Important things when living in Japan for foreigners

Hello, everyone.

This is Ghana from Hiroshima University.

And, yup, this is my second year joining as one of HSAA members.


For this year, I would like to start a new topic about important things or rules that we need to follow and to be extra careful about when living in Japan in general, and perhaps also specifically in Hiroshima some day.

This is the first post from me, and hopefully the other members will also chime in to add more contents because there are actually so many important points that we, as foreigners, need to follow.

And, it is going to be way more convenient if we learn about these rules before we come to Japan.


So, living abroad is always full of challenges.

Each country has its own set of rules for every citizen and resident that they need to keep, and how we adjust to that set of rules is always different for every person based on our background.

Japan is one of many countries that are considerably pretty strict with their rules, especially when it's related to authorization.


When we first arrive in Japan and are about to start our lives here, one of the very first things that we need to do is to register ourselves at the city hall, and then followed by opening our bank account(s).

Both of them are very important and will affect so many things in our daily lives in Japan.

However, it is so difficult when we have a limited language skill to communicate with the civil servants or the bank staff to take care of this important stuff.

I was in that kind of situation when I first arrived here.

In most cases, our university will provide us with a student supporter (a Japanese student or a foreign student who is fluent in Japanese) who will help us get through this matter, but of course, even discussing this stuff in English also presents an additional challenge both for us (if we are not an English native speaker) and our student supporter.


In this post, I would like to share about several of those important points that we need to be extremely careful about during this vital stage of living in Japan.


The first thing that I would like to highlight is our signature.

Our signature is the one and only way for us to authorize every transaction and service that we do and get with every corporation, organization, or institution, not only in Japan but almost everywhere in the world.

However, Japanese people have their own unique way for authorization, which is in the form of a stamp/seal (印鑑/いんかん).

They engrave their family name onto the stamp and imprint it with red ink.


When we first register our residency at the city hall, they will ask us to provide one of these two forms of authorization.

As foreigners, we might easily opt for a signature, unless we already have our own hanko (判子) at that time.

And that is totally fine.

We then can use that already-registered signature of ours to open our bank account(s) and use all other services in Japan, such as smartphones, internet service providers, and even also credit cards, as long as we keep using the same signature for authorization.


The problem might arise when we want to follow the tradition in Japan and make our own hanko after that.

And I might add, we might eventually end up having to make our own hanko because several services are not available if we don't have one.

One very important thing here: our hanko will not hold any power for authorization if it is not registered yet at the city hall, so do not ever try to use that unregistered hanko that we just got to authorize an item delivered to our place because an unwanted repercussion may follow.

Even after registering our hanko, the civil servants at the city hall will warn us that for some transactions or contracts, because our hanko is already registered there, our signature will not hold any power anymore.

Therefore, it is better if we also register our hanko at our bank(s) and other services that we are currently using.

And, we must never lose it.


This is all from me now.

We will add some more information about this topic in the near future.

If you want to learn more about this inkan or hanko tradition in Japan, you can check this site: https://www.smejapan.com/…/company-…/hanko-inkan-seal-japan/