Japanese Yen (JPY) is the official currency and mainly you can only use Japanese Yen. US dollars are rarely accepted that most hotels also only accept JPY. As you may know, Japan is still a cash based society. It has been changing gradually but it would be still safe to hold some cashes. This page introduces the main payment methods and where to withdraw or exchange money.
Japanese Yen (JPY, 円, en) is the official currency in Japan
There are BILLS of 1,000 yen, 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen. (There were 2,000 yen bill in the past and it is very rare now…)
COINS are 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen.
Generally, foreign currencies are not accepted to use in Japan.
Japan is mainly cash based society but it has been changing gradually. Lots of stores now accept several ways of payment. Below are the main methods you might use in Japan.
Cash is still widely used in Japan. Many temples and shrines still accept only cashes for the admission fee. To worship in Japanese way, Japanese drop some coins in the offering box and ring the bell at a shrine or a temple. (Dropping 5 yen coins that have hole are said to be lucky!) To do this, it would also be better to have some cashes. “Vending machines”, “bus fare”, “local rail tickets machines”, and “luggage lockers” also require cashes.
2) Credit cards
Most of the restaurants, shops, and hotels in Tokyo accept credit cards and debit cards. Many Japanese use this method at daily life so there are no worries especially in Tokyo. In rural areas and other prefectures, you may not be able to use credit and debit cards.
3) IC cards
IC cards like Suica and PASMO are prepaid IC card for public transportations and shopping. It was mainly used for the fares of trains and buses but now it is also accepted by most convenience stores, taxis, vending machines, and lockers at stations. It may not be accepted at stores at rural areas. IC card is very useful for shopping and transportation in Japan. We strongly recommend get this IC card. It can also be a souvenir for you.
Where to exchange money
As you may find out, it is better to hold cash when you’re in Japan. Then the question is where you can exchange currency in Japan. It depends on your currency but it may be better to change in your own country because Japan’s handle fees are quite high. If you’re planning to exchange in Japan, below are the options.
1) Airports or hotels
Currency exchange is mainly handled by banks and post offices in Japan. Of course you can exchange at the International airports. Big hotels also have exchange service but usually it is not at a good rate comparing to airports.
2) ATM Withdrawal
ATM withdrawal service is widely used in Japan. Different point from other countries is that it can be closed during night and on weekends or holidays. It is not 24 hours available. You can withdraw from ATMs at Seven Eleven conveniences stores and at post offices . There are no huge differences on exchange rates but handling fees vary so please check your card company. Please note that other than above ATMs mainly do not accept foreign cards.
There is no tipping culture in Japan. In fact, many restaurants and ryokans/hotels include 10-15% of service charge to their price in the first place.
Japan is still a cash based society that cashes are required at temples, vending machines, and some local stores. Credit cards and IC cards are widely accepted in Tokyo but still it would be better to have some cashes.