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In cash-loving Japan, banks still busy despite coronavirus

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By Takashi Umekawa

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Yet another article to remind us just how old fashioned happen is. Some banks even use the soroban abacus at the counter (more for show than out of necessity, but still).

Japanese banks are highly inefficient - much of the rest of the world is moving to an internet only model while the average bank branch here is full of people carrying bits of paper around.

And it isn't cash - the rest of the world has cracked the ATM. It's all the other stuff that's going on.

2 ( +15 / -13 )

Part of the responsibility for not being cash-based falls on the shoulders of the banks/credit card associations (sic)/government. If they made it possible for more smaller businesses to adopt credit card transactions (without incurring expensive transaction fees), then I believe more people would use them.

Regardless, Japanese banks are light years behind in most areas, compared to other developed countries. The one area I've cited to a British bank (HSBC) that (many) Japanese banks/financial services offer (and which "The World's Biggest Bank" did not, at the time), is in multilingual GUIs for cash-point machines.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

“Japan has not seen the explosive outbreak of infections seen in many other countries”

Yeah right. We only just passed South Korea in cases. Japan is literally in the stone age.

4 ( +14 / -10 )

Japanese retail customers' love affair with cash

With the pandemic and questions re paper bills possibly carrying the virus, will banks bring back the bill-cleaning devices some had in the long-ago? How about devices that gave change to a ¥10,000 note.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

At a time like this, you'd be better off using prepaid electronic money such as debit cards or even the Suica card. Money is another potential vector for diseases to be passed between people

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Passwords lost, hacking, denial of service attacks, fraud, power failures etc

I’ll keep my love affair with cash going!

Bank notes carry the virus?

Only in panicky dreams...

6 ( +16 / -10 )

@Kurisupisu - Actually I would have had the same reaction as you did. However, both China and South Korea destroyed some bank notes from hard hit areas due to the fact it was proven (empirically - by test) the bank notes can carry the virus and maintain the virus over a period of time.

I am curious now to see if I can find the article about this.....pretty wild stuff...

People can say all they want about this virus but it is really, really infectious.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

you can't make it rain without cash can you ?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Before I start burning money, I’d want to see empirical evidence of transmission from paper to people.

And is the risk any the greater than touching an atm screen which thousands could have touched that day before?

In fact, with both I make it a point to wash my hands after...

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Yet another article to remind us just how old fashioned happen is. Some banks even use the soroban abacus at the counter (more for show than out of necessity, but still).

It is not so much a matter of fashion as, Does it work?

Cash has been described as such a versatile system that if someone invented it now they would get the Nobel Prize.

As for the soraban, is it so different from an electronic calculator?

Gary

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Bank notes carry the virus?Only in panicky dreams...

People need to decide the scientific/health concerns for themselves. My point was how it's possibly perceived by some.

Fox link below.

Experts say cash does carry a risk of transmitting the virus, but the risk from cash so far is small compared with other transmission routes

https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/coronavirus-affirm-paper-money

Paper money and coins as potential vectors of transmissible disease.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24571076

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@kurisupisu -

In fact, with both I make it a point to wash my hands after...

I fully agree with you on that point

7 ( +7 / -0 )

We need to stay strong.

Look at facts and look at the numbers.

Japan compared to many other countries has done well. The numbers speak for themselves and we didn't use the same drastic and harsh measures as others have.

Staying vigilant, aware and taking basic health steps should be the new normal for the foreseeable future.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

I was invited by SMBC yesterday for a personal meeting, with my Japanese President of 71 as I requested a 20 million yen loan so we could accelerate hiring of 2 people. Not a corona loan as we actually increased our business and presented a growing profit in the 2019 accounting year. I accepted the personal meeting and the risk, although I told them we would not want to come just to hear NO. Guess what ? No, because we are doing to well as a company. That is a new one for me. SMBC part of the Sumitomo group not only refuses to take responsibility in these times, rather gives loans to insolvent huge old boys groups but stops us from giving jobs to 2 Japanese people. Real jobs. And needlessly risks my President and my life. I am disgusted by them.

22 ( +23 / -1 )

There are few choices besides cash or credit card. Japan really needs to instigate a direct debit ‘touch and go’ system. Not everybody has a credit card without one, you are pretty much left with SUICA as your cashless payment system.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Another reason why we thought the Sony Bank Online English service (money kit) was a timely release :) no ATM required, debit card, no bank visits, pretty much all in English. Chat is only open during the day though :(

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Elderly people prefer cash. It's safer

Sorry Hitoko, right now cash is far from the safe option. Why isn’t this being made clear to everyone?

