Went to my regular bank today (Mizuho) with a check that I received from an insurance company in the U.S. I had cashed checks in the past, and was fully prepared to pay the confiscatory fees they normally demand, and to wait for about the month it takes for the cash to be handed over.
Much to my surprise, the lady there refused the check, saying that banks in Japan no longer cash checks other than traveller’s checks. She told me that I needed to contact the payer and have them electronically transfer the funds to my bank account.
I did some checking, and found out that it is in fact true that the so-called “mega banks” in Japan no longer will cash checks. However, you can do your cash checking at smaller (non-mega) banks, and I will be opening an account at the PRESTIA SMB TRUST BANK, which offers a wide range of English-language and international services.