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Japanese Currency Guide: All About Bills and Coins

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This article contains information about the Japanese yen: bills and coins in circulation, how much they value, and other helpful facts about Japanese money.

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About the Japanese Yen: Bills and Coins in Japan

Japanese yen

You will need to use Japanese currency when traveling in Japan. This article provides basic information regarding the Japanese yen: denominations currently in use, typical exchange rates, and more.

Japan uses the Japanese yen, with the international symbol being ¥. Currently, there are 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen banknotes in circulation. Coins come in one-yen, five-yen, 10-yen, 50-yen, 100-yen and 500-yen denominations.

Yen Exchange Rates

How much is your country's currency worth in yen? Look below for currency equivalent estimates (current as of May 2024).

Foreign Currency Value Value in Japanese Yen
1 US Dollar 154 yen
1 British Pound 193 yen
1 Australian Dollar 101 yen
1 Euro 166 yen
1 Taiwan New Dollar 4.77 yen
1 Chinese Yuan 21.81 yen
100 Korean Won 0.11 yen

Credit, Debit, and Other Cashless Options in Japan

Although many businesses and transactions remain done via cash in Japan, electronic payment is becoming much more popular countrywide. Department stores and chain supermarkets accept credit and debit cards. Many convenience stores and other businesses are accept electronic payments like Pay Pay, along with a number of domestic payment apps and services.

Another popular way of paying is via IC card––using your Suica, Pasmo, Icoca, or other prepaid transportation cards to shop.

It is still important to carry around cash, but you may not need as much as you think you do.

A Closer Look at Japanese Yen

Japanese banknotes and coins come with various distinct markings. We have compiled a brief overview here for your reference.

The 10,000 Yen Bill

10000 yen bill

The front of the 10,000 yen bill is adorned by an image of the samurai, Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901), who was also an intellectual and an educator in the mid-to-late 1800s in Japan.

A 10,000 yen bill in your wallet is enough for a day of fun out in Tokyo or the city. You can enjoy a moderately-priced lunch, dinner, head to a museum, and go shopping for souvenirs with this amount of money.

The 5,000 Yen Bill

5000 yen bill

The 5,000 yen bill is of a violet hue and features Ichiyo Higuchi (1872-1896), Japan's first prominent female writer. She specialized in short stories and poetry.

On average, it costs around 5,000 yen per person when dining out at well-known restaurants and or spending an evening with drinks at an izakaya. If you want to have lunch at a traditional sit-down Japanese restaurant or sushi restaurant, you can expect to spend 5,000 yen.

The 2,000 Yen Bill

2000 yen bill

The design on the 2,000 yen bill features the Japanese literary classic, "The Tales of the Genji," and its author, Murasaki Shikibu. Making up just around 0.9% of the bills in circulation in Japan, you will see this bill rarely, if at all. Be careful because it cannot be used in vending machines.

If you want to indulge yourself and splurge at lunch in Tokyo, 2,000 yen is just about right. You might also want to charge 2,000 yen on your IC card for transportation if you are traveling more than an hour on a local train.

The 1,000 Yen Bill

1000 yen bill

The 1,000 yen bill features the bacteriologist, Hideyo Noguchi, on the front.

With 1,000 yen, you can buy a casual lunch at a chain restaurant. One option is a lunch set, which typically contains rice, a main dish, soup, and similar menu items. You can also enjoy a bowl of ramen for 1,000 yen or less.

The 500-Yen Coin

500 yen coin

The 500 yen coin is actually the most recent yen coin minted in Japan. It is the largest of the yen coins, and you can feel its weight even in your wallet.

Most bento boxes sold at convenience stores cost around 500 yen, and are a great option for someone trying to save money on food expenses. Inputting the keywords "one coin" into a search engine will return an extensive list of places where you can eat lunch for a single 500 yen coin. For those seeking a pick-me-up, a latte or coffee drink from an upscale cafe in Japan will be priced at around 500 yen.

The 100-Yen Coin

100 yen coin

The 100-yen coin is the Japanese equivalent of the one-dollar bill. It is the most commonly used coin on a day-to-day basis and has a wide variety of uses in daily shopping.

