Japanese Currency: The four types of yen bills in Japan

Yen banknotes were first introduced in 1872, a couple years after the yen coins were introduced in Japan. In the beginning, the Bank of Japan issued a couple different types of bills, ranging from 10 sen to 100 sen. Because of rampant inflation, none of those bills are still in circulation.

In 1957, the 5000 yen and 10,000 yen bills were introduced. In 2000, the 2000 yen bill was introduced. To this day, the 1,000 and 10,000 yen bills are the most common in circulation, with the occasional 5000 yen bill (and the extremely rare 2000 yen bill).

Banknote yen bills in Japan

They looks like this.

(2004 edition)

The 1000 yen bill is blue, with a dimension of 150 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Noguchi Hideyo; on the back is a picture of Mt Fuji, Lake Motosu, and some cherry blossom trees.

The 2000 yen bill is green with a dimension of 154 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Shurei-mon, a famous structure in Okinawa; on the back is a scene from the Tale of Genji – one of the oldest novels every written.

The 5000 yen is purple, with a dimension of 156 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Higuchi Ichiyo; on the back is a copy of the Kakitsubata-zu painting.

The 10,000 yen bill is yellow-brown with a dimension of 160 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Fukuzawa Yukichi; on the back is a picture of the the ho-o phoenix statue from the Byodo-in temple in Kyoto.

Of course, in this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to find a 2,000 yen bill. I found this one by accident; one of my friends had exchanged money at the airport and ended up with two 2,000 yen bills. I promptly traded her two 1,000 yen bills for one of her rare 2,000 yen bills. I keep it folded up in the back of my wallet – pulling it out every once and a while to show other (surprised) foreigners.

This is the only 2000 yen bill I've ever seen

This is the only 2000 yen bill I’ve ever seen

Newer vending machines won’t accept these old 2,000 yen bills; store clerks will often look at the bills a couple times over (mostly trying to figure out which slot they go in the register) before accepting the 2,000 yen bill as a form of payment.

The other bills are fairly straightforward. Blue 1,000 yen and yellow 10,000 yen bills are very common, just like the 2,000 yen bill, the purple 5,000 yen bill is becoming less common. The ticket machines at train stations, convenience stores, and shops will often give change is 1,000 yen bill increments (up to about 7,000 yen in change).

The yen fluctuates pretty rapidly. When I first got to Japan it was 77 yen to the dollar, now it is 97 yen to the dollar. Five years ago it was 125 yen to the dollar.

Japan is a cash economy; Since credit card aren’t accepted in most establishments (such as convenience stores, most clothing shops, and some hotels), it is important to keep your wallet stocked with cash. If you are traveling to Japan and need cash, 7-Eleven ATMs accept nearly all foreign credit cards (with a $2 surcharge).

And sometimes these ATMs will spit out old bills, like this old 10,000 bill.

10,000 yen bills in Japan have changed

The lower 10,000 yen bill comes from the 1984 collection of 1000, 5000, and 10000 yen bills that were suspended in April of 2007.

The 1984 Edition:

The 1000 yen bill is blue, with a dimension of 150 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Natsume Soseki; on the back is a pair of cranes (birds).

The 5000 yen is purple, with a dimension of 155 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Nitobe Inazo; on the back is a Mt. Fuji, Lake Motosu, and some cherry blossoms.

The 10,000 yen bill is yellow-brown with a dimension of 160 X 76 mm. On the front is a picture of Fukuzawa Yukichi; on the back is a pair of pheasants.

If you look at the picture above, you can see both the 2004 10,000 yen bill and the 1984 10,000 yen bill.

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About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

8 Comments on Japanese Currency: The four types of yen bills in Japan

  1. Hi Grace, how are you able to tell what year a yen bill is?

  2. Hi,
    Pardon my ignorance but can the 1984 10000 yen note still be used?

  3. Romanian money is very colorful: green [1], pink [5], peach [10], yellowish [50], blue [100].. and the rarest one.. i forgot, lol, but it’s of 500. we also have coins: golden[1], bronze [5], gray/silver [10], and dark yellow..? [50]. Just like US money, 2 coins of 50 equal a bill of 1 ;)

  4. A lot of times, if you order a lot of currency through an American bank, they will give it a good portion of it to you in ¥2000 bills (I don’t remember how many, but it was in the scores.) As my tutor (girl assigned to me by my school to make sure I didn’t die) put it, “I think you have all of the ¥2000 bills in Japan…” She then proceeded to buy one from me.

    • Lol whoops, I totally made a comment on this on your post specifically about the ¥2000 bill~

    • Hahahaha. It’s true, though! Foreign banks give out tons of 2000yen bills!

      I bought one off a friend who was visiting from America. I still have it in my wallet – I take it out at parties sometimes to impress my Japanese friends.

  5. Japanese notes seem to be much smaller than Chinese and the color’s also different. RMB are mostly red (100), blue (10) and brown (20). There is always a picture of beautiful scenery on the back which I love!

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