2,000 yen bills: The Unwanted and Unloved Yen of Japan

Do you live in Japan? If so, have you ever seen a 2,000 yen bill?

I saw my first 2,000 yen bill after I had been in Tokyo for 8 months. My friend was visiting from America; when she exchanged money at the airport, they gave her a healthy mix of 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000 yen bills. I quickly traded her some ordinary 1000 yen bills to get one of her prized 2000 bills. I still carry the bill around in my wallet, neatly folded and crammed in one of the many credit card holders.

The 2000 yen bill is a lot like the US $2 – they are both technically legal tender, but barely anyone uses them. Some people collect them, some people get rid of them, and some people take pictures of them. The 2000 yen bill was released in 2000 (no surprise here). This accounts for some of the unpopularity of the bill; the rest of Japanese legal tender was first released in 1958 (at least the 5000 and 10000 notes were).

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

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

The 2000 yen bill was mainly only popular in Okinawa; it has the famous Shureimon, an Okinawan 16th-century gate located in the Shuri Castle. The back depicts a scene from Tale of Genji, the worlds first novel. If you have a chance, try going to a bank in Japan and asking to trade two 1000 yen bills for one 2000 yen bill. They will either laugh at you or comply.

Most vending machines won’t accept 2000 yen bills. Shop keepers will look at you funny if you try to pay with a 2000 yen bill, but I’ve never heard of a shop refusing to accept the rare, 2000 yen bill. When you finally find a 2000 yen bill, keep it. You never known when you can bust it out during a lull in conversation to impress other foreigners.

For more information about yen bills and their history, check out this post on Japanese Currency.

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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

14 Comments on 2,000 yen bills: The Unwanted and Unloved Yen of Japan

  1. I know this is an old entry, but AAA (through Wells Fargo) FedEx’d me six brand new 2000 yen bills when I exchanged a few grand with them. So I guess I should keep them?

    I’m headed to Japan next month for 3 or more months for a Christian mission. Do you have any suggestions on where to go where I can volunteer to help the poor or handicapped? Btw, your YouTube videos are very entertaining. Your husband seems like a cartoon character sometimes :) Is he a lot different when he speaks Japanese?

  2. Anonymous // 14 January, 2014 at 6:04 am //

    Been a year before i got my first 2,000 yen and i was wondering why it was the first time i saw it. Didn’t knew it was that rare, I could’ve just kept it instead. :D

  3. Srta. TacoMal // 22 December, 2013 at 4:38 am //

    Bank of America gave me my $10,000 in yen in the form of 10,000s, 2,000s, and 1,000s. I used them to pay for things until I could make a bank account. The first time I pulled one out to pay, I had no idea about them, and the lady at the store, the assistant, and my tutor (the girl assigned to keep me from dying) all freaked out. When I did get to make a bank account, I brought all of them along with me, and my tutor commented, “I think you have all of the 2,000 yen notes in Japan…”

    • Hahahahaha. I can see that happening. I really don’t understand why tourists always get 2,000 yen bills (aside from the fact BoA doesn’t know any better) – because it always leads to one freak-out moment when the cashier doesn’t know what to do/thinks you’re using “fake” bills. At least you got a good laugh :)

  4. My American bank also gave me a couple of 2,000 yen bills when I went to study at ICU. I was using it to buy a suica in the first few days that I got to Japan, and both the saleslady and my host mother were shocked when I pulled it out. They were asking me if I really wanted to use it, and i was so confused as to why I couldn’t use it! I think I had a mini panic attack because I couldn’t really understand what they were saying. And then later on I had another mini panic attack when I realized that I had spent the majority of my 2,000 yen bills already, haha.

    • Hahahahaha. I guess it is a foreign bank thing. That must have been terrifying as someone who just got to Japan…

      My friend had a whole wad of them in her wallet – she couldn’t understand why I kept trading two 1,000 bills for her 2,000 bill.

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  7. Theresa // 8 June, 2013 at 8:47 pm //

    I got a 2000 yen bill when a friend of mine came to Japan. He got it from the bank in his home country. I ended up spending the bill in the post office. The employee asked me if I really wanted to use it (I had no other money, though).
    I managed to get my hands on another one (forgot how that happened) and I’m keeping that one.

    • Oh nice. Keep that bill. I like to think I will be able to show my grandkids the 2000 yen bill and they will be amazed. I don’t know. In any case, I still like carrying it around.

  8. dorisdolina // 7 June, 2013 at 4:47 pm //

    I didn’t know about this. I have kept 1000 yen and brought it home to the Philippines.

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