Many shops in Japan only accept cash. For first-timers to Japan, the different notes and coins of Japanese currency can be confusing.
Here’s a quick introduction to the Japanese currency.
Currency name | 円/¥ (Yen)
Denominations (Banknotes) | 10000円, 5000円, 1000円
￼￼￼Denominations (Coins) | 500円, 100円, 50円, 10円, 5円 and 1円
While 1000円, 5000円 and 10000円 banknotes are common, there is also a rarely seen 2000円 note.
Cash is the preferable method for payment in Japan. However, do take note that big notes like ￥10000 bill is preferable for large payment, whereas smaller notes for smaller payment. If you pay with a large bill in small shops or restaurants, they may not have enough change for you.
Alternatively, if you want to use credit card instead, it is advisable to use Visa or Mastercard as it is usually accepted in most of the big cities in Japan. Other cards that are also commonly accepted include American Express and Diners Club International.
What about debit card? It can be used in Japan but you have to activate your card before you travel. However, it is not advisable to be used mainly because of the charges from international ATM fees and withdrawal fees. Some banks may have additional charges and besides that, you might also get a bad conversion rate. However, if you need to withdraw money in case of emergency, you can do so at the post office and 7/11 stores.
Different types of IC cards.
Apart from these, another option for you to go cashless is using IC cards. This include cards such as Suica, Pasmo, ICOCA, PiTaPa, Toica, Manaca, Sugoca, Nimoca, Hayakaken and Kitaka. It works like a prepaid card and it’s a very convenient payment method for public transport (bus and train), convenience stores, vending machines and even coin lockers.
All of these cards are IC integrated so you can use it nationwide at stores that accept the IC payment method. These stores can be identified by the following sign:
Do take note that different cards can only be purchased at different regions. You can refer to the following list to find out which card is available at which location:
- Suica card : Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Ikebukuro Station, Shinjuku Station, Tokyo Station
- Pasmo card : Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, selected retailers in Tokyo area
- ICOCA : Kansai Airport, vending machines at train stations in Kansai area
- PiTaPa (Japanese) : vending machines at selected train stations in Kansai area
- postpaid card
- not recommended to foreign visitors as it requires you to connect with a bank account
- TOICA (Japanese) : JR ticket vending machines in Nagoya area
- Manaca (Japanese) : ticket vending machines at selected stations and on buses in Nagoya area
- Kitaca : ticket vending machines at Kitaca area train stations, JR Ticket Offices
- SUGOCA (Japanese) : most ticket vending machines in Kyushu area
- Nimoca (Japanese) : Nishitetsu bus and train stations, Nimoca counter at Tenjin Solaria Plaza
- Hayakaken (Japanese) : ticket vending machines at Fukuoka subway stations
Before you return to Japan, do remember to return your IC card to the issuing operator to get back your deposit fee. If you have remaining credit in your card, you can exchange it for cash but there will be ￥220 charge for the processing fee.
Exchange Rate |
Since currencies’ value are constantly changing, it is best to find out through an online currency converter.
An online currency converter.
Of course, you can choose to exchange your currency after you have landed in Japan, and this might benefit those whose currency is highly traded in Japan (e.g. USD) because you might get a favourable rate. If your currency is not highly traded in Japan, then it is best to exchange it at your home country.
By As6022014 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
For those who want to exchange money in Japan, you can do so immediately at the money changer in the airport. Here are a list of major airports in Japan with the location of banks and money changers.
Narita International Airport
- 4th floor (North & South Wing – departures), 1st floor (Central building, North & South Wing – arrivals)
- 1st floor, 2nd floor, 3rd floor, international departures area
Kansai International Airport
- Terminal 1: 4th floor, 2nd floor, 1st floor, departure area
- Terminal 2: international departures area, in front of ticket gate of the Kansai International Airport railway station of Nankai Line
Chubu Centrair International Airport
- 3rd floor (departures), 2nd floor (arrival), Access Plaza
- Terminal 2: B1 floor, 1st floor, 2nd floor
- Intl Terminal: 2nd floor, 3rd floor
These money changers are usually open during working hours, which varies from one operator to another. Hence, it is advisable to find out the opening hours from the airport’s official website. However, if you arrive at a time where the money changer is closed, you can opt to use the automated money changer machine in the airport. It can mostly be found on the same floor where money changers are located.
And that’s it! You are now one step closer to getting ready for your to Japan trip!