Photo: amri48 / Shutterstock.com

Money in Japan

The yen, ATMs, exchanging currencies, and etiquette

When traveling in Japan, visitors will need to use the Japanese currency. In our money guide, we outline the basics of using Japanese yen (¥, JPY), including denominations, exchange rates, and payment methods.

Japanese Yen

The official Japanese currency is the yen (円), pronounced “en” in Japanese and denoted with the symbol ¥ (though you'll more likely see the kanji symbol 円 in everyday use). Fun fact: En also means “circle” in Japanese; therefore, the exchange rate was initially fixed at 360 yen to 1 US dollar.

For day-to-day purchases, note that the current consumption tax rate is 10% nationwide, but drops to 8% for cafes, restaurants or other businesses serving food to take away — note that the rate climbs to 10% when dining in, so you may find the final price for goods varies depending on your choice and shops will typically remind you of this.

The Japanese yen is available in 10 denominations. Six coins are used including 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen values, alongside 4 bills/notes including 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 (although the 2,000 yen note is quite rare). Read more in-depth about each denomination.

How to Pay

Cash

Despite the widening use of credit- and debit cards, Japan is still predominantly considered a cash-based society which especially holds true in rural areas.

  • It’s always a good idea to have small denominations (10 yen and 100 yen coins, as well as 1,000 yen bills) handy, as many ticket and vending machines will not accept larger denominations (especially 5,000 and 10,000 yen bills).

  • Having so much cash in your wallet may make you feel uneasy at first, but Japan does have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. While nothing beats being careful, chances are you’re more likely to lose money by dropping or leaving it, rather than it getting stolen.

Credit/Debit Cards

  • Although Japan is still predominantly a cash-based society, credit and debit cards have become increasingly accepted, especially in urban areas. Even if you decide to use a credit card, it is still better to carry more cash than you are used to.

  • Most credit card companies will charge a surcharge (usually 1–3%) for foreign-issued cards.

  • The most commonly accepted cards are MasterCard, Visa, and JCB. American Express and Diner’s Club are accepted to a lesser extent.

IC Cards

Transit IC cards, such as Suica and PASMO, have become increasingly common in Japan's major cities.

They are predominantly used for train and bus fares, but can also be used for payments in urban areas with good transportation links, including for use at vending machines, station kiosks, shops, cafes and restaurants.

Both iPhone and Android support digital versions of Suica and Pasmo via their official apps for easy contactless payment. Android devices need to support Osaifu-Keitai/FeliCa (only installed on phones sold within Japan) but Apple devices including iPhone 8 or later and Apple Watch Series 3 or later should work fine.

Digital Cashless

If you have a Japanese phone number, apps like PayPay may be an option. It's a digital payment app than can be topped up at ATMs or via a connected bank account, credit card or mobile service provider. Payments can be made via contactless terminals or scanning a vendor's PayPay QR code and confirming the transaction details with the vendor.

Similar options exist, like Line Pay or R Pay (Rakuten Pay), which support QR code-based payments and work well with their respective ecosystems if already a user of the platforms.

Getting Yen

ATMs

Two common ways to withdraw yen are through Japan Post and 7-Eleven ATMs:

  • Japan Post ATMs are located at more than 26,000 locations nationwide (denoted with the “JP” logo); each post office will have at least one, while they can also be found at shopping malls and supermarkets. Service hours vary according to location; large post offices in major cities will have longer hours than small ones in rural areas. English services are also available

  • 7-Eleven (Seven Bank) has over 20,000 ATMs across Japan, located at 7-Eleven convenience stores. Services are offered virtually 24/7 and currently available in 12 languages (Japanese, English, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Portuguese, Chinese traditional, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese, French, and German).

  • E-net ATMs in Family Mart can also offer a service to international cards including MasterCard.

  • Be aware of service charge fees that may also rise for transactions made outside traditional operating hours (usually 9am–5pm on weekdays):

Wise in Japan


If you need to transfer funds to a local account or to have convenient access to currency during your trip, Wise (formerly TransferWise) allows you to do so — economically, quickly and easily.

Together with the app, a Wise card can help give you more spending flexibility in Japan while always knowing you'll get competitive exchange rates and the ability to set currency alerts or auto-convert currency.

If you don't have an account, sign-up to Wise to get a fee-free transfer of up to 75,000 JPY!

Exchanging Currencies

For a general idea of what current exchange rates are like, check out XE Currency Converter or Wise's own Currency Converter.

All places with an “Authorized Foreign Exchange” sign can exchange currencies; these places include banks and money changers (such as Travelex), which can be located at airports and in major cities.

  • Banks are usually open from 9am to 3pm on weekdays.
  • Hotels and large department stores may offer currency exchange services, although with extra fees and less favorable rates.

Traveler's Checks

  • Due to the relatively limited number of ATMs that support foreign-issued cards, traveler’s checks are more useful than you’d think in Japan.

