Jul 18, 2018

Life in Japan differences compared to back home: Cash vs. Card

If you asked me how often I had physical cash in my wallet when I lived in Australia or the U.S, the answer would be very rarely. The requirement to have coins or bills on you in those locations is pretty rare, because just about everywhere accepts payment by card. Even if you're literally just buying a bottle of water or something else that only costs a couple of bucks, no one really bats an eye at you paying with plastic.

Life in Japan differences compared to back home: Cash vs. Card photo

I've had to get used to keeping cash on me here, because there are so many places that still are firmly in that "cash is king" mindset. I can understand it in a lot of cases - for instance, small mom and pop run eateries where having a card-accepting facility is likely to be expensive and for the most part unnecessary. Other times though, I've been to stores in large malls where you'd think it would be a guarantee that they'd accept cards and they don't. Ultimately, if I don't want to get caught short and awkwardly not have a way to pay, I need cash on me at all times.

Part of me not carrying cash back home is due to the fact that if your wallet was to go missing, the likelihood of getting it back with all your money still in there is pretty slim. It might be a sad commentary on society, but in most places it's just the way it is these days. Not Japan, though. I've had friends who have left wallets (as well as laptops, iPads and phones) on trains and buses, and each story ends with them getting their stuff back. Japan is pretty incredible for having a stellar track record of people handing stuff in, so I've learned not to worry when I do have substantial sums of money on me. Not that I'm advocating losing your stuff and testing out that theory, though!

Do you prefer carrying cash, or cards? 



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!


  • Candiajia1

    on Jul 18

    Definitely a cash person these days. That way I can only spend what I have. Along with budgeting It helps to curb my spontaneous spending habit developed years ago. So this system works for me.

  • Striffy

    on Jul 19

    I usually prefer cash over card. What I found frustrating in Japan though is the times ATMs are open in Japan. They are accessible 24/7 in Germany so I was quite surprised to see a country with open stores on Sunday but no accessibility to ATMs on that day.

  • genkidesu

    on Jul 19

    @Striffy that confused me so much too...it's the same in Australia, ATM's don't have closing hours!

  • genkidesu

    on Jul 19

    @Candiajia1 that's a really good way to look at it...I think it helps me too in a financial sense, since I'm more aware of what I'm actually spending rather than just racking it all up on a card without even thinking!