1,000 blue, 2,000 green, 5,000 purple, and 10,000 yen brown. new designs for all the bills except ¥2,000 were introduced in november 2004, so there are now two versions in circulation, although you are unlikely to see anything but the new 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen bills and will probably not see the 2,000 yen bill at all. due to its extreme rarity a 2,000 yen bill might be thought of as a collector's item. most merchants will not object to receiving a ¥10,000 bill even for a small purchase.
Japan is fundamentally a cash society. Although most stores and hotels serving foreign customers take credit cards, many businesses such as cafés, bars, grocery stores, and even smaller hotels and inns do not. Even businesses that do take cards often have a minimum charge as well as a surcharge, although this practice is disappearing. The most popular credit card in Japan is JCB, and due to an alliance between Discover and JCB, Discover cards can be used anywhere that accepts JCB. This means that Discover cards are more widely accepted than Visa/Mastercard/American Express. Most merchants are not familiar with this, but it will work if you can convince them to try!
The Japanese usually carry around large quantities of cash — it is quite safe to do so and is almost a necessity, especially in smaller towns and more isolated areas. There are also a number of NFC-based payment systems like Suica, Pasmo, QuicPay, Edy, and others in use in major cities, for transport Suica/Pasmo or purely for payments QuicPay/Edy. These are generally credit-card sized charge cards that can be recharged in exchange for cash in 1000 yen increments, either at metro ticket vending machines or at convenience store cash registers for no additional fee. A Pasmo card is a very convenient way to pay for everyday purchases and can be obtained for a 500 yen deposit and the initial charge amount from ticket vending machines at Tokyo subway stations. The remaining charge and half of the deposit is refunded upon returning the card to station staff. Since the introduction of nationwide cross-compatibility, cards purchased in most major cities can be used anywhere that shows the letters "IC" in gold and red note that this does not extend to PiTaPa e-money compatibility; this means that a good number of vending machines in Osaka will not take, say, a Suica or Pasmo as payment.
Some people also use mobile phones to pay for their purchases where the mobile phone either has a built-in chip that allows it to function like a stored value card e.g. Suica or like credit cards whereby the cost is billed to them with their mobile phone bill. However, a Japanese phone and SIM card is required to make use of this service so it's typically not available to foreigners on short visits. If you already have a Japanese phone, be aware that initializing the prepaid card function on a rental SIM will incur data charges, though this will most likely be less than the cost of a physical card. This can be avoided by using WiFi. Mobile phone-based stored value systems can be charged either by credit card typically only American Express or JCB cards from overseas are accepted or at convenience store cash registers.
Almost any major bank in Japan will provide foreign currency exchange from US dollars cash and traveller's checks. Rates are basically the same whichever bank you choose. Having to wait 15-30min, depending on how busy the branch gets, is not unusual. Other currencies accepted are euros; Swiss francs; Canadian, Australian New Zealand dollars and British pounds. Among other Asian currencies, Singapore dollars seem to be the most widely accepted, followed by the Korean won and Chinese yuan.
Exchange rates for US dollars and euros are typically very good about 2% below the official rate. Exchange rates for other currencies are very poor up to 15% below the official rate. Other Asian currencies are generally not accepted currencies from nearby countries, like won, yuan, and Hong Kong dollars, are exceptions. Japanese post offices can also cash traveller's checks or exchange cash for yen, at a slightly better rate than the banks. Traveller's checks also have a better rate of exchange than cash. If you are exchanging amounts in excess of US$1,000 whether cash or T/C, you will be required to provide identification that includes your name, address, and date of birth to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorism. Since passports usually do not show your address, bring along another form of ID such as a driver's license that shows your address.
Japanese ATMs generally do not accept foreign cards and the availability of credit card advances, known as cashing キャッシング kyasshingu, is spotty. The major exceptions are:
Over 12,000 Japanese 7-Eleven stores with ATMs accept foreign cards for cash withdrawals. Accepted cards include Visa, American Express, Discover, Diner's Club, JCB and UnionPay, and ATM cards with the Cirrus and Plus logos. These are the most useful as they are everywhere and are accessible 24/7. However, as Seven Bank's website mentions, the presence of one or more of the above-mentioned logos does not guarantee your card will be accepted. It is best to use this as a "might work" option and to bring a credit card to use at a JP Bank ATM.
