Show Me the Money


2 Million YenStaring at huge stacks of money is a lot of fun, so here are a couple photos of two million yen. Japanese cash machines will allow a one million yen withdrawal, and up to two withdrawals per day. The tremendous disparity with American ATM limits is predominantly because Japan is traditionally a cash-based society.

2 Million YenCredit cards are becoming more and more prevalent, but most transactions are still handled with paper money. About 25 years ago, I started switching over to credit cards for most transactions for convenience, a month of free money, and ability to track expenditures; however, since moving to Japan, I rarely use credit. One reason is that using credit in Japan usually requires some rigmarole, and it turns out being more convenient to pay cash. Another reason is difficulties in making payments without transaction fees.

Counting CashWatching professionals count money in Japan is a blast. Here we see a moneyhandler in action. She grabbed the bills just over 50 at a time, pinched them between her left pinky and (oh what a) ring finger, rocked the bills back and forth to fan them, folded them back under the left thumb and snaps them up with the right thumb. The right pinky is always extended, but I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps it is just an affectation, like sticking it out when sipping wine; however, I’m sure there is a mechanical reason for it. The rapidity with which she counted out four stacks of 50 bills each was quite impressive.


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5 Responses to “Show Me the Money”

  1. fightingwindmills Says:

    I miss the cash-based economy. I only got paid once a month and we were really good at budgeting because we could make a big withdrawal and divide it up for bill paying. I even bought my car in cash. I will always remember that stack of bills I set down on the dealer’s desk. It was amazing and wonderful not to have to deal with credit. Now in the US we are trapped by our debts.

  2. びっくり Says:

    Nice that the system here helped you budget. I hope you can find a way to handle the debt back home. This stack of bills was actually to buy my new car.

    I have saved a lot of money over the years by not buying cars. My first car was in 1989 (eight years after being licensed). My second was in 1999. My third was a $900 job in Japan. A car well-treated for 11 years, means a lot of time to save up for the next one.

  3. verbivore Says:

    I loved the cash only system when I lived in Japan – it made budgeting a snap. But it took me a while to get used to carrying around lots of actual paper money. Switzerland is an interesting mix, people use debit cards or cash. No credit. I like it because there is no temptation to spend beyond your means.

  4. びっくり Says:

    Verbivore – another funny point here is how difficult they make it to use credit cards. When we make a purchase, we have to specify whether we will make a single payment or want to use revolving credit. Each transaction is treated completely separately on the bills. I still haven’t gotten properly reimbursed for a returned item where I paid the full bill before I returned the single item. Just one more reason I almost never use the card.

  5. Fetish Map Says:

    Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this blog.

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