Money and Costs
Bargaining is not common practice in Japan; flea markets are an exception, but a hard approach would still be considered rude.
In cities, credit cards are widely accepted; rural areas are hit and miss. Post offices and most convenience stores have international ATMs.
The currency in Japan is the yen (¥). The Japanese pronounce yen as 'en', with no 'y' sound. The kanji for yen is 円. With the exception of the ¥5 coin, all coins and banknote values are noted in Roman numerals.
¥1 coin; lightweight, silver colour
¥5 coin; bronze colour, hole in the middle
¥10 coin; copper colour
¥50 coin; silver colour, hole in the middle
¥100 coin; silver colour
¥500 coin; large, silver colour
¥2000 banknote (rare)
Feature: Have Cash on Hand
Be warned that there are still places in rural Japan that don't accept credit cards. It's wise to assume you'll need to pay cash at ryokan and smaller restaurants and shops; stock up when you're in a town with an ATM.
Only a few branches of major Japanese banks – the big two are Sumitomo Mitsui (SMBC) and Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFG) – have ATMs that accept foreign-issued cards; there will be a sign in the window if the bank has an international ATM. Otherwise, even bank ATMs that display Visa and MasterCard logos only work with Japan-issued versions of these cards.
The easiest place to get cash in Japan is at one of the country's ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores. Their Seven Bank (www.sevenbank.co.jp/english) ATMs consistently work with foreign-issued Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Plus, Cirrus, Maestro and Union Pay cards; have instructions in English; and are available 24 hours.
Other convenience-store chains have international ATMs, but Seven Bank is the most user-friendly.
Japan Post Bank (ゆうちょ銀行; www.jp-bank.japanpost.jp/en/ias/en_ias_index.html) ATMs, found inside post offices and sometimes at train stations, also accept most foreign-issued cards and have English instructions. The downside is that they have opening hours that are only slightly longer than regular post-office hours.
There is a withdrawal limit of ¥100,000 per transaction at Seven Bank ATMs (and ¥50,000 at Japan Post Bank ATMs). Bear in mind that your bank or card company may impose an even stricter limit; if your card is rejected, this might be the reason why.
More places in Japan accept credit cards than they used to, and now many bookings can be paid for online. Businesses that do take credit cards will often display the logo for the cards they accept. Visa is the most widely accepted, followed by MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club. Foreign-issued cards should work fine.
Note that Japanese tend not to use credit cards for small or sundry purchases; some shops and restaurants have a minimum purchase requirement (of maybe ¥3000 or ¥5000 to use a card).
Major banks and post office main branches can usually exchange US, Canadian and Australian dollars, pounds sterling, euros, Swiss francs, Chinese yuan and Korean won.
MUFG operates World Currency Shop (www.tokyo-card.co.jp/wcs/wcs-shop-e.php) foreign-exchange counters in major cities that can handle a broader range of currencies, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand dollars. In all cases, you'll need to show your passport. Note that you receive a better exchange rate when withdrawing cash from ATMs than when exchanging cash or travellers cheques in Japan.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Western Union (www.wu-japan.com) has counters in most major cities.
Tipping is not customary in Japan.
High-end restaurants & hotels usually add a 10% service fee to the bill.
Budget: Less than ¥8000
- Dorm bed: ¥3000
- Bowl of noodles: ¥750
- Happy-hour beer: ¥500
- City one-day subway pass: ¥600
- One temple or museum entry: ¥500
- Double room at a business hotel: ¥10,000
- Dinner for two at an izakaya (Japanese pub-eatery): ¥6000
- Half-day cycling tour or cooking class: ¥5000
- Temple and museum entries: ¥1500
Top End: More than ¥20,000
- Double room in a nice hotel: from ¥25,000
- Dinner for two at a good sushi restaurant: from ¥15,000
- Taxi ride between city sights: ¥2500