When you're in Tokyo, money in Japanese currency in it's hard cash form is an essential item to have in your pocket. Japan is still largely a cash based society. Although credit options are becoming more available, it's the paper notes you need to make sure you have.
One thing you can be pretty sure of here is that you're safe to carry your wad with you. Common sense rules still apply - goes without saying right? - but issues of stealing and the like are still relatively rare occurences in this society.
Your Tokyo money will be in yen which is the Japanese currency. In the Western or romanized system of symbols, the sign for the yen is ¥. The yen itself was first established in 1872 by the Meiji Governmnent in a bid to standardize the Japanese currency in line with Western practices.
It can be difficult at first to get your head around Tokyo Prices. To get you started here are the denominations you'll be dealing with while you're in Tokyo:
Once you get used to it, however, Tokyo money is quite easy to handle. The thing I found hardest at first was getting used to thinking in terms of thousands. If only I'd been earning in pounds sterling when I earned my first million : )
One other thing. Watch out for the 1 and 10 yen coins. Make sure you don't collect too many or you'll end up with a wallet that weighs a ton weight!
As strange as it may sound, you need to plan in advance when and where you'll get hold of your Tokyo money. If you're coming from a society that's largely card and credit driven, Tokyo banks and the Japanese banking system can be quite a shock.
What's the big deal? Well you're probably used to being able to stick your cash or credit card into just about any ATM and being able to withdraw your cash. Yes there may be handling charges but you can get your hands on your cash. In Japan, your card will not work in all machines and, in the worst case scenario, it won't work in any. We cover this on our Tokyo Banks page including where you can go to withdraw cash in Tokyo. You should also check with your own bank before you arrive in Japan whether or not your cards will work here during your stay.
Have I had any problems with Tokyo money? Here's my story. In my first year in Japan I happened to fall sick at Oshogatsu - New Year - one of the major festivals on the Japanese calendar. It never even occurred to me that I may not be able to withdraw money from my bank - but that's exactly what happened.
My bank, ATMs, everything, were closed for 3 days straight. At the time I was sharing an apartment with a friend and we ended up ransacking our coin jar and I just had enough cash to get the medication I needed. You should have seen the look on the receptionist's face though when we went to pay with our bag of coins! Not impressed were the words that sprung to mind.
Things are now getting better and the major banks are generally available 24 hours although only at select ATMs. Even so, I can still get caught out here sometimes. During the World Cup 2010 I was going out with some friends and it happened that my bank was doing some kind of maintenance during that period. Again I couldn't access my cash. I was ok because I was with my friends so I just paid them back the next day, but if you're visiting you don't have the same luxury.
With the above in mind, we'll just say again, make sure you always have some Tokyo money in hard cash form with you... just in case.
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