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Basics of Money in Japan: Currency Exchange, Duty-Free, and More!

Basics of Money in Japan: Currency Exchange, Duty-Free, and More!

Translated by Allie

Written by Mayu

2016.10.29 Bookmark

Travel and money can not be separated. This article features information on Japan's payment systems, money exchange locations, duty-free and sales tax exemption services, and how to get the most out of your money while shopping.

What You Need to Know: Basic Information About Japanese Currency

Traveling requires money in one way or another. In this article, we will introduce helpful and useful information about this topic for travelers coming to Japan.

Read also:

Sending Trackable Packages From Japan Via Express Mail Service
What You Should Know About Japanese Pay Phones In An Emergency
Where To Find Free Wi-Fi In Japan

Banknotes and Coins in Japan

Image from Basic Information Regarding Japanese Currency

Japan issues banknotes and coins in circulation which have ten denominations in total.

The notes in circulation: 10,000 yen, 5000 yen, 2000 yen and 1000 yen.
The coins in circulation: 500 yen, 100 yen, 50 yen, 10 yen, 5 yen and 1 yen.

Although you may encounter them, 2000 yen notes are very rare and not commonly used these days; many people keep them as souvenirs instead of spending them.

In Japan, many businesses, including some hotels and restaurants require payment in cash, so it is a good idea to carry cash with you at all times. The further you get from major cities, the more likely you are to have to pay in cash, as small shops and ryokan inns in the countryside may not have any credit card facilities whatsoever.

Types of Credit Cards Usable in Japan

Credit cards from major companies such as Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Diners Club and American Express are accepted at most facilities in Japan.

The number of stores and businesses which accept China’s UnionPay card are increasing year by year, though outside major tourist areas you might not be able to use it as easily.

If you have a debit card, or travel money card with international functionality, you can use these cards at affiliated ATMs to withdraw cash anywhere in Japan.

Please refer to this article for more details.

Exchange Services in Japan

Image from Need Japanese Yen? Four Ways to Get Cash in Japan

You can easily find exchange offices in international airports like Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport, and in major cities such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Osaka-Umeda, and Kyoto. Most exchange places are located near tourist-centered facilities, such as train stations, tourist information centers and so on.

Read also:Need Japanese Yen? Four Ways to Get Cash in Japan

Tax in Japan

The sales tax rate in Japan is currently 8 percent. Prices are written in two ways; with tax and without tax. So please pay close attention when out shopping.

Convenience stores typically include the tax in the posted price, while on the other hand, restaurants and supermarkets may not, therefore the tax will be added to your total once you reach the cash register.

The total price for your purchase may change drastically whether the tax is included in the listed price or not, which may cause some to believe that they are being overcharged for their purchase. If you are not sure whether the tax is included in the tagged price or not, please ask a staff person before making your purchase.

Going to duty-free shops is the best way of saving yourself some money when you want to do a lot of shopping while in Japan.

Duty-Free Shopping System

When you go shopping in Japan, what you must know about is the duty-free shopping system. When shopping at recognized duty-free stores, you can be immediately exempt from tax if the total of your purchase (with tax) is over 5400 yen.

Stores which have this license are usually found in big cities. Bic Camera (a consumer electronics retailer chain), Uniqlo (a clothing company), Matsumoto Kiyoshi (a drugstore) and Lapx (the biggest duty-free chain in Japan), are four of the most popular shops offering duty-free sales.

In order to use this duty-free shopping system, travelers have to meet at least one of the following requirements:

    Visitors who have been staying in Japan for less than six months (those who work in Japan are not included).
    Those who are civil servants or working for an international organization.
    Those who have Japanese citizenship but have been living abroad for more than two years (consecutively).
    *Those who have Japanese citizenship but do not met the above condition are excluded.
    *The passport holder must be the person shopping (No proxy or representatives may apply for this).

The duty-free shopping system applies to two kinds of products: general goods such as clocks and clothes, and consumables such as foods and cosmetics.
General Goods:

    Applicable products: home electronics, ornaments, clocks, clothes, shoes, daily goods, jewelry, folk crafts.
    Minimum Price: a purchase or purchases totaling more than 5400 yen at the same store within the same day.
    Conditions:purchased items are only for personal use (ones for sales/business use are excluded). You must take them out of Japan without opening/using them within 6 months from the day you entered Japan.


    Applicable products:foods, fruits, drinks, medicines, cigarettes.
    Minimum Prices: purchases costing from 5400 yen up to 540,000 yen in total at the same store within the same day.
    Conditions:purchased items are only for personal use (ones for sales/business use are excluded). You must take them out of Japan without opening/using them within 30 days from the date of purchase.

In general, whenever you buy any of the above products and the total is over 5400 yen, inquire about getting your sales tax refund.

How to Use Duty-Free System

Image from Basic Information Regarding Japanese Currency

There are two ways of using the duty free shopping system:

1. By showing your passport at the time of purchase and paying the amount with the tax excluded at that time.
2. By paying the full amount including the tax at the register and then later going to the information counter in the shopping center, showing your passport and receipt(s) and then receiving your refund after a day of shopping.

Licensed stores are fully equipped to provide this service to customers, so it should be a relatively simple process with few things to worry about.

Please refer to the JNTO Official Website to read more about it.

For more on shopping, currency and duty-free in Japan:

Where to Buy What: 5 Types of Shopping Facilities in Japan

Make Shopping In Japan Easier With A Suica Card

Basic Information about Narita International Airport

Transportation Expenses When Traveling Japan

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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