Why are there banks in all the new buildings?

Often they are the first or only thing there. You’d think with all the rationalisation with Japanese banks that they’d be cutting down on the number of branches.

Actually, I think the mergers and rationalisations of Japanese banks might be the reason. They are finally closing the branches which are two doors down from the other branch of the same bank (because it used to be a different bank before they merged), and in typical Japanese style that isn’t actually leading to any redundancies, so I guess they have to stick them somewhere else. The charges for using cashpoints and the number of old people with huge savings also can’t make it difficult to make money out of them.

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Why are contactless payment cards so popular in Japan?

I listened to an episode of the BBC Radio programme Digitial Planet in which they expressed amazement at the use of contactless payment cards like the JR East Suica cards, and could only come up with the Japanese love of technology as an explanation. Although that might be a factor, what is much more important is that Japan is still a cash society, with debit cards rare and credit cards needing to be paid back in full every month. A scheme that is basically cash but also a card is therefore perfect for Japan, and if people think a similar scheme will take off in London and so replace debit cards, I think they might be disappointed.

Why is it SMBC in English but MSBC in Japanese?

… or more properly SMBC in English but Mitsui Sumitomo Ginko (三井住友銀行) in Japanese.I’m guessing that when the two banks merged there was some kind of bureaucratic haggling that meant they got to have their name at the front in one language each.