I visited Japan for the first time in 1998…. (Ye gods!!) Back then, only a few Japan Post ATMs would accept international cards. And, failing to find one I quickly ended up spending an hour in a bank attempting to do a manual withdrawal from my VISA card because I was completely out of cash.
I got the money, but it left me thinking there must be a better way. (Insert exasperated infomercial expression here.)
Fast forward a few years or decades, and it turns out there actually is a better way!
These three lessons will ensure you’re never left cashless in Japan like I was!
Lesson #1 – bring a little bit of local currency
You don’t need a lot, but bringing just JP¥20,000 or so will go a long way to get you through the first few hours on Japanese soil.
That’s enough to buy some supplies, a toothbrush and perhaps a train ticket without having to worry about your ATM or credit card after an intercontinental flight.
Lesson #2 – you can pay with VISA or MasterCard in most stores and hotels
Despite what horror stories you may have heard about being caught out without money in Japan because of ATMs not playing ball, it’s not that bad!
Most shops, from conbinis (small convenience stores) through to clothing stores and many eateries accept overseas credit cards.
As long as you still have a functioning magnetic stripe on the back of your card, you’ll be fine. All you need to do is swipe and sign.
Yes, you still sign for credit card purchases in Japan.
Lesson #3 – when you need cash, go to your nearest 7-Eleven
Travellers, 7-Eleven is your best friend in Japan when it comes to getting your grubby mitts on some cold, hard cash.
Nearly every 7-Eleven store has an ATM, and their ATMs all accept international cards. As long, that is, as your cars is part of one of the usual international payment systems… MasterCard, VISA, Cirrus and so on.
You get to choose your language too, so if you’re not too well versed in reading kanji, just go for English or German or whatever other major international language is on offer.
So there you have it. Never be caught out without cash in Japan, ever again. Unless of course you go a bit nuts and blow your budget on geeky gadgets in Akihabara, glitzy bling bling in Ginza or paying penalty fares for losing your train ticket in transit.