Japan is known for its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and fascinating history. It is also a major player in the global economy. Japanese companies, markets, and their currency, the Japanese yen, often feature prominently in economic news.
If you plan to visit or send money to Japan, understanding the currency is a great starting place. Not only do you want to understand the exchange rate and pricing for transferring money, but it’s also worth learning about the history of the yen and how it’s used today.
Let’s start with some basic information on the currency of Japan. Its currency code is JPY and the major issuing bank is the country’s central bank, the Bank of Japan.
This currency comes in the form of bills and coins.
- 1000 yen
- 2000 yen
- 5000 yen
- 10000 yen
- yen banknotes
- 1 yen
- 5 yen
- 10 yen
- 50 yen
- 100 yen
- 500 yen
- 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen coins
Fascinating Facts about the Japanese Yen
Japanese money holds historical, cultural, and economic importance.
1. Japanese culture is ancient, but the yen is relatively new.
Though Japanese history goes back thousands of years, the modern Japanese yen was only introduced in 1871. This occurred after the Meiji Restoration by the Meiji government, a period of major political, economic, and social changes in Japan.
It replaced a more complex monetary system that used a copper coin called the mon. Not long after its introduction, the new currency was pegged to the gold standard to stabilize its value.
2. Famous figures adorn the Japanese yen bills.
Like many banknotes around the world, each Japanese yen banknote features an important national figure. Among them, you’ll find:
- 1000 yen–Hideyo Noguchi: A prominent bacteriologist.
- 5000 yen–Ichiyo Higuchi: A poet, novelist, and significant woman writer of her time.
- 10000 yen–Yukichi Fukuzawa: An author, educator, and publisher who established a university and newspaper.
3. JPY is the world’s third-most traded currency.
The yen is part of a small group of strong global currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Swiss franc, and euro. As of this writing, the Japanese yen is the third-most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar and the euro, making it the most traded currency in Asia.
Japan has a strong economy due to successful manufacturing and the exportation of goods. This helps the value of the yen.
4. The word “yen” has a simple meaning.
The word “yen” translates to “round object” in English, which refers to the distinct shape of the coins. The currency symbol is ¥, which is also used for the Chinese yuan.
In Japan, you’ll find that many simply refer to the yen as “okane,” the Japanese word for money.
5. Japanese yen is one of the most secure forms of currency.
The yen is extremely difficult to counterfeit, like many major currencies around the world. Here are just a few of its security features:
- Ultra-fine line printing
- Luminescent ink
As a result, yen notes and coins are nearly impossible to replicate outside official channels.
Exchanging and Using Japanese Yen
If you plan to visit Japan, you’ll find you have several options for paying for goods and services.
Using Japanese yen in the form of cash is a universal and efficient way to pay, especially if you find yourself outside big cities like Tokyo or Osaka. It is also an easy way to pay for low-cost services and items. Japan does not accept foreign currency, so your dollars, pounds, or other currency won’t work as legal tender in local shops.
To access cash, you can exchange your money at the airport or a post office. For better exchange rates, ATMs are at your disposal. However, not all Japanese ATMs will accept foreign debit cards. Many do not. For a safe bet, check out any of the country’s postal ATMs and 7-Bank ATMs (inside 7-11 convenience stores), both of which take foreign debit cards.
What about credit cards? If you travel with your Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and more, you’ll often be able to use it while in Japan. Most stores in major cities such as Kobe, Yokohama, or Kyoto accept foreign credit cards.
While it may be convenient to pay with credit cards, note that some cards do charge high fees. It’s best to give your bank a call to find out about any applicable fees in advance.
Understanding Japanese Currency Exchange Rates
When using or sending money abroad, it is also important to keep foreign exchange rates in mind. You have many options for checking exchange rates for the American dollar (USD), the Canadian dollar (CAD), the euro (EUR), the Australian dollar (AUD), the British pound (GBP), and others to Japanese yen (JPY).
According to OFX, the average exchange rate for USD to JPY from December 31, 2019 to December 5, 2021 has been 108.4 yen to one U.S. dollar. To see this rate for different periods of time or for different currencies, try their online calculator here.
Exchange rates vary based on several economic and political factors, from global trade to national elections to interest rates. For example, even though the Japanese yen is considered a strong currency, it is less valuable when compared to certain other foreign currencies due to inflation.
You can find current exchange rates with an online currency converter or by checking with your bank or money transfer app of choice.
Sending Money to Japan
If you are interested in sending money to Japan, new technology makes it easier than ever. With money transfer services like Remitly, you can safely and quickly send funds via a money transfer app. Traditional bank wires are another option, though typically a more expensive one.
Learn more about how to send money to Japan and find current exchange rate information from Remitly. As a new customer, you’ll get a special offer on your first transfer.
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