Why Don’t Japanese Street Vendors Take Card Payments?

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Street merchants in Japan often only take cash payments, and you may even find that some restaurants and tourist spots are cash only.

Japanese street vendors card payments
Japanese street vendors usually don’t take card payments

There has been a rise in the number of businesses going against this cash-only system in recent times, but there’s still a very long way to go. 

What to Expect In Japan?

If you have ever traveled to Japan then you may have had something of a culture shock when it comes to paying for things.

While Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, it seems it’s a little behind the times where card payments are concerned. 

In the US and many other developed countries, card payments are a given.

In fact, there are very few of us that carry large amounts of money in our wallets. But over in the Land of the Rising Sun, things are a little different. 

Why Won’t Street Vendors Accept Card Payments In Japan?

In Japan, most people are still of the mindset that cash is king.

As such, you’d be very hard pushed to find a street vendor that would take card payments. 

This isn’t because they’re trying to be difficult to us American tourists.

Kuromon market in Osaka
Kuromon market

It’s simply the way that this country operates and almost part of its culture.

It’s really not that uncommon to see Japanese people carrying thousands of yen around for their day-to-day purchases. 

As visitors to the country, we simply need to prepare ourselves for this change in how we pay for things.

Even if you have a high-value note and are buying nothing more than some ramen from a vendor on the street, you’ll have no problem receiving however much change you need because that’s just how they roll here.

Taking Change From A Japanese Street Vendor

So, you’ve used cash to purchase something from a street vendor and you’ve been given a large amount of change.

Back home in the States, it wouldn’t be frowned upon for you to double check the change by giving it a quick count. 

Traveling solo to Japan tips

But don’t do this in Japan; it’s considered to be very rude and tells the street vendor that you either don’t trust them or don’t trust their ability to count out the correct change. 

When a street vendor, or anyone else for that matter, gives you change in Japan, they will very clearly count it out in front of you.

It is expected that, during this time, you will be counting along with them to bring up any mistakes rather than making a spectacle of counting the change yourself afterward. 

Do Japanese Vending Machines Take Card Payments?

Japan is famous for many things, but one of the most well-known are the Japanese vending machines.

There are more than 5.5 million vending machines across Japan that sell common items like cold drinks and snacks through to beer, cigarettes, toys, hot meals, and even pantyhose!

Some years back, western vending machines would only accept cash payments but it’s now very rare to see a machine that doesn’t have a card option.

vending machine Japan explained
Vending Machines in Japan

But this isn’t something that Japan has gotten on board with yet. 

But there’s something whimsical and nostalgic about buying goods from a vending machine with coins.

Read laterJapanese Vending Machines Guide

So, rather than turning your nose up at the fact that it won’t accept your Visa, why not savor the moment?

With All That Said – There are some Japanese vending machines that will take card payments from Pasmo and Suica cards (Japanese Metro cards.)

These can also be used at smaller locations such as grocery stores which may otherwise only accept cash.

What Is The Most Common Way To Pay In Japan?

Across all of Japan, cash is the most common payment method.

If you’re traveling out there for business or as a tourist, we’d highly recommend converting a decent amount of currency before you go.

You could have been fooled that Japan, being the highly technological nation that it is, would be card  only in most places but this is a common misconception.

Tokyo Tower vs Eiffel Tower information

The Japanese consider cash to be the safest method of payment and it’s widely used at restaurants, shops, businesses, and of course, with street vendors.

While some of the larger businesses, especially in cities, are now starting to jump on the card payment bandwagon, this is far from widespread.

If you travel outside of the main areas and into more remote places, you’ll almost always be expected to pay with cash.

This is why it’s so important to make sure you have enough.

Do They Take Card Payments In Japan?

With all this talk of cash payments, you might be fooled into thinking that the Japanese are totally averse to credit or debit cards.

But that is certainly not the case.

Yes, card payments are not the most popular method but they are becoming more common with time. 

Visiting Osaka free things to do
Visiting Osaka

If you are visiting a city like Osaka or Tokyo then the chances are that you will find a lot of places where card payments are accepted.

This might include larger branches of shops, higher-end restaurants, hotels, train stations, and department stores.

But do keep in mind that even though a lot of businesses in these areas will take card payments, they really only accept the well-known providers like Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.


Japan is a country that is rich in culture and customs and one thing that they pride themselves on is their use of cash for most transactions.

If you are purchasing from a street vendor, you’ll find that card payments are hardly ever, if ever, an option. 

This is because Japan largely operates on a cash-based system and even some of the bigger businesses won’t take card payments.

If you’re traveling to Japan then this is something you need to be aware of since your Visa probably won’t be much good here.

Load up on yen, and you’ll have a much easier experience.

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