A practical foreign exchange and currency guide to Japan
What’s in this Japan currency guide:
The official currency of Japan is the Japanese yen, with symbol ¥ and currency code JPY.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, in 2016, trading in the Japanese yen (ISO: JPY) contributed to 22% of total foreign exchange market turnover, making the yen the world’s third most traded currency.
Like government bonds and gold, the Japanese yen is considered a safe haven asset – it is the premier safe haven of the currency world. This means that the yen is likely to increase in value against other currencies during periods of economic uncertainty or when global geopolitical risk is elevated, or during bouts of high market volatility.
Since 1995, against the US dollar, the yen’s lowest valuation came in August 1998 when USD/JPY reached 147.67 (¥100 cost a little less than $0.68). Its post-1995 high came in October 2011 when USD/JPY traded at just 75.56 (¥100 cost $1.32).
The Japanese yen is a crucial part of the ‘carry trade’ – a popular strategy among foreign exchange traders in which they borrow in a currency with a low interest rate and use those funds to invest in currencies paying a higher rate. In recent decades, the most popular way to fund the carry trade has been to borrow (sell) yen due to Japan’s consistently low interest rates (since 1996 Japanese rates have averaged less than 0.5%).
The Japanese yen currently has 10 different denominations in the form of coins and banknotes.
In most Western countries, bills are counted by the thousand. In Japan they are counted in multiples of 10,000.
Japanese coins come in six denominations, which are ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100 and ¥500. Banknotes come in denominations of 1000 yen (or $8.25), 2000 yen (or $16.50), 5000 yen (or $41), 10 000 yen (99¢).
The Japanese yen (JPY) continues to lose ground against the U.S. Dollar (USD). For reference, towards the end of April the USD/JPY hit 131 — a 20-Year Low for the yen.
The weakness of JPY against the greenback stems from market expectations that the Fed Reserve will soon start to hike rates aggressively, while the BOJ is committed to continuing yield curve control.
The US Dollar has proven itself to be a safe haven amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict as investors seek refuge from the uncertainty.
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The below comparison table makes it easy to find the best exchange rates and lowest fees when you want to make a Transfer or Spend Japanese yen.
Though very expensive, Japan is one of the most amazing, beautiful, and friendly countries in the world. Japan is a high-tech world mixed with the politeness and respect of their past. It has all the benefits of a high tech country mixed with a lovely sense of the old. Japan has fantastic food, beautiful temples and shrines, zen gardens, national parks, and a culture with a long and rich history. It’s a wonderful place and, while it may be an expensive country to visit.
Most people can speak English and are willing to do so. Accommodation can be expensive, especially in Tokyo, but with a little looking around on the internet you can find some amazing deals. Food options cater to all, you can both go expensive or cheap, and neither is hard to find.
The easiest way to travel in Japan is by train, bullet trains can be expensive but are astoundingly fast and comfortable. Most of the city metro tickets cost 125-250 JPY for a single journey. In most major cities, you can buy a day pass, which gives you unlimited travel for 24 hours for around 1,000 JPY on select trains. Inter-city bus tickets cost around 2,500 JPY. For budget travelers the bus is an option, they are far cheaper but can take up to five times the amount of time to get to your destination.
Most temples and museums are free to enter, although some popular attractions cost around 1,250 JPY. The temples in Kyoto can cost up to 620 JPY. Many of the city’s parks are free, so take advantage when you can and spend the day there. The same for Tokyo, don’t be afraid to get a decent map and wander around.