I have more free time now after my company introduced telework," said Kanoko Nakashima, 56, who visited the MUFG branch in Tokyo to get a new bank book after noticing her old one was filled up.

...and why is it your company introduced telework again? Come on Kanoko, this really is common sense stuff.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Digital transactions are easy for the authorities to track. There is no privacy in them.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

The ageing population is understandably not adopting as why should they? If you’ve lived 70 years and struggle to use a smartphone it’s unavoidable. Unfortunately they are the highest risk but shoganai as they had a good innings anyway.

Of course it’s more balanced to have both cashless and cash systems. At least PayPay is growing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Do the hustle, “Not everybody has a credit card without one, you are pretty much left with SUICA as your cashless payment system.”

There are lots of others (nanaco, WAON, T money to name just a few). What would be most convenient depends on where you live and where you do most of your shopping. Nanaco happens to cover most of the stores I use but I also use four others. I have tied none of them to a credit card, although I could for some of them if I wanted to. So they aren’t truly completely cashless in the sense that I use cash to charge them from time to time but I can live with that.

But even with cashless you are often still touching something, handing a card to the cashier etc. I recently went to a brand-new fast food restaurant. The had a register that completely eliminated passing anything between customer and clerk. Even if you pay in cash you insert it into the register yourself. But if you get change who knows where it’s been before it drops into the cup that you scoop it out of (as have many, maybe most of the other cash paying customers). And you have to touch a screen to tell it which payment option you’ll use. I didn’t have any of the 7 or 8 options they offered so used cash....

I once won an online bookstore gift card that only required me to hold my smart phone over the reader. But at the store where I used it the reader was located on the other side of the register and I had to hand my phone to the clerk...

A few of the supermarkets I go to have registers where the customer puts in their own cash or holds a card or smartphone to the reader. But again you have to touch a screen to select payment method, agree to the charged amount etc.

And there’s always those times like power outages to worry about. Or like the day I went to a local (2 prefecture chain) supermarket that has their own electronic money card, only to see a sign at the door that it couldn’t be used that day because of a system malfunction.

It’s not a perfect world!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think that most of modern Japanese may go to bank if it is needed such as loan, changing contract, open specific accounts etc. A lot of ATM machines are available at super markets, convenience stores, 7 eleven etc. So, they can windrow and deposit cash... It is certain that there are a lot of people in Japan who are not familiar with other newer payment method, especially digital payments. As government has started max 5% return when they use cashless payment in many shops, I expect that it may be a good opportunity for them to change the way of payment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Please folks, send me your Covid-19 tainted money. I will gladly take the risk off your hands.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

People around the world see Japan as this hub of technological development and innovation. They imagine a society full of robots and machines and technology.

In reality, Japanese society has got itself stuck in a system befitting of its elderly leaders. Fax machines, hankos, cash based, paper based.

Japan needs a new breed of leader - in politics as well as in business - to drag it forward to the 21st century.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Cash? What a joke.

Before the emergence of the internet and smart phones, I lived in Japan from 1978 until 1998. At the time, I believed Japan was a technologically advanced society more so than any other country in the world at the time. In fact, I idolized the fact that I lived and worked within such a society.

Had I decided not to return to the United States in 1998, I would have been blown away by the fact that they (the Japanese) rather than having advanced and kept up with the times have remained "stuck in the groove" as I like to describe it.

[Kurisupisu] states losing passwords, hacking, power failures among the detriments of going cashless, but seriously and in my opinion, there are more annoyances of relying on it than avoiding it.

I mean seriously, do you really want to have to sort through paper receipts everytime you need to check how much your spending, stand in long lines at stores waiting for people fumbling with coins and paper when you could easily zip out with mobile pay in seconds? And yes, cash is filthy although [PTownsend] would beg to differ.

We're in a pandemic and people are actually going to a bank? Ever heard of online banking? I live here in Hawaii and most of our branches are closed due to a lockdown. It's not an inconvenience because everything can be done online efficiently, and most of our elderly population, believe it or not are extremely tech savvy.

Not to be rude, but in essence, I would recommend that older Japanese change their ways and embrace technology, the reason being that using modern methods keeps the brain's synapses active and is said to prevent Alzheimers disease so common amongst their population's elderly.

[Taro] states that 70 year olds don't know how to use smart phones and why should they. How old are you Taro?

