Origami Tanteidan Convention - The Gaijin Guide:
Money Matters

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A good web-based currency converter is xe.com. They appear to have accurate, current rates, and can convert from almost any currency to almost any other.

Unlike the US, commerce in Japan is primarily cash-based, even for very large purchases. Add to that the low rates of personal crimes like muggings and robberies, and you find that it is not uncommon for Japanese people to carry 50,000 yen on their person without thinking twice about it. (Imagine carrying $500 through a large city center almost anywhere else without worrying a bit!)

Credit cards are not widely accepted at all, and checks are nearly unheard-of. Only large department stores and shops in tourist areas will accept credit cards. Hotels often will, but a small inn, for instance, will almost surely not. Restaurants almost never take credit cards. You should really count on making most of your purchases and payments in cash.

ATMs are reasonably widespread and continually getting easier to find, but most do not allow the use of foreign credit or ATM cards (and, besides, the screens are all in Japanese, making them hard, if not impossible, to use if you don't read the language!)

Traveler's checks in dollars are usually exchangeable at banks and exchange offices, though of course you'll be limited to banking hours, and they won't necessarily speak any English unless you're near a large tourist area. Traveler's checks in Yen, oddly enough, are even less commonly exchangeable these days, and will require an even more central or full-service facility.

There are no major banking facilities in the area of the convention/GOH; and almost nothing is open on weekends.

Therefore, our suggestion is to get a large amount of cash, in Yen, before you leave for Japan. Then simply carry most of it with you. If you are uncomfortable with this (or, for instance, will be doing non-convention travel and staying a lot at more traditional Japanese inns or someplace where the rooms are not completely securable) then you can bring something like traveler's checks, and just know that at some point you're going to have to set aside time to head to a big bank or major tourist area (like the Ginza) and hunt up an exchange bureau. You must allow several hours in your schedule to do this, and it has to be during regular banking hours.

If you have a credit card that allows cash advances, that is another good possibility. If your card allows this, you may well be able to find an ATM that will allow the withdrawal. Check with your credit card company for such travel services. (For instance, VISA has an extensive area of their website devoted to this, with addresses of branches that can do this; other cards may have similar services.)

The bottom line: plan ahead for money; carry extra with you; don't count on running down to the corner and getting more at 11 o'clock at night, as you can in so many places in the U.S.!

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