Japan from the inside out

Banzai for the 10,000 yen bill

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 1, 2008

IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO today, at 9:00 a.m., that the Bank of Japan issued the first 10,000-yen note, still the highest denomination of Japanese currency in circulation. The BOJ started shipping all those bills to its branches at the start of work that day.

It must have been a big deal to get your hands on one. The average starting salary for a new college graduate in those days was 12,000 yen a month.


The first bill bore the likeness of Shotoku Taishi, and the watermark was a view of the Horyu-ji Buddhist temple in Nara. They were 84 millimeters wide (3.3 inches) and 174 millimeters long (6.85 inches). Twenty-six years later, in 1984, the likeness of Fukuzawa Yukichi replaced that of Shotoku Taishi, and the size was reduced to 76 millimeters wide by 160 millimeters long.

Downsizing the money was a step I was all in favor of. That was my first year in Japan, and the older version of the bill didn’t fit completely in my American wallet. The top edges stuck out of the side, and the bills got wrinkled in my back pocket. It looked sloppy every time I pulled the wallet out.

The new, reduced size solved that problem. Now I only wish I had a few more of the bills to stick in there every month, wrinkled or not. Too thick is a better problem than too wide!

Afterwords: If I remember correctly, they also started phasing out the 500-yen bill and minting more 500-yen coins the same year.

And if you’re a foreigner who can remember the old 10,000-yen notes and the 500-yen bill, maybe that’s another one for the Too Long in Japan category.

3 Responses to “Banzai for the 10,000 yen bill”

  1. The Overthinker said

    Why was a 10,000 bill introduced then? It would be like a 100,000 bill now, only more so.

  2. Topcat said

    The Overthinker-san

    Because Japan’s economy was growing at an amazing speed.

    FYI, a 5,000 yen bill was issued in the previous year (1957).

  3. Judifer Yellich said

    I have a pre-WWII occupation Y10,000 note that my father got while serving in occupied Japan right after the war. Japan had to have printed them prior to 50 years ago. It has an engraving of a Japanese milatary hero on one side, and kanji on the other side.

    If anyone knows if it has any collection value, please contact me at my e-mail.
    thanks and arrigato,
    Judifer Yellich

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