How do I exchange and spend money in Japan?

The Japanese unit of money is called Yen. Yen coins are ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, and ¥500. Bills are ¥1000, ¥2000, ¥5000, and ¥10,000. Very roughly, one U.S. dollar is worth 100 yen. Of course, exchange rates fluctuate.

Left, the Yen symbol in Western script. Right, the Yen symbol in Japanese script.

Left, Yen symbol in Western script. Right, Yen symbol in Japanese script.


If you do not already have Japanese Yen, visit the money exchange counter before leaving Narita airport and change about $300 US.

Exchange rates fluctuate nonstop, but usually you’ll get a better rate in the country itself. Banks (or your own credit cards) tend to give the best exchange rate.

Debit cards are probably the best way of exchanging money. Students are encouraged to bring both a credit card and a debit card with them to Japan. While Japan’s international ATMs are compatible with most processing agents, it is best if your debit card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on the front of it.

International ATMs are available at many 7-Eleven’s in Japan (called Seven Bank). A very convenient station is the ATM at the post office near the school. ATM fees in Japan are very reasonable, usually less than what most foreign banks will charge you: about ¥100 or ¥200 per withdrawal. Most banks have a ¥50,000 maximum withdrawal limit, but there are some exceptions.

For those with a CITI bank, SMBC PRESTIA’s ATM has no processing charges. There are two PRESTIA branches in Shinjuku.

A few precautions:

  • Credit cards are convenient, but scams happen all over the world. Use care and discretion when using your card.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash, but we suggest that you keep some cash securely in your room for unexpected situations when your card is lost or doesn’t work.
  • Students typically withdraw about $300 USD worth of Yen per ATM visit. They usually do this a few times during their stay in Japan.

Click here for more information about ATMs in Japan.