Money and Food Tips for Traveling in Japan

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You'll be able to get money at the airport, but otherwise, most Japanese banks/ATMs won't accept foreign cards. However, all the post offices and all 7-Elevens have ATMs that will work. These are, thankfully, everywhere. Japan is a cash society, so I'd always make sure to have around $200 on you at least. With the exception of a few obviously touristy places (Asakusa's Sensoji Temple, for example), you really don't ever have to worry about theft (and even in the touristy places, you're probably just fine).

Convenience Stores

Convenience stores have everything. They are magical places. But they are particularly good for picking up toiletries, random stuff, and snacks. Especially onigiri (rice balls), which are fantastic when you get caught hungry. Follow the numbered tabs when opening, so you can appreciate how origami and food have been ingeniously combined.

Restaurants in Department Stores

Most department stores have a floor of restaurants at the top, which are always quite good, and a food emporium in the basement. You can have a good sit-down meal at the restaurants, and there is no shame in department store eating here. Literally, some of the best restaurants are located in them. Alternatively, you can pick up stuff downstairs (sandwiches, dumplings, sushi, salads, everything).

Non-Japanese restaurants, particularly in department stores, always have pictures in the menu. This is a blessing when it comes to ordering. And while Japanese food is amazing, and you should eat a lot of it, Korean, Chinese, and Italian are all also superb.

Ramen Shops

Also, most ramen shops serve fried rice and gyoza in addition to ramen. The majority of them have a vending machine where you place your order. Put money in first, and then press the button for what you want. A ticket will come out, which you give to the chef. Otherwise, you can just sit and say "ramen".

Bars and Izakaya

When you go to bars, izakaya, etc., there will be a cover charge. At most izakaya, it is about $2.50 or $3. They usually bring a little plate of something, like an amuse-bouche, as part of the cover, but there is no way to avoid this. The one thing to be aware of is that at some bars, particularly in touristy areas, the cover can be $5 or $10 per person. So, what this means is that you tend not to do a lot of bar hopping, and it's helpful to know so you aren't surprised.

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