back to article Japan to start stamping out rubber stamps and tearing up faxes as new digital agency given Sept. 1 start date

Japan has passed laws that will allow it to create a new Agency to lead a national digital transformation effort. The nation has already introduced an identifier called “My Number”. The new plan calls for My Number to be recognised across national and local governments and to merge with other identifiers like health insurance …

  1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    Someone gave me a cheque the other day. I still haven't figured out how to actually pay it in.

    1. Danny 14

      depends on your bank. Santander accept cheques at branch cash machines. you can also request an envelope and paying in slip then take to a post office and they will accept it.

      1. gobaskof

        I got a cheque in US dollars a year or so ago. That was really hard to pay in, my Building Society wouldn't touch it. This is a shame as the US still loves cheques.

        1. Mishak Silver badge

          "The US still loves cheques"

          Strange, isn't it. I was also surprised with how long it took "chip and pin" to make any significant inroads - it was always a shock having to sign for purchases after not doing so here for nearly a decade.

          1. pwl

            Re: "The US still loves cheques"

            a few years ago while we were passing through Los Angeles, my wife saw a pay wave terminal at the shop we were buying stuff from & just wafted her (australian) credit card over it to pay. The cashier seemed to have a brain meltdown - she’d never seen it before let alone known her machine could do it.

      2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        For the value of the cheque, though (<£20), figuring it out hardly seems worth my time!

    2. Mishak Silver badge

      Frustrating, isn't it

      I look after a business that collects income related to a contract a charity has with a local farmer.

      I've been raising invoices twice a year for the past six years, all of which include include details and instructions for electronic payment, but the agent still insists on paying by cheque. Cheques are a real pain, as the bank makes it very hard to pay them in by post and a trip to the nearest branch wastes about an hour of my time - last trip required me to wait outside for 20 minutes in the rain "for social distancing" (there were three people inside a branch the size of a sports hall).

      I thought this might change during the pandemic, especially as I added "Due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, electronic payment would be appreciated" in 1.5cm high, red text. Even that failed to make a difference :-( I don't get why a business wouldn't jump at the chance of paying electronically.

      1. Boothy

        Re: Frustrating, isn't it

        A friend of mine was in a similar situation a few years back, almost everyone had switched to paying electronically, which they'd been encouraging for a few years. All except a couple of companies, one used a cheque, the other put cash in an envelope!

        Their solution was to add a surcharge to non electronic payments, to cover administration costs.

        1. Mishak Silver badge

          "administration costs"

          I suggested this to the accountant, but I was told it would not be legal. I need to chase it again, as I think that would only be the case for business to consumer.

          1. gryphon

            Re: "administration costs"

            Well considering that BT etc. can charge you extra for not paying by direct debit I am not sure how that squares.

            As usual with such things 'show me the legislation' is the best bet.

            1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

              Re: "administration costs"

              There's probably a legal difference between offering a "discount" for paying electronically and adding a "surcharge" for not doing so. Even if they amount to the same thing.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "administration costs"

            it's legal if the payment method incurs extra costs - and cheques do these days

          3. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: "administration costs"

            >I suggested this to the accountant, but I was told it would not be legal.

            Ask the accountant for the legal basis.

            I suspect you merely need to amend the terms of supply/conditions of sale to include an admin fee.

            Various companies I've been involved with have been charging an admin fee of 12% since the 1980's additionally, they included an interest clause for late payments...

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Frustrating, isn't it

          I do object to being charged for the privilege of paying for things, and especially when I am paying with money.

      2. Calum Morrison

        Re: Frustrating, isn't it

        Businesses holding out with cheques do so for one of two reasons; either wee Mary in accounts doesn't know how to modernise and has heard scare stories or more likely because they know it'll take you longer to cash it - if at all - meaning the money stays in their account longer or indeed indefinitely.

        See Spotify et al.

      3. Julz

        Re: Frustrating, isn't it

        Post offices accept cheques for most banks.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Some banks let you pay it in by taking a photo of it in their mobile banking app.

      1. Mishak Silver badge

        Yes, this is starting to appear. I wonder if they'll all get it rolled out before cheques vanish completely as they nearly did* a few years ago in the UK?

        * Only stopped due to a campaign along the lines of "What about people without smart phones"?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Only stopped due to a campaign along the lines of "What about people without smart phones"

          It wasn't quite that simple, but there's lots of history at Cheques are here to stay, but processing of them is now done by electonic image.