It's their fault they never got on board when they had the chance. Just to let you know, I just turned 60 this year and when smart phones first came out ten years ago, I was already 50. Do you think I let that deter me?

I stay young, look young and think young. You're welcome to check out my Facebook or Instagram pages if you don't believe it. boytripper/facebook.com and instagram.com/flavaboyfan The pictures are of me and not doctored. I've always remained young because I never let things pass me by. Furthermore, I hang with the younger crowd and they accept me.

It's important for all of us to embrace technology for what it is so as not to be left behind in the dust unknowing and unaware.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Japan has not seen the explosive outbreak of infections seen in many other countries

Tired of reading this statement which appears in every article on covid-19 here on JT.

Even a kid can figure out that less test less infections detected and vice versa.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

My UK bank card comes with contactless payment automatically. I didn't have to ask for it, it's just there, and is accepted everywhere. Simple.

In Japan I am confused about cashless payments, there seem to be so many methods and they are not automatically included on my bank card.

So I load up my Suica with cash, and use that. I wish the banks here would get their acts together.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The preponderance of pensioners and companies' willingness to accommodate them has kept Japan from developing the same sort of basic consumer-friendly tech widely found in other countries. For example, I can use my US-issued Mastercard at banks in Nigeria and Turkey, but not in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

who visited the MUFG branch in Tokyo to get a new bank book after noticing her old one was filled up.

If the whole bank book system goes away, I am ok with that. If you don’t know, bank accounts in Japan have not only an ATM cars, but also a small book which records each one of your transactions. As you can expect, that book will fill up over time, and to get a new one you have to physically go to the bank branch and request a new one. As far as I know, there’s no other way. Oh, and I’m pretty sure the ATM will eventually reject your bank book if the previous one gets filled up and you wait too long to get a new one. In normal times, it’s a pain to go to a bank during Japan’s incredibly restrictive banking hours; in these days it’s just dangerous.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Educator60 - There are lots of others (nanaco, WAON, T money to name just a few). What would be most convenient depends on where you live and where you do most of your shopping. Nanaco happens to cover most of the stores I use but I also use four others. I have tied none of them to a credit card, although I could for some of them if I wanted to. So they aren’t truly completely cashless in the sense that I use cash to charge them from time to time but I can live with that.

This is quite a self-contradicting comment. It opens with, “there are many choices” and finishes with pointing out how limited the service is for these alternatives.

But even with cashless you are often still touching something, handing a card to the cashier etc.

Incorrect! With the ‘touch and go’ direct debit that is in 99.9% of the stores in Australia you only need to hover your card 2cm above the machine. There is zero contact. It is only purchased over $100 that you must enter a PIN. This is a security feature in the event of a lost or stolen card.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

HBJToday 10:14 am JST

People around the world see Japan as this hub of technological development and innovation. They imagine a society full of robots and machines and technology

Dave Gutteridge nailed it back in 2014:

http://davegutteridge.com/wow_you_live_in_japan

David Shawn Kanda

I would recommend that older Japanese change their ways and embrace technology,

Around the turn of the millenium there was a big push from the government under Mori (I think) to promote computer use among seniors. It began brightly but then petered out as it was rather hindered by the obvious fact that Mori himself had no idea what he was talking about. It's difficult to promote technology when the people responsible are technophobic. You may remember the recent case of the cyber-security minister who admitted he had never used a computer.

Many older people (over 28% of the population is over 65 now) simply don't trust computer banking and don't feel comfortable with it. They love their smartphones but not enough to trust them with their money.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Arrrgh Type, “As you can expect, that book will fill up over time, and to get a new one you have to physically go to the bank branch and request a new one. As far as I know, there’s no other way.”

At my regional bank we can get a new empty bank book at ATMs.

Do the hustle,

“This is quite a self-contradicting comment.”

My point is that your claim of Suica being about the only option if you don’t have a credit card is far from the truth. Nothing in what I wrote contradicts that.

”Incorrect! With the ‘touch and go’ ...”

I was (obviously I would think) not referring to the situation in Australia, I was referring to the situation in Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Cashless didn't work out here in Chiba-ken after the typhoons last year.

No electricity = no way to pay.

No cellphone coverage because the signal relay towers were knocked down and the ones that hadn't been knocked down didn't function because their electricity supply was cut.

No way to recharge phones except at the city office.

Ten and a half days in my area, longer in others.

