Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’ to feature on new Japanese banknotes

Famous woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” will feature on a Japanese banknote for the first time, in one of three new designs unveiled Tuesday by the country’s finance ministry.

Hokusai’s well-known image, which depicts a huge wave in waters by Mount Fuji, is set to appear on the new 1,000-yen (about $9) bill from 2024. The note’s design also features a portrait of the Nobel Prize-nominated bacteriologist Shibasaburo Kitasato on its reverse.

Two other Japanese banknotes are also set to undergo a redesign. The new 5,000-yen ($45) banknote will honor Tsuda Umeko, who is credited with advancing women’s education at the turn of the 20th century.

The new 10,000-yen ($90) bill, currently the highest denomination in circulation, will feature Eiichi Shibusawa, an industrialist who helped modernize Japan’s economy and is often dubbed “the father of Japanese capitalism.” One of Tokyo Station’s historic red-brick facades will appear on the note’s reverse.

As well as announcing the new designs, Japan’s Ministry of Finance also used a Tuesday press conference to unveil a number of advanced anti-counterfeiting measures. The new designs will feature an elaborate watermarking system and 3D holograms that appear to move the images on the bills as they are rotated.

Officials claim that Japan will become the first country to adopt this hologram technology on its banknotes.

The newly designed bills were revealed a week after Japan announced the name of its next imperial era. Known as “Reiwa,” the new era will begin on May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne following the abdication of his 85-year-old father, Emperor Akihito.

A finance ministry official told CNN that the timing of Tuesday’s announcement was “coincidental.”

“Each of the characters (featured on the banknotes) contributed in various ways,” Japan’s finance minister, Taro Aso, said at Tuesday’s press conference, “such as to industrial development, the advancement of women and the development of natural science. And they are very fitting (subjects) for new bills in the new era.”

Upon their introduction, the new designs will go into circulation alongside the existing banknotes, which were last redesigned in 2004 and will remain in use. Kitasato, Tsuda and Shibusawa will join bacteriologist Noguchi Hideyo and the authors Higuchi Ichiyo and Fukuzawa Yukichi as portraits on Japanese currency, with the latter’s image appearing on the 10,000-yen bill since 1984.

The comparatively rare 2,000-yen bill will not be redesigned, though the Ministry of Finance also announced that a new 500-yen coin will be introduced in 2021.