Photo: amri48 / Shutterstock.com
Photo: amri48 / Shutterstock.com
- 10 min read

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 Japanese yen, represented by the currency code JPY and the currency symbol, ¥.

Locally in Japan, yen is pronounced “en” in Japanese and often accompanied by its kanji, 円, in everyday use.

The Japanese yen is available in 10 denominations, including six coins and four banknotes that you can read about in-depth in the denomination section.

How to Pay

Credit card and QR code payment examples in a Japanese store
Credit card and QR code payment examples in a Japanese store (Photo: Edward Yagisawa)

As of 2024, the number of ways to pay in Japan has proliferated—though cash is arguably still king.

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 or when visiting small, independent businesses.

  • It’s always a good idea to have small denominations (10 yen and 100 yen coins, as well as 1,000 yen notes) 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.

  • If you are holding too many coins, note that a lot of supermarkets or convenience stores (7-eleven, Family Mart, Lawson etc) have payment kiosks that let you use denominations down to 1 yen allowing you to quickly deposit them.

Credit/Debit Cards

Credit and debit cards are increasingly accepted across Japan, but always try to check in advance whether a place solely accepts credit cards (also often indicated near the shopfront for any business), as well as abide by these tips:

  • Even if you decide to mainly use a credit card, it is still recommended to carry or have access to sufficient cash.

  • Most credit card companies will charge a surcharge (usually 1–3%) for foreign-issued cards. A Wise card lets you avoid foreign transaction fees and convert at the real exchange rate, even when using local ATMs.

  • The most commonly accepted cards are MasterCard, Visa, and JCB, followed by American Express and Diner’s Club.

  • Credit card readers typically support one of swipe, insert or tap/contactless (referred to as "touch" in Japan). In some cases, you may still asked to sign for payments but it is rare for the vendor to check the authenticity of this (often they'll have already returned the card).

IC Cards

Photo: globe_design_studio / Shutterstock.com

Transit IC cards, such as Suica and PASMO, are commonplace in Japan's major cities. The 10 main IC operators across Japan also include Icoca, Pitapa, Toica, Manaca, Kitaca, Suogca, Nimoca and Hayakaken. They are all interoperable, meaning you can use one card of another IC card's network, but you cannot travel between IC card areas on a single card.

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) whereas Apple devices including iPhone 8 or later and Apple Watch Series 3 or later should work fine.

Digital Payments

If you have a Japanese phone number, a number of local apps are available to you. Digital payment apps can typically be topped up at ATMs or via connecting a bank account, credit card or mobile service provider. Payments can be made via contactless terminals or having a vendor scan your QR code. Services include:

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 today 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.

Money Etiquette and Things to Know

Consider the following hints and tips when using money in Japan:

  • Tipping: Japan has a no-tip policy. Leaving a tip at a restaurant or a taxi driver will often result in them returning you the money (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).

  • Handling cash: 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. This is also often used when receiving small change.

  • Consumption tax: When paying for goods in Japan, it is fairly common to see the pre-tax price advertised although, by law, the final price should always be indicated. Consumption tax is currently 10%, but for cafes, restaurants or other businesses serving food to take away the tax is 8%.

  • When to exchange: 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. Similarly, you'll typically get better rates away from the major airports.

Denominations

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

Coins

Japanese yen: coins in use
Coin Details

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

(jū-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

(gojū-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.

  • Often referred to as "one coin" when talking about value-for-money items e.g. lunch, entrance fees etc.

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.

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Novia Mardasari 3 years ago
Informative article!
Geraldine Buergel 4 years ago
Japan has so many nice technological gadgets and yet, when it comes to money the country still has way to go... I recommend to always have some cash on you.
Preethu 8 years ago
Thanks for this article,informative one...
Jerome Lee 8 years ago
Very informative guide! Definitely useful for those who are travelling to Japan. Nice one!
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