      2. Chloe Cresswell

        Barcleys allow this. I'm a chip and sign user due to my dyslexia, and run a business. The first thing you have to do to setup the app? Choose a 5 digit number.

        I asked why they think I can remember a 5 digit number when they accept I can't remember a 4 digit pin, and their reply "It's not a PIN, it's a passcode".

        Yes, they honestly told me that as it's got a different title, that should be enough to over come my inability to remember numbers in the right order :(

        1. Mishak Silver badge

          Barcleys allow this

          They didn't for us as they were not able to allow the app to be used with a dual signatory account. Some months later I found out that it should work and they had no idea why it wouldn't. Time for another bank.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: Barcleys allow this

            With the possible exception of TSB, pretty much any bank out there is better than Barclays.

            Revolut and Paypal are not banks, so don't count for the purpose of finding examples that disprove my statement.

            1. Chloe Cresswell

              Re: Barcleys allow this

              Unfortunately, when I go to a lot of banks and ask for chip and sign cards, I get told they don't offer them. So I'm limited to the banks that will accommodate my cognitive issues.

            2. AJ MacLeod

              Re: Barcleys allow this

              Don't overestimate the Clydesdale bank who make all the others look superbly competent... thankfully they are nearly dead now though, supposing you could find a branch still open it's now a Virgin Money "store"

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Barcleys allow this

            >They didn't for us as they were not able to allow the app to be used with a dual signatory account.

            Just open a payment receipt only account...

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          I suppose that remembering words instead of numbers is not a helpful suggestion.

          Boris (5), Johnson (7), 4, 1, 7.

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            It's as helpful as asking someone if they have tried not to be ill?

            Using words would mean I don't just have to now get the letters right in the word (and in the right order) but to also beable to count them.. which means writing them down so I can count them. I might as well just carry the PIN written with me.

    4. edjimf

      Hopefully a problem covered by your bank's FAQ page?

      1. tfewster

        Do you mean the QNA page?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      me too...

      ... and my local branch has closed. But I found that Post Office counters would take it[1]; basically you get a specially printed envelope, write on your a/c number etc, and put the cheque in it. They send it off and eventually the money appears. I hope.

      [1] This might depend on your bank; I'm not sure.

    6. Cynic_999

      Just visit your bank and ask the teller.

    7. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      First Direct App..

      Has an interesting way of doing where you just take pics of the cheque and do it without even having to leave the house.

      Pretty sure they have a limit to how big a cheque you can do but for small amounts it works really well.

  2. Trigun Silver badge

    My number

    Japan's government: "You are number 6"

    A Japanese citizen: "I am not a number! I'm a free man!"

    Be seeing you.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: My number

      Japan's government: "You are number 6"

      At least in Japan you know who number 1 is.

    3. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge

      Re: My number

      Being number 4, or any number containing 4 would be a problem as it sounds like 'death'...

  3. cosymart

    Electronic Banking

    I volunteer with a small charity and we prefer cheques as we can bank these free, we are also happy with BACS payments. Any other type of transaction costs us money: Hire or purchase of card reader, % of transaction, connection to the internet. So why go digital?

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Bank charges

      Yeah, it's not easy if you want to collect donations. I was looking into this for a local charity, and the best I could find for card payments was no monthly charges with something like a 1.7% transaction fee v 0.3% for cash (with a minimum of £3).

      My (soon to be ex) business bank charges more for cheques than electronic credits*. New one does everything "for free" (except cash).

      * I always thought it was a right con being charged £0.25 for an electronic credit - surely that should be covered by the general account administration charge as it doesn't (well, shouldn't) cost extra for the processing?

    2. AJ MacLeod

      Re: Electronic Banking

      Thankfully card payments are much easier now that the market is flooded with options like SumUp, Zettle etc.

      The likes of WorldPay have been fleecing businesses for far too long... pay ridiculous sums up front for the terminal (which you then still have to return after the contract ends!), pay every month whether you take payments or not, pay a large chunk of the transaction value, handle all the PCI compliance stuff etc etc.

      We only switched to SumUp a few months ago but so far it's been a night and day difference... even their most expensive terminal with data SIM was about 1/3 of the cost of the WorldPay one we had, no standing charges, only ongoing cost is the very reasonable percentage of each transaction. Refunds etc are free, payment comes through to bank pretty quickly too.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Electronic Banking

        back in the 1990s when I ran a "small" business (lots of $10-$30 transactions) in New Zealand the effective bank cut using cards and terminals was 30% (terninal rental, premium number charge, percentage cut AND a transaction fee)

        If you think that's bad, they charged $2 per cheque handled AND cash handling fees as well as stinging business accounts similar amounts for direct debits and inwards BACS transfers. It effectively wasn't worth letting customers pay less than $30 even if they wanted to do so

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Electronic Banking

      >Any other type of transaction costs us money: Hire or purchase of card reader, % of transaction, connection to the internet. So why go digital?