Age had nothing to do with the need for cash.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I actually really enjoy the cash-based nature of Japanese society. It's almost kind of cute and a positive reflection of how remarkably safe daily life is in that country. In countries like the U.S., the move away from cash was almost a necessity to reduce incentives for robbery. But certainly I can understand the frustration some people feel with always needing to make sure they have tens of thousands of yen on them to pay for something just in case with so many establishments in Japan remaining cash only.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I strongly prefer cash as well. Kind of makes me hurt when I have to hand it over so it prevents overspending.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

In Australia all bank cards come standard with contactless payment. When I first came here I was shocked at how useless Japanese bank cards are.

And it's not that difficult to adapt to. My grandmother has been using cashless methods of payment for nearly my whole life, and loves her iPad. She's 92. My 91 year old great aunt also only uses cashless payment, and has a smartphone. It's not about age, it's about willingness to learn and adapt to new things.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

BTW I’m old enough to remember having bank books in the US before they started the practice of mailing out a printed statement every month. No ATMs either. I believe the transactions were written in the book by the teller by hand, although later maybe they had some kind of machine to print the transactions. I also remember having to physically take paychecks to the bank and wait in a long line to cash them. Back in the late 70s in Japan being able to transfer money into people’s accounts without writing and sending a check seemed quick and wonderful.

Now I’m quite happily using my nanaco and other cards but always mindful that in time of disaster etc there are other ways to do things.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You can pretty well choose a cash-less lifestyle in Japan if you really want to. Even if some smaller businesses don't accept "tap" payment services, or even credit cards, you can find businesses who sell the same goods with cash-less options. Not to mention the countless online purchasing options. It isn't that hard.

As some people have mentioned already...Many seniors aren't going to switch their habits now. Also, a lot of people don't want their purchases tracked. For some, managing a budget is easier when they have tangible currency.

It would be interesting to know how many people actually contract this virus through surface contact.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm from the younger generation but I respect cash. I prefer to use cash and stay as far away from cashless. While cashless may be or appear to be more convenient, too many issues with hackers, losing card, all them pins, no time to memorize all of that garbage for convenience. COLD had CASH is still the best source to do business and nothing wrong with keeping traditions that have stood a decade and kept our country safe. Leave it as cash. If you want cashless your more than welcome to but not for all of us as a whole. Look at all the countries going broke, 90% are cashless and yen-less. No thank you.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have a American bank account along with my sons that work here on the base. I can transfer money to their accounts or my investment company, I don't hear anything like that about the Japanese banks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

and that only takes a few seconds :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kokontozaiToday  08:53 am JST

Digital transactions are easy for the authorities to track. There is no privacy in them.

So what? Who cares if their food shopping gets tracked? People aren't using cash because they are all doing major drug deals or something.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yeah, Well in terms of this “cash versus credit versus (some other online option)“, here is something that I bet nobody has thought of.

What if there’s a glitch in the computer system that controls your online account? Then either all or a lot of your money could go just like that, with possibly little to no recourse for you depending on how it happened. That’s a big reason why so many people prefer cash, even though I know that it’s not realistic for all transactions obviously. I know that it is for me. So think about that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

MFUG no longer issues a bank book for new accounts, and offers ¥1,000 for current accounts to surrender their bank books to save MUFG the annual ¥200/book stamp duty.

Internet banking solves most bank needs including updating my bank book. I can call and get all the details of my bank account book.

I haven't been to a bank banch this year.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

AlexBecu wrote:

"...Look at facts and look at the numbers..."

Okay, please supply some. In the meantime, I'll supply some, relating to your opinions.

AlexBecu wrote:

"...Japan compared to many other countries has done well. The numbers speak for themselves and we didn't use the same drastic and harsh measures as others have..."

Incorrect.

1/ "A state of emergency was declared in Hokkaido, Japan, weeks after the Sapporo Snow Festival had two million visitors. CNN's Blake Essig speaks with experts who are critical of the Japanese government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak."

(Video Source: - https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2020/03/10/japan-coronavirus-covid-19-no-problemism-hokkaido-snow-festival-intl-hnk-vpx.cnn )

2/ "...With a population of over 126 million, the country has conducted 32,125 tests over the past month. However, because some people are tested multiple times, Japan has actually only tested 16,484 individuals — or about one test per 7,600 people.

> In comparison, South Korea, with a population of over 50 million, seemingly slowed the spread of the virus by testing more than 270,000 people — one test per 185 people — through a well-organized program..."

(Source: - https://www.businessinsider.com/why-japan-cases-of-coronavirus-are-so-low-2020-3?op=1 )

3/ "...Much of the data about the coronavirus epidemic and covid-19 is flawed. It is collected and reported in different ways by different countries, and almost certainly undercounts the number of cases and deaths..."

