When visiting another country, one of the trickiest things to get a handle on is how to use the money—especially coins! Using cards instead of cash while traveling is perhaps one of the best ways to avoid the currency struggle while traveling in most countries. However, Japan is known for being a cash society, with most people carrying more cash than cards on them. This means it may be more likely for your card not to work here or for shops to not accept cards at all! While in Japan, your safest bet might be to just conform and use cash as well to avoid any problems!
While in Japan, many travelers avoid using the coins completely and stick to cash because it’s less difficult. This can quickly add up to a lot of money you could be using but is just sitting in your wallet.
However, Japanese coins can prove to be extremely useful once you get used to them! Here, people here usually will try to pay with coins if it’s possible—even if this means it may take a little bit of time to count it all out. Almost all workers won’t mind you taking the extra time to pay with coins, and if you get a little confused they are usually more than willing to help you out!
Even after spending all of the coins you can, sometimes it’s hard to get rid of every single one and it’s not worth it or not even possible to exchange them back to your home country’s currency! So, how should you spend this extra yen you have lying around?
Get Souvenirs at Convenience Stores
Japanese convenience stores are known to offer a plethora of tasty and cheap snacks which would make great souvenirs for yourself or others! From chips to traditional Japanese snacks, convenience stores are a great option to spend your last few yen!
Go to a Shrine
At most shrines in Japan, there will be an offering box in which people will toss their money into before a prayer.
Most people will put in 5 yen (because it has the same pronunciation as the word for “relationship” or “bond”), but you’re free to throw in any kind and as many coins at you’d like. It really does not matter how much or how little you offer.
At some shrines, you will also find “omikuji” (written oracle that will tell you your luck for the year) which are written in English, usually only costing a mere 100 yen! They also offer some omamori (good luck charms/amulets) which make a great memory of Japan or present for friends or family!
In many restaurants or convenience stores it’s common to see a donation box near the register. If you happen to have some extra coins lying around and would like to give them to a good cause, this is a great option!
Use Them at Vending Machines
Japan is full of vending machines—you can find one on almost any street you go down! If you find yourself wanting a drink or small snack and have a few yen to get rid of, you may want to head to a vending machine!
Try Out the Famous Gachapon
Gachapon are machines that dispense capsule toys. They get their name from the sound made when using the machine: “gacha” comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia “gachagacha”, which is used to mimic the rattling sound when turning the lever, and “pon” is the sound of the capsule being dispensed.
If you find yourself with some extra coins at the end of your trip and want to try out a gachapon, we recommend trying it out at Narita Airport where they have a huge selection!
Bring Them Back Home as Souvenirs!
Coins are a great souvenir for others or yourself to remind you of your journey to Japan! Many are excited to see foreign currency or maybe even collect it. The 50 yen and 5 yen coins are especially good for souvenirs because of their unique appearance with a hole in the middle.
It’s also good to note that if you want to get rid of your coins quickly and completely, one option is to use all coins you have when paying and then ask to pay the rest on a card if you can!
Of course getting accustomed to using a new currency can be tricky and may take some time. By using these tips, you can make the most of this experience while in Japan!
Written by Lindsey Schultz
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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