One would think with the amount of cutting edge technology and the millions of vending machines in Japan, that plastic bank cards would be all the go. But Japan runs mainly on cash. Always have plenty on hand!
Plastic cards, whether they are credit or debit, are treated a bit like cheques and considered second rate. Many of the larger stores are able to accept the popular cards like Visa and Mastercard, but the majority of smaller stores only accept cash. Most of the vending machines only use cash, so its not hard to see why you need deep pockets of coins and smaller notes.
Another thing to be aware of is the majority of Japanese ATMs do not talk to foreign banks. Some of the larger banks do have facilities for foreign visitors, in particular most Citibank and Shinsei Bank branches, but the post office and local 7 Eleven convenience stores may be the best option due to the abundance of branches.
Just about all Japanese Post Offices and 7 Eleven’s have foreign ATM facilities and they couldn’t be easier. The machines operate in several languages, and many have entertaining LCD screens where little characters bow and carry on as you use the machine and wait for the money to spit out. Most westerners will find using the ATMs a breeze and a lot less confusing than trying to convert traveller’s cheques, which can take up to an hour to cash due to the huge amount of Japanese red tape and the difficulty with translations between English and Japanese.
The Post Office is easily spotted with its logo having a Red T with a red line above it. They are only open normal business hours Monday to Saturday in most cases, and so make sure you have enough funds on you to get yourself through.
The ATM’s in the 7 Eleven convenience stores are now able to accept many international cards like Amex, Visa, Mastercard and Cirrus. And 7 Eleven stores are quite plentiful (almost literally on every street corner)!
Click the 7/11 bank information page for more details on how to withdraw money.
Japanese ATM terms:
- お引出し-おひきだし: Ohikidashi- Withdrawal.
- お預入れ-おあずけいれ: Oazukeire- Deposit
- 残高照会-ざんだかしょうかい:Zandaka-Shoukai- Balance Inquiry
- お振込み-おふりこみ: Ofurikomi-Money Transfer (from your bank account)
- 通帳記入-つうちょうきにゅう: Tsuchoukinyuu-Passbook/Bankbook Update
For more information on Japanese currency, visit our Currency page under General Info!