Japan's New Banknotes

Japan's New Banknotes


Japanese Culture & Customs

The Japanese yen currently has 4 denominations of banknotes in circulation: 10,000 yen, 5,000 yen, 2,000 yen, and 1,000 yen. Except for the 2,000 yen note which has a very small number of bills in circulation, the three main banknotes are set to have a new design from the year 2024. The Japanese government updates the design of the banknotes roughly every 20 years, the main reason being to improve their security features by implementing the latest techniques for counterfeit prevention.

The newly designed banknotes feature three people who contributed greatly to the development of modern Japan. It has been said that one of the condition for selection is that the person must have a surviving photograph that is clear and detailed. In this article, we’ll talk about the design of Japan new banknotes.


1,000 Yen Note: Kitasato Shibasaburo

Kitasato Shibasaburo is known as “the father of bacteriology in Japan”. He contributed greatly to the development of modern medicine in Japan, and is known for discovering the infectious agent responsible for the bubonic plague as well as developing a serum therapy for tetanus. He served as the first dean of the Keio University School of Medicine and the first director of the Keio University Hospital, and also founded the Kitasato University. He inherits his place in the 1,000 yen note from Hideyo Noguchi, who was also a microbiologist.

The reverse side of the new 1,000 yen note features “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, a woodblock print included in the “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” by Katsushika Hokusai. I think this famous image of a powerful wave deserves to be immortalized in currency.


5,000 Yen Note: Umeko Tsuda

The current 5,000 yen note features Higuchi Ichiyo, a prominent female Japanese poet. The new 5,000 yen note will feature another woman, Tsuda Umeko. Tsuda was a pioneer of higher education for women in Japan, and the founder of the Joshi Eigaku Juku (later renamed to Tsuda University). When she was 6 years old, she joined the Iwakura Mission, eventually staying in the United States as a student for 11 years. After a short return to Japan and a second stay in the United States, she repatriated and established her own school. It is said that she sometimes required the assistance of an interpreter as she had become more proficient in English that her native Japanese.

The reverse side of the new 5,000 yen note will feature wisteria flowers, which are often associated with Japanese nobility and feminine elegance.


10,000 Yen Note: Shibusawa Eiichi

While the 1,000 and 5,000 yen notes featured different people after their last redesign in 2004, the 10,000 yen note has featured Fukuzawa Yukichi ever since 1984. The largest banknote in Japan has become so strongly associated with Fukuzawa that it will probably take some time to get used to its new face, Shibusawa Eiichi.

Shibusawa Eiichi is known as “the father of Japanese capitalism”. He was involved in the establishment and management of the First National Bank, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken). He was also involved in the foundation of the Nishogakusha University, the Hitotsubashi University, and the Tokyo Keizai University.

The reverse side of the new 10,000 yen note will feature Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi side, which was renovated in 2017 to restore its original appearance from 1914. Tokyo Station is the gateway to the Japanese capital, and has become one of its most prominent landmarks.


Author’s Remarks

There you have it. As you can see, the new banknotes will feature people with significant achievements in the history of modern Japan. On the other hand, I think it also somehow reflects the direction towards which the country is heading. It will be fun to see the new notes when they come out, and even compare them with the banknotes of other countries.

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