Deep Japan – Advice when around town

As the Deep Japan project develops, we hope to have a large database of “how-to” type advice to make a stay in Japan, long or short-term, just a little bit smoother and more enjoyable. This is a slice of the kind of content you can expect.


1. What do I do with all my leftover change?

Japanese coins are 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen, and 500 yen.

You must keep in mind, that unlike the vast majority of currencies, Japanese currency has coins of very high value, with the smallest bill of 1000 yen being about the equivalent of 10 USD. 50 yen, 100 yen, and 500 yen coins may just seem like chump change, but these coins added up actually give you some very good purchasing power, so treat them carefully.

This is generally pretty easy for most to follow, but the real problem coins are the 1, 5, and 10 yen coins that just seem to pile up in your pockets…
In Japan, it is very common to try and pay with exact change, or at least an even number very close to it. For example:

Your total: 476 yen ——-what are my options for payment? 

  1. four 100 yen coins, one 50 yen coin, two 10 yen coins, one 5 yen coin, and one 1 yen coin, for exact change.
  2. a 500 yen coin
  3. break yet another 1,000 yen note.

The most ideal option here is of course option 1, because this leaves you with the lightest pockets, and not to mention it’s a good feeling to pay with exact change. However it doesn’t always work out this way, so let’s pick option 2:

You are given 24 yen as change: two 10 yen coins, and four 1 yen coins.

This is fine…but let’s say that you make 5 similar purchases over the course of your day using method 2…you are now left with roughly ten 10 yen coins, and twenty 1 yen coins: nearly a 100 yen value.

Here are some options for adjustments to method 2:

1.One 500 yen coin, and one 1 yen coin     501-476 = 25

—–This method leaves you with two 10 yen coins and one 5 yen coin


2. One 500 yen coin, two 10 yen coins, one 5 yen coin, and one 1 yen coin   526-476= 50

——This method leaves you with just a single shiny 50 yen coin.


a typical coin purse, important for making purchases in japan

Basically, let’s just think about how we can take our change the furthest without having to break the next highest unit. Look at the last number on all of your purchases: can you make it a round number? Can you pay 476 with 480? Think about how you can get rid of those pesky one yen coins, and don’t let them add up, because it’s actually a lot of lost value. Start with one of these coin pouches shown above to keep a handle on your change.



Where can I find a trashcan?


You may notice when first coming to Japan that there are almost no public trashcans lining the streets. There are trashcans generally at convenience stores, supermarkets, and large train stations, but never just out on the sidewalks. This is for one simple reason: You need to figure out a way to manage your trash until you are either back home, or can find a convenience store to throw your garbage away.

a standard trash can area outside of a convenience store in japan

Crush your cans, combine your bags and trays, and wrap it up in a plastic bag (you certainly get enough of them in Japan). In fact, always try and keep plastic bags on you in case you need to store some garbage to throw away later.

And remember, when you find a convenience store to throw your garbage away, be sure to sort paper and plastics, as well as recycle cans, plastic bottles, and glass separately!