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The Need to Know Information to Safely Exchange Money in Japan

In Japan, the culture of payment by traditional cash remains very strong, and while traveling in Japan it is not uncommon to be unable to pay by card at certain establishments. If you find yourself in this situation, one reliable port of call would be a foreign currency exchange office. This article features the basic information you need to know about exchanging money in Japan.

Types of Money in Japan

The currency of Japan is the Japanese yen (JPY), counted simply in yen. The current set of notes in common circulation are the 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen notes. There are 6 common types of coin, the 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen coins. All coinage and notes have their value written in standard numbers on them, except the 5 yen coin, which has its value written in Japanese only (五円). The 5 and 50 yen coins are notable for featuring a hole in their center. The 2,000 yen note is less common than the other notes, and there is a chance that you may not come across it at all during your time in Japan.

The Exchange Rate

An exchange rate is a ratio applied by the foreign currency exchange market when trading between two currencies. The current exchange rate for Japanese yen is as follows (as of Feb. 28, 2019):

United States dollar: 1 dollar→110.69 JPY
Euro: 1 euro→126.78 JPY
Chinese yuan: 1 yuan→16.56 JPY
Taiwan dollar: 1 dollar→3.59 JPY
Hong Kong dollar: 1 dollar→14.10 JPY
Korean won: 1 won→0.10 JPY

When exchanging money, supplementary to the market rate, each foreign exchange office will apply its own service charge to the transaction. There are many different prices quoted for the same amount of currency depending on the office consulted and therefore, it may be the case that in office A you receive 11,034 JPY for 100 American dollars, whereas in office B you may receive 10,890 JPY. If you wish to get the best value for money, it is recommended to use the establishments introduced below, known as discout ticket shops. These stores trade in items such as gift certificates, coupons, travel tickets, and concert tickets.

The Process of Currency Exchange

Upon entering a currency exchange office, first, you should check the rate on the exchange rate board and then ask to exchange money at the counter. It is common to fill in a foreign currency exchange form stating information such as the type of currency being requested and the amount. Please note that it is very common for customers to be unable to exchange coins.
Once you have received your currency, make sure to check on the spot that the amount that you have received is correct and keep your receipt safe.

Common Places Where You Can Exchange Money in Japan

In addition to international airports across the country, there are a number of other places in Japan at which you will be change currency. Make sure to make a note of them for when you need cash in a hurry.

Banks and Post Offices

The most common place to exchange currency while in cities is the bank or post office. Both are highly reliable and secure. However, banks close at 3:00 pm and post offices at 5:00pm. Moreover, it is important to note that they are also often closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays. Furthermore, currency exchange services are only available in the large banks and post offices in major cities.

Discount Ticket Shops

Discount ticket shops trade in coupons, gift cards, and other goods such as transport tickets, offering value to their customers. Generally, these stores also offer foreign currency exchange services, with longer opening hours and better rates when compared with banks. Daikokuya boasts more than 200 stores nationwide, with Access Ticket and Kounan Ticket as two other popular options.

Travelex Japan

Travelex is one of the largest foreign currency exchange providers in the world. They trade in more than 30 currencies, such as the American and Taiwan dollars, the Chinese yuan, and the Korean won. Travelex have more than 80 branches nationwide and are primarily found inside train stations, commercial buildings, popular tourist areas, and office districts.

FamilyMart Automatic Foreign Currency Exchange Machines

In recent years, the number of automatic foreign currency exchange machines has been increasing in Japan. One such example is the machines installed in the major convenience store chain FamilyMart. Trading in 13 currencies, they can be used 24 hours a day. The machine features 4 different languages (English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese) and support is offered in any of these same languages via a phone attached to the machine, making it is perfect for visitors who do not understand Japanese. Please note that some stores (such as the branch in front of the Kaminarimon in Asakusa) do not currently offer this service, but it is intended to expand the number of machines across the store network in the future.

FamilyMart Automatic Foreign Currency Exchange Machines

Withdrawing Yen with a Non-Japanese Credit Card

If you are in a pinch and require cash immediately, one way of doing this is by withdrawing Japanese yen with a foreign credit card. This service is offered at the ATMs of major convenience stores such as 7-Eleven. Service in languages such as English, Chinese (both simplified and classical) and Korean is offered at these ATMs and they are available to use 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. You can also avail of this service at other convenience stores such as FamilyMart and Lawson. (Service not offered in every branch.)

*Please check the relevant website for information about which cards may be used.

Withdrawing Yen with a Non-Japanese Credit Card

Credit Cards that May Be Used in Japan

When traveling in Japan, you will need a stock of cash, however, there are many stores in which you will be able to use cards. Major international brands in Japan allow the use of Visa, Mastercard and JCB. In JCB partner stores you may also use your discover card. There are not many stores in which you will be able to use your American Express or Diners Club card, however you can use them in high-end stores. In recent times the number of stores accepting the UnionPay card has been increasing, so there is a high chance that you will be able to use it in major department stores, electrical stores and stores specializing in selling large volumes of goods.

When visiting Japan make sure to have a stock of cash on hand to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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