John Agsalud
East Meets Web
David Keuning

ATMs in Japan are
high-tech and traditional

One of the many wonders of modern Japan is the common ATM. Both revolutionarily high-tech and delightfully backwards, Japanese ATMs are a ubiquitous feature of the Japanese landscape.

ATMs in Japan offer many cool features. For example, most ATMs welcome cash deposits. In the United States, warnings on the ATM discourage you from depositing cash. Most ATMs in Hawaii require you to put your money inside an envelope and insert it into the ATM. Additionally, you have to manually type in the amount of the deposit.

In Japan, when you push a button on screen indicating you want to make a cash deposit, a drawer in the ATM opens and you drop in your money. No envelopes needed. Also, most ATMs accept coins. The drawer on the ATM closes and it counts your money. The total is displayed on screen.

If you agree with the ATM's count, you push a "continue" button and move on with your transaction. If you disagree with the ATM's count, you touch a cancel button and the ATM yawns again, letting you remove the money you dropped in, presumably to search for a more honest ATM.

Not only can you deposit money into your own account this way, but Japanese ATMs provide a service called "furikomi" allowing you to deposit money into other people's accounts as well. Select the name of the bank and the branch from an on-screen list. Then type in the account number into which you want to deposit the money. This type of cash deposit has been a common method for making payments to travel agents, utilities and other vendors for years.

If you plan to make frequent deposits to the same bank account, the ATM will give you a small card with a magnetic stripe. The card allows you to make deposits to same account again and again without retyping the bank account each time.

Just like in the United States, screen menus provide the user interface for working with the ATM. Unlike the United States, though, Japanese ATMs feature a variety of animated cartoons. After making a deposit at one ATM, a cartoon woman appears on screen and bows deeply. It is a delightfully traditional touch to a high-tech world.

Another "old fashioned" aspect of Japanese ATMs is the reduced hours of operation. Most banks in Japan close around 3 p.m. Surprisingly, many ATMs close early as well. Citibank really shook things up in the 90s when they opened up shop in Japan and announced they were going to provide 24-hour-a-day ATM service. While many of the domestic banks have followed suit, don't count on making a cash withdrawal at midnight or on weekends.

Citibank ATMs are a great way for people from Hawaii visiting Japan to withdraw money. Your U.S. bank card probably won't work at the ATMs of most Japanese domestic banks. You may have to hunt down one of the approximately 14 Citibank ATMs in Tokyo.

Recently, the Japanese Post Office also began providing bank card services to U.S. bank card holders. If your bank card has a "Plus" or "Cirrus" insignia on the back, chances are you can use it at one of the many post office branches in Japan.

Finally, if you have been looking at ATMs in Honolulu recently, you may have noticed that Central Pacific Bank terminals now feature Japanese. The CPB Web site explains that this is to cater to both visitors from Japan and people living in Hawaii who speak Japanese.

Honolulu resident David Keuning has lived and worked in Tokyo for seven years.

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