(Video Source: - https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=O-3Mlj3MQ_Q )

The video above cites Japanese statistics of an example of "underreporting" the (possibly larger) results.

4/ "...For weeks Japan has limited its testing for the coronavirus, which emerged in neighboring China late last year, despite calls from many health experts who see testing as vital to detecting and isolating cases and slowing the spread.

> Japan conducted about 52,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in March, or just 16% of the number carried out in South Korea, according to data from Oxford University..."

(Source: - https://japantoday.com/category/national/as-coronavirus-infections-mount-japan-at-last-expands-testing )

AlexBecu wrote:

"Staying vigilant, aware and taking basic health steps should be the new normal for the foreseeable future."

Indeed, as cited by the following:

-https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

I DO hope you are engaging in social distancing, cleaning your hands regularly and/or staying at home as much as possible?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Back on topic please.

alfie noakes:

hindered by the obvious fact that Mori himself had no idea what he was talking about

You have to remember, this was the guy who thought I.T. was pronounced itto.

Lord know$ wh¥ h€ i$ on the Ol¥mpic$ committ€€.

As someone who has a Prestia SMBC account (I do miss Citibank before it was pushed out of Japan),

I am shocked at the logging in process on its website. Even more shocking when you consider they are always checking up on your residency status which they seem to care more about than the security on their website.

I use my credit card a lot (I stopped using my Citibank Visa before they changed to Prestia because I didn't like their annual fees). I just wish they'd always ask for my PIN. If I drop it, anyone can use it like cash in so many stores.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

its a well known fact that paper money carries not only nasty viruses, but it can also be tainted with drugs, because so many people have touched the notes over a period of time. People have commented on about Japan being in the dark ages with only money/cash attitude, to be honest I would rather it be like that, since the UK has gone into a cashless society and closed local branches, and moved to contactless cards, I have had more money stollen out of my account than ever before, I never worried about my savings being stolen by crooks, now the internet is flooded with viruses, trojans, fishing, highjacking programs its a constant battle to keep your money safe, and when it does get stolen its battle with the banks to get it back! and the automated telephone answering system drives you blinking nuts trying to get through to some one. and by the time you have been on hold for 30 minutes to some one in India your so dam frustrated you loose it, then you get cut off! I hate this cashless society, please bring back the human contact and small banks

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tried to pop by my bank the other day to use an ATM and there was a line OUTSIDE, which I had never seen before. I quickly realized it's because the normal inside line to the ATMs (where elderly women in particular seem to make a career out of making a transaction, then slowly comb over their bank books in front of the machines) they were "social distancing". But, the line outside had people nearly pressing against each other. They never can do it quite right here, and that's not even taking into account the cash-based thing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What if there’s a glitch in the computer system that controls your online account? Then either all or a lot of your money could go just like that, with possibly little to no recourse for you depending on how it happened. That’s a big reason why so many people prefer cash, 

If there is a computer glitch, then you won't be able to get money out of the ATM either.

I think that there is a case to have some cash in reserve in case your bank's system goes down for an extended period.

But I would dispute whether that is why people use cash so much in Japan. It is transactions that are cash-based, but people still store their money in a bank account.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wonder...why everything must go digital today. It's not always convenient. It's not always better. It's not always progress. Seriously, stop.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It’s no surprise there’s lines at the ATMs lately. It’s the end of the month when salaries are being received and many bills paid. A lot of people need to move money around between their accounts. I used to do that because the rent had to be paid from an account at a specific branch of a specific bank. I disliked that bank for various reasons so never used the account for anything else. Plus it’s the start of golden week and people probably want to have some extra money on hand even if they are not traveling.

Invalid CSRF

0 ( +0 / -0 )

AlexBecu: "Japan compared to many other countries has done well. The numbers speak for themselves and we didn't use the same drastic and harsh measures as others have."

Japan hasn't been testing, plain and simple. What have they tested? 0.01% of the population? THAT is why Japan has been doing well, plain and simple. And the fact that they can't go back and test hastily cremated corpses to see if it really was the pneumonia or if that was just a result of Covid-19. We haven't seen the peak yet. The government is lucky, though, that many of the people here will still die going to work but will avoid any leisure activities and stay home of their own will... well, except hanami and all the people i saw in parks today because it's the beginning of GW.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Germs can be passed on by handling cash

Wear gloves

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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