I get asked this a lot. The answer is short and sweet.
Yes. Here’s why.
For all the fabulous technical advancements and wonders to behold in Japan, the financial sector side of things are, well, not so advanced.
Some parts are for sure. The train ticket system is amazing. The various payment cards like Suica and Pasmo work in convenience stores too.
But that foreign credit card you have? It will probably work. Sometimes it strangely won’t.
And it totally sucks to wait in line, get to the register with that fancy cool, only in Japan toy you found, only to have your card rejected.
Debit cards seem to be especially problematic.
Big Chains OK, Small Shops Vary
Of course, the biggest of the shopping chains all will support your cards no problem. But you’re not coming all the way to Japan just to shop in those are you?
You want to find the quirky, unique, interesting stuff found on the street-level. The stuff where there just may only be one in existence. Where a master of their craft created it from scratch.
Unfortunately, those shops are typically using antiquated payment systems and have problems accepting credit cards.
In short, bring cash when out and about in Tokyo. You’ll enjoy it so much more.
If you’re worried about theft, don’t be. Japan is one of the safest places on the planet.
If you search you can find stories of people who have left bags and wallets in public locations — only to find them returned with all the money inside still!
Things are getting better though
Especially with the 2020 Summer Olympics looming, Tokyo has been upping their game.
These advances mean it is less-and-less likely your card won’t work, or the shop simply doesn’t accept card.
But it still happens.
And unfortunately, sometimes those teeny-tiny mom and pop shops are the absolute best. So bring cash and have it ready to enjoy some of the most incredible experiences Tokyo has to offer.
ATM’s in Japan
Up until a few years ago, it was extremely annoying to get yen cash from my U.S. based bank.
Now it couldn’t be easier. 7-Eleven has ATM’s at nearly every location now and they accept Visa/MasterCard to withdraw money from your bank.
I’m sure they accept much more, but I haven’t had to worry about it.
Here’s a nice video showing how to withdraw yen from a Japanese 7-Eleven ATM.
And here is a more thorough video discussing money issues when in Japan.
Hand-Picked Articles About Money in Tokyo
Of course, my article wouldn’t be complete without some hand-picked finds to help you discover more about this topic.
Money in Tokyo
There’s no getting around it: Tokyo is among the most expensive cities in the world (according to Economist.com, it was the world’s most expensive city in February 2009).
Hopefully, this guide will help reduce some potential costs by showing you how to take advantage of deals on public transportation, dine more cheaply, and see some of Tokyo’s sights with reduced admission.Continue on Frommer’s
Using credit cards in Japan – a convenient and essential tool for your trip
“Is Japan a backward country in terms of credit card usage?” The answer is “NO”. Since most people in Japan used to pay cash, there were not many shops that accepted credit cards in the past.
Today many places including shops and hotels take credit cards. With the weaker yen, easing of visa requirements, the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the increase of overseas tourists visiting Japan, there will be even more places that will start accepting credit cards.Continue on Japan Monthly Web Magazine
HOW TO TURN HIGH-COST JAPAN INTO A CHEAP PLACE TO VISIT
For years, I put off traveling to Japan because I was afraid of how expensive it would be. The rumors I’d heard about the country’s high prices made me hesitant to go.
I’ve always loved Japanese culture, and I knew any visit would involve gorging on sushi and ramen, visits to lots of temples, and heavy train travel through the countryside.
And the thought of how much that would cost always made me think, “I’ll wait until I have more money.”Continue on Nomadic Matt