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Money in Japan

Shinjuku, Tokyo (© yayoicho - Fotolia.com)

Many Westerners imagine Japan to be a modern, technology-oriented country. If this may be true for mobile phones, electronics or gadgets, it does not apply to electronic money. Japan remains strongly a cash-based society, and credit card companies use every incentive possible to try to supplant cash - but mostly in vain. Even in major cities, many smaller shops or restaurants do not accept cards at all, or if they do, they usually restrict its use (over a certain amount, or not for lunch in the case of quite of few restaurants). Debit cards such as Maestro or Cirrus are almost unheard of.

Banks and ATM's

Banking hours are usually Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm, and closed on Saturday, sunday and national holidays. ATM's are usually close between 5 and 8pm, depending on the bank. Few offer 24h ATM service, as convenience stores take care of it (though each for a limited number of Japanese banks). UFJ Bank was the first major Japanese bank to offer 24h ATM in 2003. However, overseas credit or debit cards are very rarely accepted in Japanese banks. Even if you see a Visa or MasterCard sign, it only concerns Japanese ones. In any case, Japanese banks always charge about 110yen for ATM withdrawal, except for one's own bank during the bank opening hours (i.e. not the longer ATM's opening hours, but until 3pm).

A few big Mitsui-Sumitomo Banks accept foreign Visa, Mastercard, Maestro and Cirrus. They usually boast a conspicuous "Visa" sign. Since 2002, Japanese Post Offices also accept foreign cards and have menus in English, but close relatively early. Otherwise, Citibank is the best bet for most visitors to Japan, as it offers 7day/24h ATM service, accept foreign cards and is free for Citibank (or associate) card holders. The drawback is that they aren't as numerous as Japanese banks or post offices.

Check the list of Citibanks in Japan below:

24h Citibank ATM's locations

Kanto

  • AKASAKA, Prudential Plaza, Nagatachō 2-13-10, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3596-8836
  • AOYAMA, Hanae Mori Bldg, 4F 3-6-1, Kita-Aoyama Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0061
  • GINZA, M2, 2F, 3F, 4F Kurosawa Bldg., 6-9-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
  • GOTANDA, 1F, 3F, Gotanda Hata Bldg., 2-2-3 Higashi-Gotanda Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-0022
  • HIROO, 2F, Hiroo Plaza, 5-6-6 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0012
  • JIYUGAOKA, 2F Okuzumi Bldg. 1-26-14, Jiyugaoka Meguro-ku, Tokyo
  • KICHIJOJI, Kichijoji Iwasaki Building, 1F,8F, 1-15-9 Kichijoji-Honchō Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0004
  • OTEMACHI, 1F, Ote Center Bldg., 1-1-3 Ohtemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0004
  • ROPPONGI, 2F, Roppongi Miami Bldg., 5-1-1, Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo
  • SEIJOGAKUEN-MAE Station North Exit, 6-4-15 Seijo, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
  • SHIBUYA, 1F, Dogenzaka Kabuto Bldg., 2-25-12 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0043
  • SHINJUKU South Exit, 1F, Shinjuku Sky Bldg., 1-18-8 Nishi-Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023
  • SHINJUKU East Exit, B1,1F, 2F Kawase Bldg, 3-17-5 Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022
  • TACHIKAWA, Suzuharu Building B1,1F,2F, 2-7-16, Akebono-cho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo 190-0012
  • YOKOHAMA, 2F, 8F, 10F Yokohama First Bldg., 1-6-1 Kita-saiwai Nishi-ku Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa 220-0004

Other cities

  • FUKUOKA, Fukuoka Tenjin Dai- ichi Seimei Bldg. 4F, 2-8-30 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken
  • Kansai International Airport Arrival Lobby 1F, Kita-1, Senshu Kuko, Izumisano-shi
  • KOBE, 1 / 2 F Imon Kobe Bldg., 95 Edomachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi 650-0033
  • KYOTO, 1F, 2F, K-I Shijyo Bldg., 88 Kankoboko-cho, Shijyodori-Muromachi-Higashiiru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi Kyoto
  • NAGOYA, Sugi Bldg., 3-14-15 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya-shi 460-0008
  • OSAKA, 1F, Midousuji Diamond Bldg., 2-1-2 Nishi Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0085
  • SAPPORO, 1F, Hokkaidō Bldg., 1-banchi, Kita 2-jo Nishi 4-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaidō 060-0002

There are other Citibank ATM's, but not available 24h. Please refer to Citibank Japan's website for a complete listing and area maps.

Credit cards contact

  • American Express, Tel: 0120-020-120
  • Diners Club, Tel: 03-3797-7311
  • MasterCard, Tel: 03-5728-5200
  • Visa, Tel: 00531-44-0022

For lost credit cards call the relevant toll-free 24hr number :

  • American Express, Tel: 0120-02012
  • Mastercard, Tel: 00531/11-3886
  • Visa, Tel: 0120-133173

Currency Exchange & Traveller's cheques

Cash and traveller's cheques can be exchanged at the so-called "Authorized Money Exchange Banks" (signed displayed in English). These are common in cities, but much less in the countryside. Alternatively, try large hotels or shops. Most banks will change T.C.'s if they are in US dollar or Euro denominations.

If you want to issue traveller's cheques, major banks now have automatic machine that will convert your yen to US dollar or Euro.

Opening a bank account in Japan

=> See our FAQ section

Overseas Remittance: how to send money abroad?

=> See our FAQ section

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