‘North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Somalia, and Japan’; What Do They Have in Common? Is Japan a Closed Country After All?


Have you heard of Western Union?  It is a financial services and communications company of the United States.  This company was founded in the 19th century.  Mr. Cornell, one of its founders, is probably more familiar to many people through Cornell University, a prestigious university which was named after him.

Western Union started primarily as a telegraph and communication service company but with the rapid progress of IT technologies has spread its area to online money transfer services etc.  Now, it has a global network which is so handy for sending money.  Anywhere in the world, your credit cared is accepted, you can send checks, so you will hardly feel need for sending cash.  You are able to send money to your family abroad or send money to your family or friends from overseas by using a big bank.  Payment via internet is also possible, particularly in developed countries, but I feel there are some limitations to it when it comes to a personal level. 

Many foreigners come to Japan to work.  Many of them are from poorer countries, i.e. ‘migrant workers’.  How they send money to their families, I wonder.  Can these people open an account at Japanese Banks without any difficulties?  What local banks offer services to them?  Are these local banks willing or capable to send money to overseas for these workers?

Quite a number of foreigners work in Japan.  Of course, people from high society or people working for big companies may not have such problems. Nurses from Indonesia or Philippines are allowed to work in Japan these days in the field of elderly care or nursing is permitted for up to 3 years. However, if they wish to stay longer, they are required to pass the national qualification exam IN JAPANESE during that initial 3 years.  I must say that this hurdle is very high ? more of a kind of harassment, ‘a sign of closed country’.  Who is opposing to accept these people?  Please think hard.

By the way, do you know how these people are sending money to their family at home?  I imagine that many think of Western Union and many others wish they could.  All you have to do is go to a counter of Western Union, hand them cash (and a processing fee ? about 10% or so), designate the recipient, and receive a Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN).  Then, you tell the intended recipient, using telephone or any other means this number and the amount you have sent to the recipient. That person will in return go to their local Western Union counter, show their ID and tell the number you gave him/her in order to receive the money.  This is truly convenient, especially for the people in developed countries.

So, how broad is the area covered by Western Union?  You will be surprised to know that its service is available almost every countries of the world.  Today, the nations not covered by Western Union are ‘Iran, North Korea, Somalia, and Myanmar’; probably because these countries do not have diplomatic relations with US.  And another country is ‘Japan’.  Yes, there are its branches in the US military bases in Japan but the service is not available to Japanese.  I suspect that the Japanese authorities are holding back permission to do business by crafting various reasons or logics, but I seriously question their attitudes.  Oh, give me a break!

How are those foreign workers in Japan sending money to their family back at home?  I hear that various underground money transactions are going on ? most likely with illegally higher rebates; sadly  Japan is and want to remain really special?