Facts and Trivia about the Yen Currency for Travellers

December 16, 2021
Yen Currency

When visiting any country, it is critical to be aware of their monetary system. This entails understanding exchange rates, currencies, and customs, among other things.

The yen, Japan’s currency, is an important aspect of the country’s already rich and long-standing culture. It will be necessary to comprehend the yen and its denominations when traveling throughout Japan to accomplish the most basic tasks, such as dining, using vending machines, paying for accommodations, and paying for bus and/or buying Japan Rail passes to get around.

Visiting unfamiliar nations, such as Japan, is fraught with anxiety and challenges. Language limitations, cultural sensitivity, transportation systems, and other details can all detract from a pleasant trip.

Understanding the yen can help alleviate these concerns by helping you to know exactly what you’re paying for and how much service you’ll require.

Money in Japan

The Japanese yen is available in two different forms: banknotes and coins. Various banknotes and coins, similar to American currency, signify a specific number of yen.

Travelers to Japan should be familiar with each bill, how much it is worth, and what services they can pay for with it.


The yen is available in a variety of beautifully adorned banknotes. Many yen bills feature famous people, national trees, and other lovely emblems of Japanese culture.

Knowing the value of each will help any traveler, regardless of their financial situation, figure out how much money they have. You’ll also know which bill to put in a vending machine and which one to use to pay for supper and drinks.

Many of the following banknotes are likely to be encountered while traveling in Japan:

  • The lowest value of any Japanese banknote in circulation is 1,000 yen, which roughly equates to an American $10 bill. Office workers usually utilize this bill to pay for lunch.
  • 2,000 yen — This money was only printed from 2000 to 2003, is rarer than a $2 bill in the United States, and is worth around $20.
  • 5,000 yen — This is about equivalent to a $50 bill in the United States and might be used to pay for dinner and beverages at a well-known restaurant or izakaya.
  • 10,000 JPY is about equal to a $100 bill. When paying for the entire family’s meal, present this bill.


Flowers are frequently engraved into Japanese coins, making them just as visually appealing as bills. Japanese yen coins are typically used to make exact change, pay vending machines, taxis, buses, and purchase a train pass for simple travel around Japan.

These coins come in a variety of metals, shapes, and sizes, with some even having a little hole in the middle. Travelers to Japan will come encounter the following coins:

  • 1 yen – In Japan, there is a proverb that “he who laughs at one yen will mourn at one yen.” This coin, despite its low value, nonetheless has value.

Because 1 yen is less than one cent in the United States, it will not be accepted by vending machines or ticket booths. You can, however, make exact change using a 1 yen coin instead of breaking a note.

This coin is constructed of aluminum and has the ability to float in water.

  • 5 yen – A 5 yen coin is around 5 cents in value and looks like an American nickel. Because it is pronounced “go-en,” which roughly translates to “connection or tie,” a 5 yen coin is considered lucky.

As a result, this coin is frequently donated at shrines in the hopes of establishing a good connection with the gods. A 5 yen coin has a hole in the middle and is yellow in color.

  • 10 yen — This copper coin is worth around ten cents (USD). If you need to use a public payphone, these pennies will come in handy.
  • 50 yen – Another coin with a hole in the middle is the 50 yen coin. This silver coin is approximately 50 cents in value.
  • The 100 yen coin, which is constructed of nickel and copper and is worth around $1, has various purposes. 100 yen coins can be found in 100-yen establishments, as well as vending machines and laundry machines.
  • The 500 ¥ coin is the largest and most precious of the yen coins, resembling a $5 bill. A 500 yen coin can be used to purchase a modest bento box lunch.

It’s also worth noting that yen can be divided into sen, with one yen equaling around 100 sen. However, sen is rarely utilized in modern society.

The yen or yuan has the same symbol as the dollar ($). Unlike in the United States, the yuan sign appears after the quantity. For example, a bill of 1,500 yuan would be delivered to you.

Furthermore, in Japanese, the Y is pronounced “en” rather than “yen” (as in the 5 yen pronunciation “go-en”).

Currency Exchange in Japan

Foreign money is often only accepted at large international airports, so understanding where and how to get yen will be critical for paying for meals, hotel, transit, and other necessities.

Even if you are familiar with the value of yen bills and coins, knowing how much you will receive for your US dollar can be beneficial (or any other currency). Understanding how your currency will convert to yen can be as simple as paying close attention to the foreign exchange rate.

Money Etiquette in Japan

There are various things a tourist can do with their money that will not upset the Japanese people in order to ensure that you are respecting the culture. The Japanese take money handling and care very seriously, and their banknotes are wrinkle and tear-free.

Paper money is easy to fold, crumple, or otherwise damage in your pocket or wallet. However, you should be aware of this concept when visiting Japan, as it is often frowned upon.

When handing or accepting money, it is customary to use both hands and/or place the money on a tray. Gently insert bills in your wallet, especially upon receiving them, to avoid blemishing them. Furthermore, because yen banknotes are larger than USD ones, it may be a good idea to invest in a larger wallet to preserve the yen you receive.

The Japanese yen is a fascinating and beautiful kind of currency steeped in culture and tradition. Understanding the appearance of this currency, it’s worth, and where to obtain yen will be crucial to your Japan trip.

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