When I first moved to the US, I was so surprised to see that people always use credit cards for everyday purchases, even for small items like a cup of coffee, instead of cash. Also, I was shocked to learn that almost everyone needs a credit card in order to build credit.
I remember when I was in my 20's, some of the major credit card companies offered their services in Japan. Out of curiosity, I soon enrolled in a credit card. And then my father scolded me for having a credit card since he believed that having a credit card was a bad custom. He said that using a credit card meant making debt which was shameful. I understood his point, so I tried not to use my credit card since I was a student and I only had a part time job at that time.
Even today, many traditional minded Japanese feel that relying on credit cards is a bad idea. With credit card you can shop even though you don't have any money. My father explained that the money you feel you have with your credit card is not exactly your money. It is an illusion. So you have to be careful.
My father also explained that borrowing money from someone is shameful. In Japan, there has been “SHICHI YA”, which are pawnshops, in town from long ago. The entrance is located behind the main street so that people who need money can sneak into the shop without being seen from others. In Japan, borrowing money is still frowned upon today.
Over 30 years have passed since credit cards started in JAPAN, but credit cards are still not a common payment method. There are many shops and restaurants which do not accept your credit cards at all. And many Japanese prefer to use cash. Many Japanese people trust cash more instead of credit cards. Many people feel that Japan’s economy stays strong through the use of cash and not relying too much on borrowing.
Anyway, when you travel to Japan, it would be better to bring some cash! You can use your credit cards for large purchases like at the airport and major hotels. For all other purchases in Japan, cash is king!
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