Another reader left a comment asking about bank accounts. As many of you already know U.S. citizens the world over are seeing their local bank accounts closed. Banks in many countries have declared US citizens (and US Persons) persona non grata because of the American Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which obliges them to report these accounts to the United States.
Alas, I cannot speak to that personally. My spouse opened an account with a local Japanese bank about a month ago - a process that meant that he had to get a hanko. This a personal stamp/seal that is used in lieu of a written signature and it looks like this:
|Photo from https://japan-cc.com/hanko.htm|
Nezumi-san left this response in the previous post. Very interesting. Thank you!The result is that my name is not on our local Japanese bank account and so FATCA is not an issue for me or the Japanese bank since my spouse is French and FATCA only applies to US citizens. Can I still use the account? Absolutely. I brought the passbook and the hanko down to the cellphone store and was able to get a phone and bill the charges to that local account. And all this leads to a very important question: Do I have to report this account on my FBAR (FinCEN Report 114)? My name is not on the account but I can, using a debit card or the hanko/passbook, access those funds. Is there someone at Treasury in Washington D.C. I can annoy with this question? :-)
"As for the bank account thing, joint accounts are not common here -- in fact, I'm not sure they're even allowed. Husband and wife will usually both have their own accounts; you should be able to open one of your own. As far as the wife controlling the purse strings, that is the traditional model: husband brings home the paycheck, wife controls access to the money, giving husband small allowance each month. But that is by no means universal, and in any case does not preclude the wife having her own account. Most do, I think, even in the traditional mold, for "rainy day" savings (hesokuri)."
Some readers expressed surprised that Japan is so high-tech. I find that to be a very reasonable reaction. Consider the images of France that diffused all over the world: bucolic pictures of happy French farmers, wine, cheese and little local stores. Go to France and the reality is something else. It's not that the images are entirely false, they are just not the whole story. French farmers are not always happy (imagine that), not every French knows or cares about wine, and many people buy their cheese (and bread) from the hypermarket chain store. Yes, the French countryside is beautiful but there is also that monstrosity called La Defense with its skyscrapers and concrete jungles.
Same applies to Japan (or any other country). There are the images that appear in magazines and on TV; there is our interpretation of those images and the emotions they evoke; and then there is the more complicated reality. Japan is a modern country with a lot of high-tech products and services that make daily life much easier.
For an example of very practical tech here in Japan, have a look at the automated car parks. Our building has one and it's wonderful. Drive the car onto a turnstile, insert card, push button and the car gets parked automatically. No driving deep into the bowels of the earth with its tight turns and low ceilings only to arrive at the parking space and having to get out in the cold (or the heat) and then taking the elevator (and the day's shopping) back up to the apartment.
Here is a video of a very fancy system in a high-end condo (our apartment has a simpler one but the principle is the same). Enjoy.