I finally got a credit card, after 8 years being in Japan !!! I got turned down at least 3 times. Once from the movie rental shop that offered one, the other from some electronics shop chain and last time from my own damned bank !!
I don't know if there is any kind of "credit history" thing going behind the scenes.. I know a few foreigners that eventually got their credit cards from Japanese banks. In any case I got mine from CitiBank ..and it's Gold too !!! wooooo !!
One can pretty much buy anything without a ccard in Japan.. but abroad it's a pain, on business travels, etc etc. Also it's easier for on-line shopping.. and for being seduced into buying a brand bag on the spot.
..so maybe it's not such a good thing !!