It seems that I always end up with a wallet full of one yen coins when travelling in Japan. What would be the most convenient way to use or exchange them?

Vending machines don't accept one yen coins and I don't think it would be polite to give a bunch of them to cashier. I wouldn't mind donating but even that feels cheap somehow.

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    Answers here might help travel.stackexchange.com/questions/67032/… (I'm not marking as a duplicate, I think it's a bit different)
    – Kuba
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:03
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    Would you mind donating them to a change bucket that exists for the specific purpose of doing something useful with leftover spare change? Many airports have these, and some airlines distribute bags for the purpose.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:23
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    Send them to me: 1313 Cemetery Lane.
    – JoErNanO
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 18:17
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    We made a game called "Game of Coins", where the goal was to reverse-pickpocket eachother to get rid of our own one-yens. So we tried to sneak them into the pockets, backpacks, wallets etc. of the others in our travel group.
    – Matsemann
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 17:38
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 21:25

7 Answers 7


May I suggest before departing Japan, visit one of the Temples/Shrines. You can deposit your coins in the box just inside the grounds. The other thing you could do with them is to put them in a smallish envelope and hand to a homeless person. In Japan, it is customary to place money in an envelope before we give to someone.

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    Homeless in Japan don't usually beg. And if they did, they might be displeased with 30 cents worth of one yen coins.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 15:13
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    @RoboKaren not sure if this is substantial enough for a separate question, but as someone totally unfamiliar with Japanese culture, what do the homeless do in Japan? Is there just a thorough-enough set of social policies in place to keep them safe, healthy, and fed without begging?
    – Jules
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 16:03
  • Some collect social security (生活保護), some collect a disability pension (障害者年金), some do day labor (日雇い), others collect scrap metal or cardboard.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 2:41
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    YMMV, but putting one-yen coins in a temple collection box is a bit tacky. Locals would generally use at least 10 yen. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 2:11
  • The usual coin for temple donations is the five yen coin because five yen (五円)sounds like fortune(ご縁), both pronounced go en.
    – Kenji
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 20:37

I don't think it would be polite to give a bunch of them to cashier

Foreigners always overthink "politeness" issues in Japan... Handling payments, in whatever (legal) form, is their job, they will dutifully do it without any issues. Just try not to do it during busy times, out of consideration for other customers waiting behind you. If you want to donate them, many businesses such as your nearest McDonald's have donation boxes for various causes, this will be very much appreciated.

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    +1 for McDonalds boxes. Surprisingly hard to find donation tins in Japan... Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:33
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    @codinghands There's also one at my dentist's (for the Kumamoto earthquake victims). :p
    – fkraiem
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:35
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    @codinghands A lot of times 7-11 will have a little donation box at the cashier too. From what I remember it's pretty small and doesn't have any English on it though.
    – lc.
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 1:36
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    I think this is not only a politeness issue in Japan, in many countries you will get an angry look if you try to pay for something with a hand full of pennies.
    – Summer
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 13:41
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    @JaneDoe1337 I think what fkraiem means is that in Japan you will not get an angry look. fkraiem has to explain it because many foreigners think they are offending Japanese people in some ways that they are really not (while probably in others that they are). Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 1:43

This is a problem I frequently find myself with as well. One thing I do to reduce the number of 1 yen coins I have left at the end of my trip is to use them whenever possible. One way I make this easier is at the end of each day sorting the 1 yen coins into a separate part of my coin purse or wallet. When I go to a store and have to pay for something, it's easier to take the 1 yen coins out when they're sorted. I typically use them in situations where I need less than ten 1 yen coins as it typically doesn't take too long to count out that many, given that I've sorted them previously.

They're also good in situations where you would prefer larger change, like if an amount is 2003 yen but you're paying with a 5000 yen note. In this case, I typically put down 3 yen to get an even amount in the end. I'm not sure if this is something people typically do in Japan, but no cashier has ever refused this when I've done it.

Of course, donation boxes are also a great option if you find yourself unable to use them.

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    +trivia: I don't know how's that in Japan, but in Poland, it's actually very common for the cashiers to even ask you if you have the tiny part in coins. Probably not the case in Japan, somehow I dont think they'd ask back like this, but it's very helpful for any cashier to get the small bits like that, so I;d be very surprised for anyone to reject it. It really helps. I know first hand. I worked as one for some time :) Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 22:43
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    This is in fact exactly how it works in Japan. Wallets here also often have a little coin pouch built-in, and people use their coins as opposed to throwing them into their pockets and eventually a jar at home. It even often goes to the next level to minimize the number of coins returned. For example an amount is 2674 yen, someone might pay with 5224 yen if they had that combination of coins - resulting in 2x1000 yen notes, 1x 500 yen coin, and 1x50 yen coin!
    – lc.
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 1:29
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    Is there any country that doesn't have this custom? This is exactly true in Japan and in fact many clerks wait a little for you to hand in a few coins.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 16:02
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    Americans (both cashiers and customers) seem unable to count change. Cashiers will get confused if you give them $3.03 for a $2.78 purchase so that you can get a quarter in change. Similarly, customers are suspicious if you calculate change in your head rather than using the register.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 9:31
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    @RoboKaren Oh, interesting. It does sound like some European stereotype about US. :P
    – user31389
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 15:58

I find one-yen coins to be extremely helpful -- but not as coinage, but for electronics repair.

