JA Banking

I am joining the Oyama Senmaida “support staff.” In order to do that, I need an account at JA Bank. Support staff get paid for work, whether peeling potatoes for group lunches, assisting with experience programs, or cutting grass. But Oyama Senmaida only pays out to JA accounts.

JA stands for Japan Agriculture and it is the nationwide farm cooperative. They operate logistics of getting produce from farm to supermarket. They have a powerful lobby in government. There are JA markets with local produce and all sorts of farm supplies. And they run a savings and loan bank.

Since I am not a farmer, I’ve never needed to get too close to JA, except for buying groceries.

Today I stepped inside the Nagasa JA office for the first time. It was a bit like time travelling back 40 years. It reminded me of the bank in my village growing up – wooden desks for filling in forms, vinyl upholstered benches, signs everywhere promoting various campaigns and financial products. I saw a friendly face from Oyama Senmaida waiting for her turn with the teller. There was also a rack of seed packets off to one side – not really incongruous, considering.

It was a standard process to open the account. The hardest part was understanding the keigo (polite language used to customers that bears little resemblance to normal spoken Japanese) used by the soft-spoken employee. I guess it is important to make me feel special when asking me if I brought my ID, why I was opening an account, and what is my occupation, etc. but I would have been happier if he’d just spoken regular Japanese. I muddled through using my illiterate’s superpower of contextual hyper-awareness to answer.

Actually, I made sloppy mistakes in my form filling, too. So maybe the whole process was challenging. My application has three places that I had to cross out and put my stamp over to say I made a change. Oops. Embarrassing, I guess but well, whatever. Who’s going to know but the folks who handle my forms (and you)?

My minor struggles did not stop me from obtaining the account.

My ridiculously long full name doesn’t fit on the Japan Post or JA Bank passbook.

JA Bank has an adorable mascot, Yorizo, who is featured on my bank book and will also appear on the cash card when it arrives. Fat white elephant with your flower tail and bee friend, please look after my money.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.