I am totally frustrated with the money situation. Tokyo is a cash town. While places take cards, you’re not going to get very far if you do not have cash on hand. Isn’t this the place where all the hot technology comes from? I’m pretty sure these people had a hand in creating the damned credit card machines so why they don’t use them is beyond me. Our only recourse is to withdraw cash from ATM machines which, in turn, dispense it in Yen. The exchange rate is something like 90.80 right now. So changing $400 will yield you something like ¥386 or something like that. The yen come in demonimations of 10,000, 5,000, and 1,000 bills. Then there are the coins that come in 500, 100, 50, 10, and 1 yen.
There are a ton of ATMs around but many only take Japanese bank cards or Chinese bank cards. The best ATM to go to is at the post office. Unfortunately, the post offices aren’t as numerous as you’d like. They’re also not 24 hours. On the plus side, there’s a post office branch right next door to school, so it shouldn’t be hard to get cash while over on that part of town.
The real problem is that when I got here, my bank had put a freeze on my card. They probably figured charges coming from Japan were unauthorized. Well, it’s not like I have a phone on me. I make all my calls via Skype right now and that requires an internet connection. At present, there is no internet at our apartment so I had to wait until we got to school to call the bank and find out what the deal was. Fortunately, after I cleared up the freeze, I was able to withdraw some cash.
Still, it’s kind of hard because you’re constantly trying to do conversions in your head. The exchange rate can change everyday and it’s not like I have a ticker going across my bedroom so I always know what the rate is. I’ve got to find out what the withdrawal fee is for these international ATM transactions too. Because when I’m standing at that ATM and it’s asking me to take money out in ¥10,000 increments, I’m trying to figure out how many dollars that might be, including the withdrawal fee, so that I don’t bump up against my daily limit. The reason taking out a lot of money has been a big deal right now is because we had to pay rent and insurance and fees yesterday. Normally, I wouldn’t have to have almost a thousand dollars on hand, but today accessing money was an issue for all three of us. What’s worse than not being able to get your hands on your money especially when you’re in a foreign country?!
I think an important step is going to be thinking in ¥ and not $. We spend too much time trying to convert in our heads and we also think too much about how much money we’re losing every transaction. Instead of going to the store and seeing something for ¥3000, then thinking it costs something around $30 and trying to decide how many dollars to yen you have in your pocket, we should just think of how many yen we have and how much yen something costs. Or else, I’m pretty sure we’ll start pulling our hair out.