Jul 20, 2018

On second names and bank troubles: an anecdote

On second names and bank troubles: an anecdote photo

Raise your hand if you have more than one name on your birth certificate. Now, wave that same hand if you include a middle name (aka, your mother's maiden name) in your legal documents (e.g, passport). Now, vigorously wave that same hand of yours if you've experienced troubles in your life in Japan apparently caused by your name. 

One of the first things that any foreigner will experience as he is about to establish temporary residence in Japan is officially creating his name in katakana. It is that name which will be honored in most government and private establishments, and seldom will you find a company or organization that will allow you to fill in your name as shown in your passport.     

If you're one of those with only one name, or has no problem dropping the middle name, then filling out forms should be easy and therefore, you can consider yourself lucky. I, however, have a second name and my mother's maiden name is written in both my passport and residence card. As I began to settle in Japan, as a matter of preference I wanted to make sure that the name that will be placed in all the documents that I will obtain will be uniform. That, I didn't realize soon enough, would turn out to be rather difficult to achieve. 

Let me share with you what happened to me when I once applied for an account with one of the net banks in this country.  

When I tried to open an ordinary savings account online with one of the net banks, I had to type my first and second names together as their system would not allow names to be separated by a space. I was able to upload the identification documents that they requested me to upload and they approved my application with the documents I submitted. A few days later, I received an email saying my account was approved and my card will be available in a few days, and shortly after that, I got a notice from the post office about my card. 

On second names and bank troubles: an anecdote photo

When I went to the post office to personally receive my card, the post office refused to release it to me because of a discrepancy in my name. The discrepancies were: (1) there is a middle name in my residence card and none on my application, and (2) there is a space in between my first and second name as written in my residence card, which was not present in the letter I received. 

I have repeatedly explained myself to the post office personnel and have even asked them to get in touch with the bank. Still the bank would not allow the post office to release my bank card to me just because of those discrepancies.  

Note that I was already at the post office window, about to receive the card. I already saw the post office personnel holding my card, but still did not release it to me and decided to send it back to the bank instead. 

Also, note that the bank had previously accepted the identification documents that I have submitted through their website, and it was those same identification documents that I presented to the post office. 

When I tried to explain my situation via email in simple English, the bank replied that they will only speak to someone who can speak in Japanese. Moreover, they demanded that I find someone who can speak in Japanese before they can attend to me. Worst yet, they sent me mail requesting that I just re-submit my documents. That definitely got me infuriated.

On second names and bank troubles: an anecdote photo

I finally got my card after having written stern emails (in English, still) to the Japan Financial Council, with copies sent to some major dailies hoping to raise awareness to (in my opinion) the undesirable customer service situation in the banking industry in Japan.  

Yes, I believe customer service here, particularly in the banks, remains wanting because even to this day it still feels unwelcoming to, if not discriminatory against foreigners living and working in Japan. One article published many years ago even said that "…customer service in Japan, while good, has become soulless, inflexible and hollow". This is sad since we are actually contributing to the Japanese economy by working decently. 

To Japan's credit, though, lately companies have been incorporating the alphabet into their forms. More and more establishments have been allowing users to type in their names as stated in their passports. However, I am in the opinion that Japan still has a long way to go regarding their processes of identification data gathering and storage. With the upcoming major sports events where Japan will play host, and also with the ongoing globalization drive plus the country's desire to welcome more migrants, Japan has to start making their online forms more foreigner-friendly, and I am certainly not pertaining to language.



A teacher by profession, yet always a student of life. Currently living in Kanto, but in love with Kyushu.


  • helloalissa

    on Jul 20

    That sounds so frustrating. I feel lucky that there's no problem with my name on the cash cards I have (family name, first name, middle name) written in katakana. It is a little strange that the bank cards have names only in katakana, while my bank accounts show both alphabet and katakana. (Even though my last name is Japanese, they insist on only using alphabet or katakana on all documents here.)

  • edthethe

    on Jul 21

    I had this exact same problem when I tried to get a credit card. I ended up just giving up.

  • Candiajia1

    on Jul 21

    I can identify with that. Very frustrating. My passport (and Residence Card and Health Insurance card...and everything else) has my maiden name attached but with the word 'nee' before my maiden name. For example Joanna Sarah Newton-John nee Newton..... everything I write here i have to put "nee....and my maiden name!!! I keep explaining that even though its in my passport its just there to indicate my family name before marriage and is not necessary when I'm writing my name. They still say I must write it like that or else it is not me. sigh. I just try to remember always to do it. They had to correct my baby's Birth Certificate because naturally i dont write my name like that and subsequently forgot to do it. Had to get it fixed ASAP as they said it was not me who had the baby if the "nee..." was not affixed. Hope they sort this soon because it is just silly.