I'll be traveling to Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. How prevalent is ATM and Visa use in these areas? When I traveled to Europe I didn't use currency exchange. I payed through Visa at restaurants and major stores and took out cash for the day at an ATM/Bank for small shops and snacks. Is this feasible in Japan?
We used most of the time visa card while travelling in Japan, withdrawing cash in ATM machines there's a small surcharge. Visa card is widely acceptable
Also many Japanese banking machines do not accept foreign debit cards, but the ones at post offices ((Japan Post is the country's largest bank) and 7-11 stores do. Post office ATMs are usually only accessible during working hours.
Many of the smaller shops and restaurants and even hotels are still cash only places, so your Visa card will be less useful than at home. Japan is still very much a cash society, so I would advise you to have some Yen on hand when you land and have a reasonable amount with you at all times for those many places that don't take cards. We tended to target at least $US 200 in cash with us.
ATMs at 7-11 and JP are quite common. 7-11 also have atms in locations outside of their stores as well, sometimes in railway stations or what is beast described as an atm store. You should probably also always have enough cash for a day or two. Your credit card will be ok at most hotels but not all restaurants and certainly not smaller shops.
Chain restaurants (non-fast food) accept CC, but anyplace unique and interesting won't. Convenience stores and post offices are the best access points for ATM's and banks have been continuing to roll out improved access for foreign cards as 2020 approaches.
Bottom line, cash is still necessary, but when it comes to paying whip out the card and see what reaction you get.
most places i went took cards - around Narita, Tokyo, Ueno, Mito, Nikko, Kawaguchiko, Asakusa.
i used cash for taxi and a few smaller purchases such as local bus and snack places but bigger purchases such as train and bus passes, tickets, restaurants, the 7-11 took cards and in Nikko was the place to get money out.