ゆうちょ yū-cho, formerly the postal savings bank and hence found in almost every post office, which in turn has a branch in almost every village. most postal atms provide instructions in english as well as japanese. plus, cirrus, visa electron, maestro, and unionpay are accepted, and you can do credit card advances on visa, mastercard, amex and diners club. your pin must be 6 digits or less. you might have to select the english menu in order to use foreign cards.
Tipping effectively does not exist in Japan, and attempting to offer tips can often be seen as an insult. Japanese service is legendary, and you do not need to bribe the waiters/waitresses to do their job properly — if you leave a tip in a restaurant, the staff will probably come running after you to return the money you "forgot". Even bellhops in high end hotels usually do not accept tips. The only exceptions are high-end ryokan see Sleep and English-speaking tour guides.
That said, some restaurants do add a 10% service charge, and family restaurants may add a 10% late-night charge after midnight.
Notice the trend of "local" Japanese banks going with UnionPay and MUFG accepting Discover as well. While 7-Elevens are everywhere, having more options is always recommended, so try to get either a UnionPay or Discover debit card before arrival for increased convenience for instance, at Narita Airport, there are the "usual" foreign-capable ATMs on the 1st floor of Terminal 2 that get crowded when the international arrivals start coming, whereas the Mitsubishi-UFJ ATMs on the 2nd floor are wide open during most hours.
One thing to beware: many Japanese ATMs are closed at night and during the weekends, so it's best to get your banking done during office hours! An exception is 7-Eleven, which is open 24 hours.
Also, three notes for those with UnionPay cards:
1. 7-Bank and Yucho both take an additional ATM fee of ¥110 in addition to the fee charged by the issuer. SMBC only takes 75. Aeon and MUFG charge nothing at all, so it's best to withdraw cash while their ATMs are active.
2. Your UnionPay card number MUST start with 6. If the first digit is something else and it does not have the logo of another network it will not function at all in Japan. Change it out for another one. If the initial digit is 3/4/5 AND it carries the logo of another network Visa/MasterCard/AmEx it will NOT function in SMBC/MUFG/Aeon ATMs, only in the ATMs of the other network Yucho/7-Bank/Citi/Shinsei.
3. The illustration on the SMBC/MUFG/Aeon ATMs show the card being inserted mag-stripe up. This is only for Japanese cards; UnionPay and Discover for MUFG cards are to be inserted the usual way.
On top of these, there are cash dispensers abbreviated to CDs in Japan, intended for credit card cash advances. Some will work with foreign-issued ATM/debit/credit cards, however their numbers are dwindling near to non-existence.
Note the difference between CDs and ATMs, even for the same financial institution. For example, for foreign-issued cards SMBC and MUFG bank ATMs take UnionPay MUFG also takes Discover, while SMBC and Mitsubishi UFJ Credit cash dispensers take only Visa/Mastercard.
A note for those using SMBC/MUFG/Aeon ATMs: on-site staff at most branches are still unaware that their ATMs now accept foreign cards at all. If you're having trouble, pick up the handset next to the machine to talk to the central ATM support staff.
Vending machines in Japan are known for their pervasiveness and the notorious variety of products they sell. Most will take ¥1,000 bills, and some types such as train ticket machines will take up to ¥10,000; none accept ¥1 or ¥5 coins, nor ¥2,000 notes. And even the most high-tech vending machines do not take credit cards, save for certain ones in train stations though there are limitations — for example, JR East ticket vending machines require a PIN of four digits or less; most credit card customers would be better off purchasing from a ticket window. Note that cigarette vending machines require a Taspo card age verification, which are unfortunately off limits to non residents, but local smokers are usually happy to lend you theirs.
Prepaid electronic cards are quite popular in Japan for small purchases. There are cards for train fares, convenience store purchases, and public telephones, though they aren't interchangeable.
There is a 8% consumption tax on all sales in Japan. Stores can now choose to display prices either inclusive or exclusive of tax. The word zeinuki 税抜 means tax-excluded, zeikomi 税込 means tax-included. If you cannot find out any words in the price card, most of them are now tax-excluded.