  • Traveler's checks tend to carry more favorable rates than money changers and ATMs, and are accepted by leading banks, hotels, ryokan, and stores in major cities, but very few places elsewhere.

  • Do not pay with a check drawn from a foreign bank; as many Japanese places will either charge large extra fees or not accept them at all.

Etiquette & Points of Note

Using money in Japan is fairly straightforward

  • For a basic idea of how much living in Japan costs, check out this informative blog.

  • Perhaps the most important rule when it comes to using money in Japan is NO TIPS. Leaving a tip at a restaurant or a taxi driver will often result in them chasing you down to return the money, thinking that you forgot it there.

    • If you do want to leave a tip (such as for a maid at a ryokan or a tour guide), put the money in an envelope and give it to them in person.

  • Most restaurants, shops, and even taxis will provide a small tray for you to put money on, instead of giving it directly to the cashier.

  • Although it depends on the currency, it is generally better to exchange yen in Japan than in your home country, due to a lower commission and better exchange rate.

  • You do not need to worry about counterfeit money in Japan, as they are virtually non-existent.

Denominations

Read more in detail about each of the Japanese yen's coins and bills.

Coins

Japanese yen coins (clockwise from top left): 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 500 yen, 100 yen, 50 yen
Japanese yen coins (clockwise from top left): 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 500 yen, 100 yen, 50 yen (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
  • 1 yen (ichi-en)

    • Light silver color with smooth edges.

    • The smallest and lightest of the 6 coins, composed of 100% aluminium.

    • Weighs exactly 1 gram, thus occasionally used as weights.

    • The only Japanese coin that can float on water (if placed carefully).

    • Its current design includes a young tree on the front to symbolize the healthy growth of Japan.

  • 5 yen (go-en)

    • Gold color, smooth edges and has a hole in the middle.

    • The current design of the front includes a rice stalk, a gear, and the sea to symbolize the agriculture, industries, and fisheries of Japan respectively.

    • The current design of the back includes two leaf buds, which symbolize Japan’s forestry and democracy.

    • Is the only coin that does not depict the monetary value numerically.

  • 10 yen (jyuu-en)

    • Bronze color (composed of 95% copper) and has smooth edges.

    • Has the Byodo-in Phoenix Hall (Ho-o-do) on the front.

    • The back of the coin includes the evergreen tree.

    • 10 yen coins with ridged edges (colloquially known as giza-jyuu) are rare and a collector’s item, as they were minted for only 7 years (1951-58).

  • 50 yen (gojyuu-en)

    • Silver color, ridged edges and a hole in the middle.

    • Three chrysanthemums are depicted on the front of the coin.

  • 100 yen (hyaku-en)

    • Silver color with ridged edges.

    • The current design on the front depicts sakura blossoms.

    • A number of limited edition designed 100 yen coins exist to celebrate various events

  • 500 yen (gohyaku-en)

    • Light gold color, ridged edges.

    • Is the largest and heaviest of the six Japanese coins, weighing 7 grams.

    • The current design on the front depicts the paulownia.

    • The back of the coin includes bamboo and tachibana leaves.

    • If you tilt the coin at an angle, you can see the word “500円” as a hologram inside each of the zeros on the back.

    • A limited number of the old 500 yen coins (minted until 2000), with a slightly different design, is still in circulation.

    • A number of limited edition designed 500 yen coins exist to celebrate various events.

Banknotes

Japanese yen banknotes (見本 means "sample")
Japanese yen banknotes (見本 means "sample") (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
  • 1,000 yen (sen-en)

    • The design is printed in blue.

    • The front of the current banknote features a portrait of Hideyo Noguchi, a bacteriologist famous for his groundbreaking research on syphilis and yellow fever.

    • The back of the current banknote features Mount Fuji and Lake Motosu, flanked with cherry blossoms.

  • 2,000 yen (nisen-en)

    • The design is printed in green.

    • It was issued in 2000 to commemorate the millennium, as well as the 26th G8 Summit, held in Okinawa.

    • The front of the banknote features the Shurei-mon, one of the main gates of the Okinawan castle Shuri-jyo.

    • The back features a scene from the Tale of Genji and a portrait of the author, Murasaki Shikibu.

    • Due to its limited number, 2,000 yen bills are considered a novelty in Japan.

  • 5,000 yen (gosen-en)

    • The design is printed in purple.

    • The current design of the front features Ichiyo Higuchi, the first prominent Japanese female author.

    • The current design of the back is the “Kakitsubata-zu,” a painting of irises by Ogata Korin.

  • 10,000 yen (ichiman-en)

    • The design is printed in brown.

    • The front of the current banknote features a portrait of Fukuzawa Yukichi, the founder of Keio University.

    • The back features the phoenix statue from Byodo-in.

108
8

شارك في المناقشة

عودة إلى المحتويات