japanese money questions answered

A Special Day at J-List, and All About Japanese Money

J-List has been bringing wonderful products from Japan for more than 20 years, and one day we look forward to every year is when we get “the poster” in. This is a giant poster published by Japan’s largest calendar company, and it has most of the popular anime, idol, kawaii character and JAV calendars printed on it, so we can add the calendars to the site and start preorders, which we did this week. Every year we check the poster to see which will be in the important “CL-1” spot at the top. For years the top spot was taken by major female singers or groups like Amuro Namie, SPEED or Hamasaki Ayumi, then for a while the boy bands of Johnny’s Entertainment had their turn. These days anime has moved to the forefront, with the outstanding calendars published by Studio Ghibli every year claiming the top spot. J-List’s Early Bird Calendar Sale is going on right now, giving you 30% off for preordering 2 or more calendars before October 15. So browse our 2018 Japanese calendars now!

The currency used in Japan is 円 yen, called en in Japanese, and it means “circle.” I asked my Twitter and Instagram followers if they had any questions related to Japanese money, and there were quite a few. Here are some answers:

Japan seems like a really advanced place. Why do they still use physical money?

While “digital money” cards like Suica, which lets you zip through the train turnstiles and make many purchases, have been huge for years, cash still has an important role in Japanese society, as I wrote recently. You always pay a deposit on an apartment in cash, for example, perhaps to prove your trustworthiness to your new landlord. You also need to bring cash gifts in special envelopes for two of life’s important events. Make sure to bring brand new 10,000 yen notes for weddings, and old, worn notes for funerals.

Why do Japanese coins have holes in them?

Japanese coins come in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen denominations. The 5 and 50 yen coins have holes in them, which is quite old-timey and awesome, harking back to the days when samurai would carry their coins on a string. These days it helps blind people tell which coin is which. Incidentally, the Japanese 1 yen coin is the only one in the world that can float. If you want to see who’s on paper Japanese money, read this.

Does Japan have inflation?

I arrived in Japan in 1991, just as the Japan Asset Bubble was bursting. Unlike the Lehman Shock and subsequent crash, when Western governments acted quickly to help markets recover, Japan’s government waited years to take action to assist banks, which resulted in the economic “Lost Decade” you’ve heard of. As a result, almost no prices have risen over the past 25 years. The shop where I get my hair cut finally raised their price to 1200 yen from 1000 yen, which made me happy since they do good work and deserve to benefit more for it.

What are interest rates in Japan?

Every day driving around J-List I see new houses being built. When I commented on this to my wife, she said, “Of course, it’s an era of minus kinri [negative interest rates], so everyone is rushing to build.” Japanese families can get a government-backed “flat 35” home loan for 1%. The downside? Our local bank pays interest rates of 0.01%.

Why are yen numbers so high?

Because the currency was never reset, yen prices do involve very high numbers. A bigger problem is linguistic, since the Sino-Japanese number system is based on 10,000, not 1000 as in the West — 100,000 is 十万 juu-mahn or ten units of 10,000, a million is 百万 hyaku-mahn or 100 units of 10,000 — which means there’s always the potential for confusion when converting numbers.

2018 anime calendars are posted!

The new 2018 calendars are finally posted to the site, and this year’s calendars are the best we’ve ever seen! tons of popular shows and characters from Re:Creators to Umaru to Evangelion and many more. Here’s how our Early Bird Sale works: order 2 or more calendars before October 15, and get 30% off your order! This helps us get the calendars to you as quickly as possible and also keeps them from not being available as the year winds down. Browse our 2018 Japanese calendars now!