Japan Currency Exchange Guide
Need cash? Read our Japan currency exchange guide for the lowdown on everything money in Japan.
If you’re heading to Japan, you’re going to need some spending money. Using our currency exchange guide, find out how to do this, where to do this and a whole load of useful information to get you spending.
Japanese yen or JPY is the currency of Japan. The currency sign is “¥” and is written “円” in Japanese. There are three types of bill and six types of coin in circulation.
Japanese bill denominations are 10,000, 5,000 and 1,000 yen. They are pretty easy to differentiate between, each being a different colour and depicting a different figure from Japanese history.
Japanese coins, on the other hand, are a little more difficult to get your head around. The coin denominations are 500 (the gold coloured coin), 100 (the silver coloured coin), 50 (the silver coloured coin with a hole), 10 (a copper coloured coin), five (a smaller yellow coloured coin with a hole) and one yen (a smaller silver coloured coin).
The above chart shows the current (as of October 2016) exchange rate of the world’s main currencies into yen. However, rates are constantly in flux and thus it is a good idea to check a comparison website before exchanging your money. Below are links to the top comparison websites:
How to Exchange Currency in Japan
Converting your money at the airport is probably the most convenient way to go about it. In both departure and arrival lounges find ATMs accepting international debit and credit cards as well as currency exchange counters. Withdraw your cash and take it to one of these counters for stress-free conversion. Below are lists of Japan international airports where currency exchange services are available.
New Chitose Airport (Sapporo): Currency, Foreign Currency Exchange, Insurance
Narita Airport (Tokyo): Facilities and Services
Haneda Airport (Tokyo): Banks, ATMs, Currency Exchanges, and Travel Insurance
Chubu International Airport (Nagoya): Currency Exchange and Money
Kansai International Airport (Osaka): Money Service Facilities
Fukuoka Airport (Fukuoka): Currency Exchange, Money, Insurance
Banks are easy to find in Japan and most offer currency exchange services. English language service will usually be available in the more centrally located branches and you’re likely to get a better rate of exchange than at the airport. Do be careful, however, most banks’ opening hours are usually from 9 am to 3 pm. The big four Japanese banks – MUFG, SMBC, Mizuho and Japan Post – all offer this service.
This is probably the easiest option to get cash in Japan, however not every ATM in Japan will accept international cards. Although there may be exceptions, head to a branch of Japan Post or a Seven-Eleven (convenient store) which both have ATM machines that accept international cards.
Currency Exchange Shops
Currency exchange shops usually offer competitive rates and have longer operating hours compared to banks. Currency exchange shops are usually pretty easy to find, especially in central area. Look out for Daikokuya, Travelex and World Currency Shop as these are the market leaders in Japan.
Many of the large hotels in Japan offer currency exchange services. If possible, it is probably best to avoid this option as they commonly offer the lest competitive rates.
Payment System in Japan
Cash is very much the preferred payment method in Japan. Don’t be afraid to use a 10,000 yen bill for small items but it might also be a good idea to stay stocked in change for vending machines or entry into places like shrines, temples and parks.
Credit and Debit Cards
Although Japan is still a largely cash-based society, credit cards are now becoming more acceptable in many shops within major cities, especially for high-priced items.
IC cards or pre-paid cards are now widely used in Japan as payment. These cards are rechargeable and commonly used for paying transportation fares but are now accepted in many shops, restaurants and vending machines. IC cards can be highly convenient and able to be used throughout the country. Take a look at some of the options below:
PitaPa (Kansai Thru Pass) (Only in Japanese)
TOICA (JR Central) (Only in Japanese)
SUGOGA (JR Kyushu) (Only in Japanese)
nimoca (Nishitetsu and others) (Only in Japanese)
Tax in Japan
Consumption tax in Japan is 8% on all items. Most shops will display the pre-tax and taxed price both for your convenience. For tourists and temporary visitors (6 months or less) tax-free shopping is available on items priced at 5,000 yen or more. To take advantage of this, ensure you have your passport handy and head to the tax-free counter. Department stores, large electronic stores and international brand stores all offer this service, although smaller local shops may do too so be sure to enquire in-store.