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I will soon be travelling to Japan. I have been told that Japan is a very cash-centric society and not every place will accept credit cards, therefore I should carry cash. My trip will be very mobile so I won't always have access to a hotel safe and I'll probably have to carry cash on hand.

Whats steps can I take to reduce the risks associated with carrying lots amount of cash with me?

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If you're staying in a hostel around other foreigners, follow the typical advice to keep cash safe by not showing it off, keep it on your person, the usual. On the streets and on public transport, the chance of being mugged is vanishingly small and you can just keep it in your wallet if you like.

That said, Japan is only "cash-centric" in the sense that it's normal to pay for everything from meals to plane tickets with cash. It is not some backwater where credit cards have never been seen before. You will struggle in the smaller bars and cafés, and in the more rural areas. But at the same time, many places including hotels, the larger bars and restaurants, and the ubiquitous 7-11 stores also accept cards, and there are plenty of ATMs around, most of which will accept foreign cards. If you are staying near major urban centres, there should be no need to carry a huge quantity of cash with you, just enough to survive a few days.

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    "Crime is not a problem in Japan". I can not help but notice this is extremely opinionated and in my experience wrong. Crime happens in Japan, just not on the scale of places like the US or Europe. That said, I agree with your advice as to not flashing it about, and that the chance of getting mugged is small to none. It should be noted as well that as of te release of the iPhone 7, Apple Pay (and similar methods) now have a larger acceptance than before. There is also an increased prevalence of credit card and IC readers in shops as they attempt to cater more to foreign and local tourism. – The Wandering Coder Mar 2 '17 at 0:48
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    Well it's the common opinion and the opinion I share even though I am the only person I have ever met who has been robbed in Japan! I made the mistake of using a sento without any attempt to hide my wallet other than rolling up my jeans. My friend didn't lock his up either but shoved it deep into his backpack. Only my cash was taken. So you can be as careless as my friend but not as careless as me, anecdotally speaking of course. – hippietrail Mar 2 '17 at 1:34
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    "Crime is not a problem in Japan." One wonders why they bother having a police and courts system, then! – fkraiem Mar 2 '17 at 5:40
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    @fkraiem When your police and courts have a 99% guilty verdict, you realise that the police and court system is largely for show. A "trial" is almost always a sentencing with your guilt generally already decided. Confessions, even forced, are used as undeniable proof. The trial is merely to announce the punishment your lawyer has negotiated between themselves, the judge and the prosecutor. – The Wandering Coder Mar 21 '17 at 8:53
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    @Armstrongest That is a good point. Actually, after having checked, you can only use Apple Pay in Japan with a Japanese device (as they have had to have the FeLiCa chip built in to the device). However my point still stands, that similar technologies are slowing becoming more accepting in Japan. – The Wandering Coder Mar 23 '17 at 2:43
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Since Japan is a cash-based society, you will need to carry cash around. You can also put yen on your ICOCA card, since you will be mobile. I've put the website below.

https://www.google.co.jp/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=where+can+i+use+icoca+card&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gfe_rd=cr&ei=IdHQWMaBN4SH2QTMn734Ag.

Your ICOCA card is a pass that you can use while traveling around the country, Though it is a 'safe' country, I have had my phone stolen here, it is safer than other countries but don't be lulled into a false sense of security. People are people wherever you go.

  • Although I disagree about still being a majority cash society (unless you are heading off the beaten track), in at least the major cities (or any convenience store) credit cards are readily accepted. Further, you list only one of about 30 IC cards currently in use in Japan. You may wish to list some cards that aren't only available for purchase in Kansai. – The Wandering Coder Mar 21 '17 at 8:56
  • I travel around different cities in Japan constantly, the ICOCA is what I use, and is the most cost effective card in my opinion. In addition to that the OP did state that they would be mobile and won't often have access to a hotel safe, which does sound like... in your words 'Off the beaten track'. Please offer some alternatives that the OP can use. Instead of responding to my comment please offer some constructive information that will aid the OP. – Shae Mar 21 '17 at 13:20
  • ...cont Further, as they are prepaid cards, there is little to no "cost effectiveness", perhaps you mean convenience (or a 1-5 yen discount per journey on some services). I have all 10 main regional cards (listed above) and there is no difference between them except purchasable locations (as they are now all usable nationwide). I agree they are convenient, but far from the most "cost effective" option. Even after buying an IC card, OP would still require the cash to purchase and load onto the card, so initially at least, the problem would not be solved until they purchase and charge the card. – The Wandering Coder Mar 22 '17 at 0:43
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Safety shouldn't be a big concern in Japan, as there is little violent crime against individuals there. Just take your normal precautions: put your money in a wallet and keep your wallet in a safe place, preferably in your pocket (and take care of your pocket!); don't flash your money around; try to keep your bags in sight in crowded places. Having done these, you should be good.

I've once had over 20,000 yen cash right in my pocket in Tokyo and been perfectly safe, but of course I will not recommend this. Don't be like me!

Regarding the cash-centricity of Japan, many small dining establishments (e.g., street-side ramen restaurants & katsudon places) indeed accept only cash and Suica/PASMO. All major convenience stores (7-11, FamilyMart & Lawson), bigger restaurants and virtually all retail places do take credit cards (JCB and Visa, sometimes MasterCard and American Express), although many customers do prefer cash. Thus, if you wish, you don't need to have that much cash on you anyway. Around 10,000 yen of cash should be more than enough for you.

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    20,000¥ is super common to hold in your wallet. Japanese people on the streets of Tokyo regularly hold double that without issue. – Armstrongest Mar 22 '17 at 22:29
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See if you can find a copy of the "Cool Japan" episode on money: http://www6.nhk.or.jp/cooljapan/en/past/detail.html?pid=161218

I remember watching it and it was quite common for Japanese people to carry around 40,000–70,000¥ ($400-700) in their purse or wallet.

That being said, a credit card is accepted in many, many places.... so don't worry. If you need cash, just go to the nearest post office (which is also a bank) and withdraw some cash.

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