Because they are soft aluminum but also on the thick side, you can use the ¥1 coin to open the "coin battery slots" on many toys and devices. They are soft enough that they won't damage metal or even most plastics and furthermore, they don't have any serrations that would also damage the coin slot. If you bend the coin, you're out ¥1.

So I always keep a couple after a trip to Japan.

Flat battery lid

  • Instruction manuals for some things I have bought in Japan (like a rear blinker for my cycle) often suggest using a coin to open the battery flap.
    – muru
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 7:01

The best way to deal with one-yen coins is to never receive them in the first place! All you need to do is two things:

  1. Top up your Pasmo/Suica rechargeable smart card and use it at convenience stores, fast food restaurants etc.
  2. At grocery stores, larger restaurants etc, pay by credit card.

This will eliminate 95% of cases where you'd get one-yen coins in change, since most cash-only places (small restaurants, attraction entry fees etc) don't want to deal with one-yen coins either and round up their prices to the nearest 10 or even 100 yen.


I don't think it would be polite to give a bunch of them to cashier.

It is impolite to use many coins at the casher. In fact, you can only use up to 20 same coins; otherwise the clerk has the right to refuse it. That said, most people don't know about this law nor would not like to get involved in a redundant argument, so they would start to count and accept it anyway.

But as long as you use up to 20 same coins (even 1 yen coin), it is fine.

Arguably the best way to avoid having a lot of 1 yen coins is to use them more aggressively. Theoretically, you should have up to four 1 yen coins in your wallet as long as you make your payment more carefully.

If you still find too many coins left in your wallet, you might put them in a charity box in front of a casher in a convenience store.

Also note that you must not throw them away on the road or even in a trash bin; this is a violation against the law as well, though no one bothers to report it to police.

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    Do you have a citation for the 20 coin law? I've lived in Japan many years and have never heard of it.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 21:26
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    @RoboKaren This is from Ministry of Finance website - mof.go.jp/faq/currency/07ab.htm
    – Blaszard
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 5:17

In some towns outside of Tokyo you can use them in the buses. Look for those buses where you get a numbered ticket when you come in and deposit money into the machine based on your ticket number when you come out. Most of those don't care for the type of coin you use, so you can dump all your one yen coins there. Just make sure you count them beforehand so that you have the right amount for the fare.

Edit: Since it seems that some wouldn't believe this, here is a quote from Kyushu Sanko bus company website:



Q. Can I use 1 yen and 5 yen coins to pay the fare?

A. We can handle metallic currency that includes 1 and 5 yen coins. However, please aim at using no more than 20 coins at once, since it may cause the fare box to get stuck.

Source: http://www.kyusanko.co.jp/g_others/qa.php

Similar source for Entetsu Bus:


"Is it possible to pay the bus fare with 1 and 5 yen coins?"


"Yes / We humbly accept your payment in such way"

Source: http://entetsubus.lekumo.biz/faq/2006/11/a4_15_e1ac.html

My experience is that most local buses that have that kind of system are able to process one and five yen coins. I guess that it is because they function on an honour basis. That is, the machine is not actually counting the coins, so it can take anything.

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    Really? Which towns and buses? I've never seen a vending machine of any kind anywhere in Japan that accepted one-yen coins, the vast majority only accept 10 yen and up. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 9:49
  • Well, I lived in Sendai and can speak for that. It is not a vending machine per-se but a box (運賃箱)where you insert your money. Never had problems with that, but maybe it is better to ask the bus driver. Also, refer to this thread in chiebukuro if you speak Japanese and you will see that even Japanese people are surprised with that: detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1025098030
    – Kenji
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 12:06
  • TIL: but isn't that post saying it's the change machine (両替機) that accepts the 1 yen coins, not the fare box? And you obviously need at least 10 to get a 10 yen coin out. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 19:49
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    The post starts with "あれ?バスの運賃箱に一円、五円玉って入れて良かったっけ?" "What?! It was possible to throw one and five yen coins into the fare box?"
    – Kenji
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 7:06

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