completely different things. The address is written on your residence card, period. – fkraiem May 24 '17 at 8:44

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