Bank Account, Mobile Number, Apartment - Which Comes First after Moving to Japan?

Photo of Michelle Tan

Michelle Tan

Software Developer at TokyoDev

When you move to Japan for a long-term stay, you’ll need to set up some things when you get here - a place to live, a mobile number, a bank account, etc. And this is where you may encounter the following chicken-and-egg problem.

To rent an apartment, you need a mobile number.
To get a mobile number, you need to set up your residence card.
To finish setting up your residence card, you need an address.
But wait, you still don’t have an apartment, so you have no address!

I moved to Japan by myself in 2022 on a Working Holiday visa, and had to run around (and waste time) getting everything sorted - here is my recommendation on what order you do these things in! While I’ve heard that you need a hanko (personal seal), I’ve managed without one.

(Of course, if your company is bringing you over, or you have friends willing to help you out, you might want to do things a little differently! This is just a recommendation for people who aren’t quite sure where to begin.)

1. Get an Address

  • This can be a temporary address (like an airbnb or sharehouse, maybe not a hotel), you just need somewhere where you can receive mail.
  • There are also companies who can help you secure a place while you’re still overseas, but I wanted to inspect my options in person and felt I’d have more choice if I was searching while staying somewhere in Japan.

Now that you have an address, you can go to the local ward office to…

2. Finish Setting Up your Residence Card; Register Your Address

  • Officially when you have decided your permanent address, you need to register it within 14 days of moving in. Temporary, short-term accomodation doesn’t technically meet those requirements (you’re moving out in like a month!), however you do need an address registered to do everything else in this guide.
  • Your ward office might not accept a hotel address.
  • As it’s the first time you’re visiting the local ward office, there are a number of procedures to complete ー the staff are pretty good at helping you work out what you need!
  • Be prepared to sit and wait a while.

Now you have your residence card with your address on it, your next move should be to…

3. Get a Sim Card

  • Life in Japan will be hard with no mobile number, between signing up for things and two-factor authentication you need a Japanese mobile number.
  • The easiest way to pay is with a credit card.
  • I recommend applying online! But you can do it in person too.
  • When you complete the application online, the sim card will be mailed to your address.
  • If you go in person, they have to explain every line of the contract to you and it takes hours, literally hours.
  • Depending on what visa you have, not all providers will be able to give you a sim card. Personally, I relied heavily on google translate and went with LINEMO.
  • There are also companies like Mobal who can give you a Japanese number without a residence card.

Now you have a sim card, you have a phone number, which means you can…

4. Sort out your Bank Account

  • Japan has various banks, and some are more foreigner friendly than others - online application, no hanko needed, etc. Check the details before applying and pick the bank that best suits your circumstances.
  • When you complete the application online, your card and documents will be sent to your address.
  • I picked Japan Post Bank, because they would let me open a bank account with my working holiday visa, they have ATMs all over the country, and the application can be completed via their account opening app. They do come with unexpected drawbacks though, like suspending services over golden week.

Now you’re mostly sorted you can…

5. Look for a Permanent Address

  • If you’re still in your temporary accommodation from the first step, it’s time to look for a more long-term solution.
  • Once you’ve moved in, you need to inform the ward office about your move. If you are changing wards, you will need to go to your old ward office and tell them you’re moving out, then go to the new ward office and tell them you’re moving in.
  • Now that you’ve gotten your residence card updated, you need to update your bank and mobile provider (and anyone else) with your new address.


Congratulations, you’re now all sorted and ready to continue your Japan adventures.

  1. ‘Otsukaresamadesu’ is a commonly used Japanese phrase often translated as ‘Thanks for your work’ or ‘Great job!’ Why not try using it when you come to Japan! 

More about the author

Photo of Michelle Tan

Michelle Tan

Software Developer at TokyoDev

Michelle is an Australian software developer who moved to Japan in 2022. An active community member, she has a passion for travel, illustration, mentoring and promoting diversity and inclusion in tech.

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