Home Asia News Riding on Imperial celebratory mood: New look of Japan banknotes announced

Riding on Imperial celebratory mood: New look of Japan banknotes announced

Current 10.000 yen note

Japan banknotes are getting a new design. It is the first change since 2004. As announced by Japan Finance Minister Taro Aso in early April, the 1,000, the 5,000 and the 10,000 yen notes will get a new look – also incorporating next-generation anti-counterfeiting technology.

The 1,000 yen banknote will feature Shibasaburo Kitasato, the father of modern medicine in Japan who discovered the bacterium responsible for the bubonic plague. A picture of Umeko Tsuda – the founder of the prestigious Tsuda University in Tokyo – will replace the picture of prominent female writer Ichiyo Higuchi on the 5,000 yen note. As for the 10,000 note, it will feature the father of Japanese capitalism Eiichi Sibusawa replacing the founder of Keio University Yukichi Fukuzawa.

All three figures had been chosen carefully to represent Japan’s commitment in empowering women and developing the country through science and technology, Aso said.

The announcement of the new design came shortly after the name of the new imperial era has been revealed. The Reiwa era will begin on 1 May, when the new emperor Naruhito ascends the throne.

Timing of announcing new banknotes: Politically calculated

Even though the government says it needs time to prepare for printing and making necessary updates to equipment, the announcement comes with an unusually long lead time. In fact, five years ahead of schedule. Japan normally changes its currency bills every 20 years. After the last update in 2004, the next is scheduled for 2024.

The announcement of the new design of banknotes just now – shortly after the reveal of the Reiwa era on April 1 and the new emperor’s accession May 1 – seems politically calculated. Japan therefore is in a celebratory mood – this could be benefical for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration. They have the Diet upper house election ahead in summer.

According to a survey by Kyodo News conducted in early April, the announcement of the new era boosted the government’s approval rating by 9.5 per cent compared to March. The support of Abe’s administration now lies at 52.8 per cent.

Japanese: Cash-loving, cautious about cashless transactions

The introduction of new design of banknotes comes in a time where cashless transactions are on the rise worldwide. In Japan however, the cash in circulation amounts to over 20 per cent of the nation’s GDP. This is significantly higher than the Eurozone (10.7 per cent), China (9.5 per cent) or the USA (8.3 per cent). The government targets to convert 40 per cent of the transaction to be cashless by 2025.

Japan economy: Real GDP growth
Japan growth: real GDP

Furthermore, studies showed that the Japanese like to keep their savings in cash at home. According to the Bank of Japan, 50 per cent is kept at home rather than putting the savings into stocks, mutual funds or insurance policies. With the redesign of banknotes the government hopes to get the stashed money in circulation again.