When you are in Japan there are three main ways to use and access your spending money.
- Cash exchange
- International ATMs
- Credit card
It is a good idea to take all 3 methods with you on your trip to Japan, in fact to any country. By doing this you will be safe in knowing you are covered in any situation, from a small town bar on a Sunday night to a nice hotel in Osaka.
Take cash from your country with you, enough to exchange at the airport and buy a few things on your arrival, some money for when you first get to Japan and a little bit in case of emergency.
When you first get to the airport in Japan, find a currency exchange and buy about 20,000 yen. This will be your most expensive exchange on the trip so there is no need to get more. This will be enough to get a train or bus to your destination, get some food and maybe even your first night of accommodation.
Keep the rest of your native currency, in an emergency later you can go to any post office or currency exchange vendor. However this usually gets a pretty bad buy rate.
For myself this was by far the most used method of getting my money exchanged into Japanese yen. At 7/11 convenient stores in Japan, there are international ATMs that accept your usual ATM card – and there’s at least one in every international airport. I didn’t see this ATM in any other convenient store, luckily 7/11 is very common and easy to find. In my case I used my HSBC Visa Debit card from which in Australia I access my savings account. The exchange rate is pretty decent.
Using this method, try for less transactions as you will probably have some kind of international fee applied to each transaction. Some times this fee can be per transaction, as a percentage or a combination of both.
If you’re wondering what the exchange rate ends up being from the international ATM, take a look at this in-depth research on 7-Eleven International ATM foreign exchange rates.
Many hotels will require credit cards, and as a fallback if you start running out of money most attractions and shopping centres take credit cards. I used a Mastercard a few times. Again watch for any international exchange rates that may be applied.