Always keep a sizeable stack of reserve money in Japan, as if you run out for any reason wallet stolen, credit card blocked, etc, it can be difficult to have any wired to you. Western Union has a very limited presence even in the larger metropolitan areas their agreement with Suruga Bank ended in 2009, and they have just started a new agreement with Daikokuya as of April 2011, banks will not allow you to open accounts without local ID, and even international postal money orders require proof of a residential address in Japan.
NOTE: MasterCard has issued a warning stating that certain Maestro cards issued outside of Asia/Pacific will not work at any ATM in Japan Source. More generally, most foreign credit and debit cards will not work in most Japanese ATM's anyway.The big exception is the ATMs found at over 20,000 post offices and over 10,000 7-Eleven convenience stores. These ATMs allow you to withdraw cash using credit and debit cards issued outside of Japan, including Visa, Plus, MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express and JCB cards and provide an English user menu.
Make sure to have cash at hand before entering Japan.
The currency of Japan is the Japanese yen pronounced en in Japanese. In Japan, the symbol for the yen is 円 also the Kanji symbol for circle. In foreign exchange contexts it's more common to see the ¥ or JPY symbolisations used. The value of the yen has been up and down significantly over the past few years. As of May 2015, it stands at 121 yen to the US dollar.
1 silver, 5 gold with a center hole, 10 copper, 50 silver with a center hole, 100 silver, and 500 yen. there are two ¥500 coins, distinguishable by their color. the new ones are gold, the old ones are silver. except for the 5 yen coin, all coins have their value in arabic numerals on them. if you can't find the value, it's the 5 yen coin.
The consumption tax imposed is not refundable for purchases of consumable items such as food and beverages. However, for non-consumable items like clothing and electronics, the tax may be refunded for purchases of ¥10,000 or more before tax in a single receipt if you are not a resident and intend to bring the items out of Japan when you leave.
At many department stores like Isetan, Seibu and Matsuzakaya, you typically pay the full cost at the cashier and go to a tax refund 税金還付 zeikin kanpu or 税金戻し zeikin modoshi counter, usually located at one of the higher floors, and present your receipt and passport to the counter to get reimbursed. In some other stores advertising "duty free" 免税 menzei, you just present your passport to the cashier when making payment and the tax is deducted on the spot.
When making tax free purchases or tax refund claims, counter staff would staple a piece of paper in your passport, which you should keep with you until you leave Japan. This piece of paper is to be surrendered to the customs counter at your point of departure just before you pass through immigration and checks may be done to ensure that you are bringing the items out of Japan.
Despite the saying that Japanese cities never sleep, retail hours are surprisingly limited by North American standards. Opening hours of most shops are typically 10AM-8PM, though most shops are open on weekends and public holidays except New Year, and close on one day a week. Restaurants typically stay open until late at night, though smoking would usually be allowed after 8PM so those who can't stand cigarette smoke should have your meals before then.
However, you will always find something you could need to buy at any time of day. Japan is crawling with 24/7 convenience stores コンビニ konbini, such as 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, Circle K, and Sunkus. In central Tokyo you will never be more than 400 meters away from a convenience store. They often offer a much wider range of products than convenience stores in the US or Europe, often have a small ATM and are often open all day all week unless they are part of a larger mall that has a closing hour! Many convenience stores also offer services such as fax, takkyubin luggage delivery, a range of non-international postal services, payment services for bills including topping up international phone cards such as Brastel and some online retailers e.g. Amazon.jp, and ticket sales for events, concerts and cinemas.
Of course, establishments related to night life such as karaoke lounges and bars stay open well into the night: even in small towns it is easy to find an izakaya open until 5 am. Pachinko parlours are obliged to close at 11 pm.
To many Westerners, anime animation and manga comics are the most popular icons of modern Japan. Many visitors come to Japan in search of merchandise relating to their favorite anime and manga titles, which are often released in different versions in Japan and the West; the Western versions edit out taboo references in the Japanese version. Most anime fans will even try to find Japanese-language anime DVDs, but there are difficulties to doing so: there are usually no subtitles on domestic releases with the exception of Studio Ghibli releases, which all offer English subtitles, and Japan is in DVD Region 2 and uses NTSC video formatting, so if you live outside of Region 2 and/or use PAL or SECAM, you may not be able to play the DVDs. You can get around this with special, often expensive equipment such as multi-system televisions and all-region DVD players. More commonly, a computer with region-lock bypassing software installed i.e. VLC Media Player should allow the more tech-savvy to view such DVDs. You may also be surprised by the prices: new DVD releases regularly cost over ¥3,000 and there are usually only 2 episodes per DVD.
