First of all I have never carried around so much cash in my life. People don't write checks here. I don't even know where our checkbook is! And we rarely use credit cards although they are more widely accepted than what we first understood. For us because we don't have a Japanese credit card our purchases carry an additional 3%. And when things are already so unbelievably expensive why bother spending more than we have to? So we use cash ALL the time. It's often a topic of conversation in the morning, 'Do you need cash? Are you going to the ATM? Here, take all of my money and I'll just go to the ATM. If I go this morning you can take more out after 2 PM.' It's kinda fun.
The Yen is an easy one to figure out against the dollar as I have mentioned before. The kids caught on very quickly. The '100' Yen (~$1) comes in the form of a coin and the '1000' Yen (~$10) as a bill. But because we are in Tokyo and because the 100 Yen is a coin - we use it like a quarter - or so it seems. The kids want a gumball from the machine? Sure here's a 100 Yen. It doesn't seem to be worth as much because it's a coin. And we use the 1000 Yen bill more like a dollar - crazy.
It's a little strange to send your kid off to school with their club/activity fees in an envelope. 'Nick, make sure you give that 20,000 Yen to your teacher.' Gulp. I once found an envelope on the ground with about 35,000 Yen in it. Fortunately, it was an English speaking family who wrote a name on it and said it was for Kimono pics. I figured it was an International School close by and got the money into the right hands, but that's what I am talking about! No one has lost any money yet. I'm just the one who makes the costly mistakes like buying a rice warmer instead of a rice cooker. If I had written down every time I made some purchasing mistake I would flip out, whether it was food that wasn't what I thought it was or hey, how about the nail polish that didn't have a price, but I thought 'How expensive could it be at this drug store?' It could actually be about 21 dollars. Ahh!!!
We have also learned that exact change is appreciated. The cashiers don't seem to mind as I count out my Yen - Yen by Yen. And you know you are in Japan when you hand them the equivalent of 100 dollars when in fact you only need to pay 10 dollars that they won't rip you off. Early on I would often just hold out a handful of change and let them pick out what they needed. The good and trustworthy Japanese.
We definitely are a bit more aware of how much money we are spending since we aren't dropping the plastic all the time. A perk of cash verses credit however is that there is no credit card statement to 'report' how I spent my money... Yeah, Jack, I must have spent A LOT on groceries this week, mostly on butter I think ;)