Japanese Yen - JPY


Many world currencies are divided into one hundred parts. For example the British pound is made up of 100 pence and the US dollar has 100 cents. However when it comes to the Japanese yen it doesn’t do this – it is merely the yen and nothing more.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

There are six coins in general circulation at present for the yen. The smallest of these is the one yen coin. Aside from that you will see the 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen coins.

In addition there are four banknotes for larger amounts that are also in circulation. These are the 1,000, the 2,000, the 5,000 and the 10,000 yen notes.

From past to present – the history of the Japanese yen

The yen has been through some tough times in history but originally it was created in 1872. The reason for its creation was fairly simple – the Japanese wanted to be able to trade as competitively as possible. This meant having a proper currency that was similar to the ones being used throughout Europe at that time.

A variety of economic difficulties and losses in value meant the currency stumbled its way through some of the 20th century. It was devalued by the government in 1971 – a major step but seen by some as the only possible route forward – but it still struggled after that. The Plaza Accord pact was signed in 1985 and this led to a better situation. Basically the only thing that happened was that financial experts at the time agreed the US dollar was valued far higher than it should have been. This in turn led to the Japanese yen being undervalued. So it was a sense of logic rather than any practical means that changed things around after this pact was signed. The currency then entered a ten year period where it looked far more stable than it had been before.

While it hasn’t been as steady in recent years, the yen is traded frequently around the world. It is therefore known as one of the most familiar currencies to many people. This perhaps prevents it from sliding too far against other familiar currencies.

How to get hold of Japanese yen

You can order your yen prior to leaving on holiday for the country. Simply choose your preferred bureau de change – ideally one that has a good exchange rate and low commission – and place your order. It is good to do this shortly before you go away just in case they don’t have the amount you require. You can also get more yen from a reputable outlet in Japan when you arrive.

One thing you should bear in mind is that Japanese people are used to using cash. Many people are surprised by the fact card use is lower in this technologically advanced country than it is elsewhere in the Western world. However that is the way things are. Just be prepared to use cash more than you would at home, so you should have plenty on you in case you need it.

This also holds true for buying goods when you get there. Some large stores and restaurants take card payments but always make sure you check prior to paying as they are not as widely accepted as they are at home. As you can see it helps to think ahead when considering how to pay for things.

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Japanese yen

All you have to do is use a currency converter to find this out. It is best to use one that updates as regularly as possible as you’ll get the latest figure. Just find your own currency, type in the amount you want to convert and then convert it into the Japanese yen. This will enable you to get the current rate of conversion.

Bureaux de change will use this rate to calculate their own rate of exchange. They may include commission in the calculation or they may add in on in addition to the slightly altered exchange rate they offer. Obviously they have to make a profit on exchanges and this is how they do it. Checking the actual exchange rate does give you an idea of how many yen you will get for each unit of your own currency though.

If you wish to go to Japan and you want to find out more before you do so, it is a good idea to visit the website for the Embassy of Japan in the UK. You can find it at http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/.

Travelling safely with Japanese yen

Most of the time people visit Japan with no problems at all. Perhaps the most obvious thing to be aware of is to avoid the Fukushima area, owing to the nuclear disaster and tsunami that occurred there a few years ago. Avoid the exclusion zones and follow all advice given while you are in areas nearby as well.

Japan is well known to suffer from earthquakes so you should be aware of what to do if one occurs while you are there. Storms can also take place throughout the summer months so be aware of any reports of this type.

Crime is not a big issue in Japan. Of course it does pay to be cautious with regard to your valuables, so make sure you are careful with your cash, especially as this is a cash society more than anything else. One area that is noted for being more dangerous with respect to crime is Roppongi in Tokyo. This is popular for entertainment but there have also been reports of various crimes here.

A money belt is advisable if you wish to make sure your cards and cash are safe; you can still carry a small amount of cash in your wallet or purse as normal if you wish.

Where to spend your yen in Japan – and what to spend them on

There are many places to go in Japan but surely the most familiar to many people is Tokyo. This is on the east coast and there is enough to do here to keep you busy for an entire holiday. For example if you are visiting with family you can go to Tokyo Disneyland, which is much like the other Disney experiences you can have around the world. There are lots of attractions here and plenty to keep you occupied for days. You can also visit Tokyo DisneySea, which is a companion to the main park. There are various areas in this park such as Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Mediterranean Harbour and Port Discovery.

You can also get a great view over Tokyo by going up one of two structures – the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree. The tower is 333 metres high and offers two observation decks to try out. The highest one reaches up to 250 metres and gives a wonderful view over the city. The Skytree goes a lot higher than this though – its total height is 634 metres. The highest point you can go up to in this tower is an impressive 450 metres.

It would be a shame not to visit Hiroshima while you are in the country. Located far to the west of Tokyo, Hiroshima is still known for the devastating effects experienced when the atomic bomb was dropped in the Second World War. Do not miss the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which was built in memory of the victims who died as a result of the bombing. No one knows exactly how many died but it is thought to be well over 100,000. The ruins of the Industrial Promotion Hall still stand as they were left after the bomb was dropped, and they were left there as a reminder of what occurred.

Today the city is rebuilt and is a stunning place to visit. The memorials are sobering but it is also heartening to see how the city has risen once again. It is well worth stopping off at the Shukkeien Garden as well, which is a stunning garden that dates back nearly four hundred years. It is a miniature garden of sorts, and while there is plenty of room and space here, everything is designed to be miniaturised, with representations of mountains and other such structures. Stop in a tea house to appreciate the amazing view.

Kyoto is another unmissable place. It used to be the capital of the country but now it takes its place as one of the best cities in the country. Several monuments in the city are recognised as having UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and when you visit you will see why. They include the Kamigamo Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple. Don’t miss Arashiyama, which has a monkey park among other sights worth seeing. It is plan to see there are lots of ways to part with some yen here, so you have a great chance to spend some money and make the most of the time you have in Japan.


Japan is a beautiful country with amazing cities and lots of incredible places to visit outside of the thronging crowds as well. If you are planning to visit the country you have all manner of places to go and things to do that will encourage you to part with the yen you take with you.



  1. I have always thought of the yen as being a bit of a strange currency. It’s totally me because it isn’t in one hundred denomination bills. It just comes as yen with various different denominations. I have always found that a bit strange. It’s like having dollars or pounds and that is it – no cents or pence!

    I think that is why I have never quite grasped how much a particular currency is worth or how well the British pound is doing against it. When they say it is worth 111.524 yen or whatever, it doesn’t really mean anything to me. I’m sure if I visited Japan I would get the hang of it, but until then it really is hard to get the hang of.

    — JamieK · Mar 29, 01:49 PM · #

  2. It was quite emotional reading this article, especially with the mention of going to Sendai. With the recent earthquake and tsunami this area will never be the same again. I only hope that one day the people of Sendai and the surrounding areas will be able to get back to some semblance of normality and rebuild their country. I wish them all the best; thinking about their currency at a time like this seems very strange.

    — AHews · Mar 21, 09:52 AM · #

  3. I couldn’t agree more with the commenter above. I was glancing through all the currencies when I saw the yen and I had to click on it. It feels odd reading about places that were so badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Hopefully one day in the future they will recover. I would love to see Japan but I don’t think it would feel right to visit at the moment. Do others agree?

    — CDixon · Apr 26, 12:03 PM · #