The cultural shock when visiting Japan, especially if coming from a non-Asian country, can be quite perceptible at first. We've prepared a brief list of topics with practical information about Japanese currency, visa, health & safety and general traveller tips, in order to conveniently prepare your trip and smooth your arrival in Japan.
The currency used in Japan is the Japanese Yen (pronounced “en” in Japanese), which is represented with the ¥ symbol internationally and 円symbol locally. There are ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100 and ¥500 coins. While ¥1 and ¥5 coins are regularly used at shops or restaurants, they are seldom accepted in vending machines. Bills come in ¥1000, ¥2000, ¥5000 and ¥10000 denominations, although the ¥2000 ones are rarely seen. Higher value notes are commonly used without problems, even to pay for small quantities, but might be not accepted in buses.
ATM machines can be found all over the country, not only in banks, but also in convenience stores and post offices. However, most Japanese ATM machines won’t accept credit cards issued out of Japan, with the exception of those located in post offices. Post offices can be found in almost every Japanese location and open weekly from 9 to 17, close at noon in Saturdays and are closed during Sundays. Exchange rates are generally quite competitive.
Japan is mainly a cash-based society, so it is not recommended to rely on credit cards for payments. While big department stores, mid to high range restaurants and business and western style hotels tend to accept them, smaller or local businesses usually demand cash, so travellers should take it into account when planning their trip. Currency exchange in Japan is handled in the airport, banks and post offices, but it is advised to buy yens in the country of origin in order to get a higher value for money.
Japan is widely regarded as one of the world’s safest countries, having a lower crime rate than any other industrialized country. Travellers usually experience a great feeling of safety while in Japan and need not take any particular measure to guarantee a safe stay. Low crime rates don’t equal zero crimes though and common precautions should still be taken, especially during nighttime and nightlife areas.
Regarding radiation risks derived from the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, both the Japanese government and international organizations such as the U.S. Nuclear commission, have confirmed that the situation is currently stable and there’s no danger. Furthermore, radiation levels registered in Tokyo (located about 200Km south of the nuclear plant) are similar than those of other great cities such as New York, so tourists should not need to be concerned about it.
Most foreign visitors will only need a valid passport to visit Japan and will be issued a Temporary Tourist Visa on arrival. Tourist visas grant a stay from 15 to 90 days, depending on the country of origin, thanks to the Japanese Mutual Visa Exemption Arrangements. To check your eligibility, please visit the Ministry of Foreing Affairs website: http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/short/novisa.html
Upon entering Japan, all visitors get fingerprinted and photographed in order to get the Temporary Visa, for security reasons. Basic information about the trip, such as intended stay, flight number and address of contact in Japan is also required.