Blu-ray releases are more expensive than DVDs starting at ¥4,000. Note, however, that Blu-ray regions are much less restrictive than DVD regions. Japan shares its code Region A with North and South America, Korea, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong but not mainland China. Some discs are also released without any region coding at all, and can be used with any NTSC-compatible player.
Be mindful about the content of any anime or manga that you purchase and try to bring back to your home country, especially if it contains sexually explicit material. The content of some anime and manga may be illegal under certain laws in your country. A [well documented case] involves an American who in 2007, ordered manga from Japan and was arrested after American postal workers opened his parcel prior to his receipt of the package. The manga he ordered were declared illegal under U.S. obscenity laws as they were said to contain cartoon images of underage characters in sexual situations. While this cannot be charged under child pornography laws being drawings, no children can be said to have been involved in their creation, they are still illegal in the U.S and several other countries under laws regarding obscenity. [A similar incident] occurred with Canadian customs agents, although charges were dropped in this case but only after a two year ordeal. Check your local laws before trying to import any titles that might be questionable.
Video games are a huge business in Japan, but Japan's NTSC-J region code is incompatible with consoles in Europe, North America, Australia and mainland China, so you will need to buy a Japanese console to play these games. In South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau or Southeast Asia, these games should work fine on your console. Of course, the language will still be in Japanese unless the game has multilingual options.
Here is a list of modern consoles and their interoperability:
Sony PlayStation 3 - All games are able to be played on Playstation 3 consoles of any region except for Persona 4 Arena, although any DLC must match the region of the game. The disadvantage of the language is still present, many games are now multilingual, choosing the language of your console settings.
Sony PSP - region-free except UMB Movies which remained Region-Locked
Sony PSVita - region-free
Sony PS4 - region-free
Nintendo Wii - locked; even Korean and Japanese Wii systems fall under different regions and are incompatible
Nintendo Wii U - Locked including Wii Games
Nintendo DS - region-free
Nintendo DSi - locked for DSi-specific games and DSi download content; region-free for DS games
Nintendo 3DS - Locked; region-free for DS Games
Microsoft Xbox 360 - case-by-case basis
There have been a lot of game consoles made in Japan. Here is a list of old consoles and their release dates in Japan.
Nintendo Entertainment SystemNES-1983
Super Nintendo Entertainment SystemSNES-1990
Sony Playstation 2-2000
PC games, on the other hand, will usually work fine, as long as you understand enough Japanese to install and play them. Only-in-Japan genres include the visual novel ビジュアルノベル, which are interactive games with anime style art, somewhat similar to dating sims, and its subset the erotic game エロゲー eroge, which is just what the name says.
Generally the best places for Video Game shopping are Akihabara in Tokyo, and Den Den Town in Osaka in terms of deals, you can purchase video games from almost anywhere in Japan.
Battery-powered small electronics and still cameras made for sale in Japan will work anywhere in the world, though you might have to deal with an owner's manual in Japanese. Some of the larger stores will provide you with an English manual 英語の説明書 eigo no setsumeisho on request. There are no great deals to be found pricewise, but the selection is unparalleled. However, if you are buying other electronics to take home, it's best to shop at stores that specialize in "overseas" configurations, many of which can be found in Tokyo's Akihabara. You can get PAL/NTSC region-free DVD players, for example. Also, keep in mind that Japanese AC runs at 100 volts, so using "native" Japanese electronics outside Japan without a step-down transformer can be dangerous. Even the US standard 110V voltage is too much for some devices.
Prices are lowest and shopping is the easiest at giant discount stores like Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, Sofmap and Yamada Denki. They usually have English-speaking staff on duty and accept foreign credit cards. For common products the prices at any are virtually identical, so don't waste time comparison shopping. Bargaining is possible in smaller shops, and even the larger chains will usually match their competitors' prices.
Most of the big chains have a "point card" that gets you points that can be used as a discount on your next purchase, even just a few minutes later. Purchases tend to earn points between 5 percent and even 20 percent of the purchase price, and 1 point is worth ¥1. Some stores the biggest being Yodobashi Camera) require you to wait overnight before being able to redeem points. The cards are handed out on the spot and no local address is needed. However, some stores may not allow you to earn points and receive a tax refund on the same purchase.
