JIN-290 -- Meet the New Notes

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T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 290
Friday, September 24, 2004
TOKYO

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CONTENTS

@@ VIEWPOINT: Meet the New Notes

[Burritt Sabin on the upcoming currency exchange.]

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Meet the New Notes

This week we talk about money -- not about making or spending it, but
about recognizing it after November 1.

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) is preparing a total of 5 billion newly designed
notes, 90 percent of which have already been printed and are being
delivered to its 32 nationwide branches. The BOJ is rushing to put a
stable supply of new bills into circulation.

The reason: There are bad guys out there, and they are churning out
counterfeit bills on home scanners and printers at an alarming rate.
The police detected 800 bogus bills in 1998, 7,600 in 2001, and 14,200
in the first half of 2002.

The BOJ began preparations for the issue of new bills as early as the
fall of 2001. Now, only three years later, the new bills, incorporating
anti-counterfeit technology, are rolling off presses.

With the exception of the 2,000-yen bill, the most recent issue of new
bills was 20 years ago, in 1984. As then, three bills -- 1,000, 5,000,
10,000 yen -- have been simultaneously redesigned.

The new notes reflect a seismic trend in Japanese society and a major
new emphasis of the government. Since the Second World War, Japanese
notes have borne portraits of politicians or men of culture. Never has
a female portrait graced a note. Until now.

The new 5,000-yen note bears the likeness of the novelist Ichiyo
Higuchi (1872-96), indicative of the partial liberation of women and
new distaff financial clout.

Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928), the face on the new 1,000-yen note, was a
renowned bacteriologist and physician. The Japanese government is now
pushing science with the goal of a vast increase in the number of Nobel
laureates. Noguchi happens to be a much admired inspirational figure,
and putting his portrait, mustachioed and with a shock of hair (almost
the stereotype of the scientist) on the most ubiquitous of bills is an
inexpensive way to remind young people of the promise of science.

The cultural sub-theme aside, the primary goal of the new notes is to
foil forgers. The notes include enough gimmicks to deter the most
die-hard do-it-yourself counterfeiters. Viewed from different angles,
the lower left corner of the smallest note shows "one thousand"
expressed in numerals or in Chinese characters. The larger notes use
a hologram that discloses a cherry blossom pattern, the monetary
amount or the BOJ mark -- once again, depending on the viewing angle.
Finally, all three notes bear a bar pattern watermark.

The BOJ-issued new bills will debut through private banks and other
financial institutions. When private banks deposit money at the BOJ,
the central bank will collect old notes; when they withdraw money,
the bank will give out new notes. Private banks and other institutions
withdraw about one billion notes a month from the BOJ.

By November 1, the BOJ will issue 2.5 billion 10,000-yen notes, 200
million 5,000-yen notes and 2.3 billion 1,000-yen notes, for a total
of 5 billion. Because of the urgency of the issue, only half of the
required number of 10 billion notes can be put into circulation.

For the time being, the BOJ will issue old notes at the ratio of 20
to 30 percent. The total switch to new notes will require about two
years, according to the BOJ.

With bad paper flooding the market, the BOJ has gone into overdrive
to minimize the switchover time. The fact that the bank will issue a
mix of notes indicates the present ones will be legal tender even
after the new ones go into circulation on November 1.

Considering the BOJ's motivation -- counterfeit prevention -- for
the urgent issue of new notes, will anyone not prefer new to old?
Look for a run on the scientist and novelist.

-- Burritt Sabin

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Edited by Roland Kelts (editors2@japaninc.com)

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