      Don't operate an online fundraising platform?

      [ ]

      Whilst they will charge a % they will also handle the tax rebate on donations...

  4. onumart

    Bold move ..

    So much innaovation and new tech from the Land of the Rising Sun!

    Almost "Digital Transformation"

    Slightly sarcastic, writing from Estonia / E-Estonia, but as i understand .. this country is REALLY conservative about how things get done

  5. TimMaher Silver badge

    Always faintly surprised

    When articles appear saying that Japan, assumed as one of the most technically advanced nations, is still dependent on paperwork, rubber stamps, faxes and couriers, to run their daily lives. That probably explains Fujitsu.

    Also, if I remember, isn’t it lawyers in the US that are the only reason why there is still a typewriter manufacturer somewhere? Oilyvetti perhaps?

    1. Mishak Silver badge


      Stamps are still required on a lot of business paperwork in South Korea. Still, they do make the document look "official" ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Decades ago I was a consultant for the Department of Defense and I had a rubber CLASSIFIED stamp. Any piece of paper that I stamped became officially classified (my boss had the SECRET stamp so I couldn't run amok).

        Rubber stamps are going out of favor but embossed seal stamps are still a thing.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: America

          stamping a blank sheet would have been amusing...

    2. Julz

      Re: Always faintly surprised

      On my trip to Japan I was quite shocked at how old fashioned things were. I guess the image of modernity has been brought about by their technology exports. The trains are good though.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Always faintly surprised

      "When articles appear saying that Japan, assumed as one of the most technically advanced nations, is still dependent on paperwork, rubber stamps, faxes and couriers,"

      Much of it has to do with the complexity of their written language which is much easier (for a Japanese speaker) to read when their subset of Chinese characters are present. Until relatively recently computers did Kanji (Chinese characters) poorly if at all. So the Japanese evolved a modern office/business culture that made a lot more use of handwritten material than Europeans are used to.

      Not necessarily better or worse. Just different.

      BTW, I saw a Kanji capable Japanese typewriter once back in the 1970s. It looked to be a mechanical wonder. But I'm not sure any sane person would want to use it.

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Always faintly surprised

      >When articles appear saying that Japan, assumed as one of the most technically advanced nations

      By those who have never been there...

      Back in the early 90's it was known that whilst most of the western world had extensive cash machine networks and most shops accepted cards; Japan cash was king and using your plastic typically meant a visit to a bank, the completion of lots of paper forms and their inspection by numerous levels of clerks before you finally received your cash... The laugh I had was at no point was my card actually read electronically.

  6. Chris G

    In Spain we have a National identity number which is linked to health and most other things, in Spain it works fine, if I lived in the UK I would trust any government to not take liberties with it.

    Banking here generally works smoothly, even old farmers in the rural area I live in, will pay by contactless card.

    As for cheques, the only time we really use them is for a ' porta d'or', translates more or less to 'carrying gold' you just take it to the branch where the issuer banks and they pay you the cash value, no questions other than showing you ID number.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: porta d'or

      sorry, it would be a nice explanation but you're wrong, it's "al portador" and means "to bearer"

      ("carryng gold" would be "transportando oro")

    2. theDeathOfRats

      Porta d'or ?

      I seem to remember a "Carte d'Or", but I think that was maybe some icecreamy confection.

      "Porta d'or" sounds like a mishmashed attempt to translate "Golden Gate" that I'd previously only expected to find in some Hollywood docudramas ;p

  7. Ken Y-N

    There's a long way to go

    On the news in Japan last night, the vaccines are finally starting to roll out, and the paper form for recording vaccinations comes with a standard 1D barcode and the serial number printed below. There is an iPad-like tablet for reading the code, but 1. the autofocus doesn't work correctly half the time and 2. the app actually ignores the barcode and tries to read the serial number below, which also fails another half of the time because autofocus isn't correct or otherwise dodgy OCR code.

    The government fix is to send out aluminium stands so that the tablet can be placed the regulation 7.5 cm away from the form.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    This can go horribly wrong.

    Just look at the USA and their Social Security numbers.

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