Also, major stores tend to deduct 2 percent from points earned if paid using a credit card if using a UnionPay credit card, Bic and Yodobashi will disallow you from earning points entirely, though you get an instant 5% discount as compensation. If you know you will buy something else at the same store which is likely given that you almost always pay on the floor the item is found on, choose to earn points as most items, earn at least 10 percent in points, compared to the 5 percent tax refund.
While you may be better off heading for France or Italy for high end fashion, when it comes to casual fashion, Japan is hard to beat. Tokyo and Osaka in particular are home to many shopping districts, and there is an abundance of stores selling the latest fashion, particularly those catering to youths. Just to name a few, Shibuya in Tokyo and Shinsaibashi in Osaka are known throughout Japan as centers of youth fashion. The main problem is that Japanese shops cater to Japanese-sized customers, and finding larger or curvier sizes can be real challenge.
Japan is also famous for its beauty products such as facial cream and masks, including many for men. While these are available in almost every supermarket, the Ginza district of Tokyo is where many of the most expensive brands have their own shops.
Japan's main contribution to jewelry is the cultured pearl, invented by Mikimoto Kōkichi in 1893. The main pearl growing operation to this day is in the small town of Toba near Ise, but the pearls themselves are widely available — although there is little if any price difference to buying them outside Japan. For those who insist on getting their hands on the "authentic" stuff, Mikimoto's flagship store is in the Ginza district of Tokyo.
Then of course there is kimono. While very expensive new, second hand kimono can be had at a fraction of the price. There is a separate Kimono buying guide on Wikitravel for those who would like to buy their very own.
Smoking cigarettes remains popular in Japan, especially among men. While cigarettes are sold at some of the many vending machines dotting Japan, visitors to Japan who wish to purchase them must do so at a convenience store or duty-free. As a result of the Japanese tobacco industry cracking down on minors the legal age is 20, you now need a special age-verifying IC card, called a TASPO card, to purchase cigarettes from a vending machine. TASPO cards are issued only to residents of Japan.
Cigarettes generally come in 20-cigarette king-size hard packs and are fairly cheap, around ¥300-400. Japan has few domestic brands: Seven Stars and Mild Seven are the most common local brands. American brands such as Marlboro, Camel and Lucky Strike are extremely popular although the Japanese-produced versions have a much lighter taste than their western counterparts. Also, look out for unusual flavoured cigarettes, light cigarettes with flavour-enhancing filter technology although they taste very artificial and have little effect, mostly popular with female smokers.
Japan is not as expensive as its reputation implies. It is cheaper to eat a full meal at a moderately priced restaurant in Tokyo than in Australia, Canada and most Western European countries. Lodging and transport will be your biggest expenses. For long-distance travel, the Japan Rail Pass, Japan Bus Pass, and Visit Japan flights see Get around can save you a bundle.
You will find it possible to travel on less than ¥5,000 per day, if you stay in hostels and avoid high-cost transportation like taxis, high-speed airport connections or the Shinkansen. Typical prices for moderate budget travel would be ¥5,000 for a hotel or ¥2,500 for a hostel, ¥2,000 for meals, and ¥2,000 again for entry fees and local transport.
Japan is expensive in the central high-end shopping and eating areas. Since tourists often flock to these areas, consider purchasing lunch or snacks at a local supermarket before starting your day. A glass of orange juice at a cafe in the centre can cost you more than your entire lunch at the supermarket. Instead of shopping at the well-publicized shopping districts such as Isetan in Shinjuku and Matsuya in Ginza, consider the suburban shopping malls or Aeon / Ito-Yokado.
If you find yourself a little short on cash, you can get your essential items in one of the many ¥100 shops 百円店 hyaku-en ten located in most cities. Daiso (http://www.daiso-sangyo.c...) is Japan's largest ¥100 shop chain, with 2,500 shops across Japan. Other large chains are Can Do キャンドゥ, Seria セリア, and Silk シルク. There are also convenience-store-like ¥100 shops such as SHOP99 and Lawson Store 100 where you can buy sandwiches, drinks, and vegetables in addition to selected ¥100 items.