100-yen coins are easiest to spend at vending machines, when paying at convenience stores, and also when playing games at arcades. At McDonald's, items on the "100-Yen Mac" menu, such as regular hamburgers, soft-serve ice cream, and small drinks, can be purchased with a 100-yen coin.

Items priced at 100 yen line the shelves at 100-yen stores: food, clothing, household goods and more. A basic omikuji paper fortune at a shrine or temple will usually cost 100 yen.

The 50 Yen Coin

50 yen coin

The chrysanthemum, cultivated for its appeal as a decorative flower, can be seen on the 50-yen coin. When first released, 50-yen coins lacked holes in the middle. However, to make it easier to distinguish them from 100 yen coins at a glance, holes were incorporated into the design.

50-yen coins can be used to buy individually-packed candy known as dagashi, and these coins can also be used to buy discount drinks at places like Don Quijote.

The 10-Yen Coin

10 yen coin

The design of the Phoenix Hall at Byodouin Temple in Kyoto, which is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is featured on the bronze 10-yen coin.

A 10-yen coin doesn't buy much on its own, but it can be convenient can charge an IC card with 10 yen coins and use them at vending machines. In case of an emergency, you can use 10-yen coins at public payphones, which only accept 10 yen and 100 yen coins. You can get about 60 seconds of talk time during the day and about 80 seconds of talk time at night.

The Five-Yen Coin

5 yen coin

Like the 50 yen coin, the design of the five-yen coin has a hole in the center. The words in Japanese for "five yen" and for "destiny" are both pronounced as "go en," so five yen coins are said to be lucky.

When visiting a temple or shrine in Japan, it is custom to make an offering using the five-yen coin due to this. You cannot use five-yen coins at vending machines, but cashiers in Japan will accept them.

The One Yen Coin

1 yen coin

The one yen coin is made of aluminum and is extremely light, weighing in at just one gram. It is said that producing a one-yen coin costs three yen. There is a saying in Japan that "he who laughs at one yen will weep at one yen," meaning that all money has value, even something as small as a one yen coin.

One yen coins cannot usually be used at vending machines, ticket machines, and other automatic payment machines. However, feel free to use one yens when you are shopping in person.

FAQ

Is 1000 yen a lot in Japan?

The value of 1000 yen in Japan can be considered moderate. It is roughly equivalent to around 9-10 US dollars, depending on the current exchange rate. In terms of everyday expenses in Japan, 1000 yen can buy you a decent meal at a budget restaurant, a few items at a convenience store, or cover transportation costs for a short distance. However, for larger purchases or more upscale dining experiences, 1000 yen may not stretch as far. Japan is known for its varied cost of living, with major cities like Tokyo being more expensive than rural areas.

What is the Japanese money called?

The official currency of Japan is called the Japanese yen. In Japanese, it is denoted as 円 (pronounced as "en"). The symbol for the yen is ¥. The yen is abbreviated as JPY internationally to distinguish it from other currencies.

What is a good salary in Japan?

A good salary in Japan typically exceeds the average annual income of around 4.14 million yen. Factors such as the high cost of living, industry, experience level, and benefits contribute to what is considered a good salary. It should provide for a comfortable lifestyle, savings, and leisure activities, tailored to individual circumstances and financial goals.

Do you tip in Japan?

Tipping is not a common practice in Japan and is generally not expected in most situations. In fact, tipping can sometimes be considered rude or confusing in Japanese culture. Service in Japan is typically of high quality and the price you pay is expected to include all costs, so there is no need to tip at restaurants, hotels, taxis, or other service establishments. If you do try to tip, it may be refused or seen as a social faux pas.
If you receive truly exceptional service or want to show appreciation in a non-monetary way, a polite thank you or some small gift from your home country could be more culturally appropriate.

Why is yen so weak?

The perceived weakness of the yen can be influenced by factors such as Japan's economic performance, monetary policy decisions, trade balance, market sentiment, exchange rates, inflation differentials, and global economic conditions. These complex interactions contribute to the fluctuations in the value of the yen relative to other currencies.

Get Familiar with Japanese Money

This concludes our feature on the Japanese yen. We hope you found it useful. Enjoy shopping in Japan!

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The MATCHA editorial department. Our articles feature useful travel information for visitors to Japan, from how-to guides to recommended places to visit.

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