Pocket Change: Japanese machine helps you save while travelling

According to Japan’s tourism organisation, JNTO, Australians were the highest spending tourists in Japan in 2018, dropping an average of 242,050 yen per person (or AUD $3,075) per visit. After 2020, Japan is expected to hit 40 million annual tourists, so we can only expect that number to grow. Us Aussies love to spend in Japan, but wouldn’t it be great if we could bring home a little extra cash too?

While most folks prefer to use their card while travelling overseas, carrying cash, especially in a place like Japan is an unquestionable inevitability. Some of the best local ramen joints and late-night underground whiskey bars like to do things the old way, and that often means cash only.

Research has shown that after travelling abroad, people hoard, leave, or even throw away their leftover foreign cash. But in Japan, there’s a saying: “Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” (塵も積もれば、山 となる) it means “even specks of dust become mountains.” If you could add up the worth of all the foreign currency you have, it would accumulate to much more than you’d expect.

Unfortunately, most exchange outlets don’t accept coins, so they’re rendered virtually worthless, relegated to sit in your drawer collecting dust until who knows when.

That’s why a group of innovators over in the tech-savvy nation of Japan have created Pocket Change, coin exchange machine that accepts your leftover foreign coins and bills – no matter the value – and converts them to a digital currency you can use back home at a better rate than other currency exchange.

Basically, you can pool all your coins – from any country – then transfer them into e-cash and vouchers. You can use the cash at Coles, The Good Guys, Myer, Uber, Priceline Pharmacy, JB Hi-Fi, and Supercheap Auto. Or alternatively, you can donate it to one of Pocket Change’s charity partners including UNICEF, and rest easy knowing the money is going directly to the organisation.

To see how it works just watch this:

Pocket Change kiosks are now located throughout Japan, from train stations and airports to shopping outlets and game centres. ​For a full list of locations, click here​, or just keep an eye out for the bright green box.

Heading to Tokyo soon? Check out the city’s new co-working space making it easier to travel as a digital nomad.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.