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It is a bit of a nagging question to me why Japan, notwithstanding its leaps and advances in science and technology remain to this date predominately cash based. Yes, it is part of its quintessential charm, the harmonious blend of the old and the new captured perfectly in its culture and people. It is beautiful!
For a long time this has been true… but in the past year QR code payments (PayPay, Rakuten Pay, Line Pay) have become very popular. Also, many places accept AliPay from China as well. However, other foreigners must use cash or credit cards.
The government is really pushing this before the Olympics and Paralympics, so it may be another situation where things change very slowly, and then change completely over night!
In practical terms, at the moment, to what degree of dependence on their credit/debit cards must foreign travelers be, especially if it is their first time?
The more known and visited prefectures of Tokyo and Osaka, can one freely move around almost “cash-less”?
Unfortunately, no. While there are a growing number of cashless options, they tend to be fragmented. For example, PayPay can be used at many convenience stores and drug stores, but not on the train. Also, most family run restaurants have fewer options.
Credit cards can be used often, but again, not certain.
But most post office ATMs allow withdrawing from a foreign bank account.
Some can be used with IC cards (Suica, Pasmo, etc) but none with credit cards. And it all depends on the machine – one may take only cash and Suica, another may take only cash and Pasmo… So, cash is the only constant.
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