In a surprising departure from its usual hidebound ways, Japanese bureaucracy has made a major concession to the country's popular culture in its latest plans for the redesign of the ten thousand yen bill.
After a survey commissioned by the Japan Mint in February of 2007, it was found that a mere 22% of Japanese aged 14 or over could state anything about the personage whose figure presently appears on the 10,000 yen bill, Yukichi Fukuzawa, beyond the fact that he was "an historical figure". Of the remainder, 21% had "never heard of" the man pivotal to Japan's late 19th century modernization drive. On the other hand, the same survey found that the "personage" scoring highest in both recognition and popularity was the fictional Hello Kitty character created by Sanrio Co., Ltd. in 1974.
The decision to redesign the bill incorporating the image of the near-ubiquitous feline coincides with what the Mint states was a decision to redesign it anyway due to another recent spate of counterfeiting. The last redesign was in April 2007, when the Series E was launched in response to counterfeiting. The changes, however, were nothing like as conspicuous as those now in the pipeline.
Says Usoda Kanzenni, spokesman for the Mint: "Japan is changing, and people these days prefer what is familiar. Things historical are considered rather "difficult" by Japanese people of most generations, so we are anticipating that adorning the 10,000 yen note with something as attractive, cute, and popular as Hello Kitty will not only bring happiness to people, but will encourage more spending and further stimulate the economy."
Sanrio Co., Ltd. has professed its delight with the move and is negotiating with the Mint for royalties. Says Sanrio spokesman Nanikono Detarame: "We are thrilled with the Mint's decision to adopt our most effective ambassador of happiness, Hello Kitty. Money already brings happiness, and so Hello Kitty will make people who spend it doubly, even triply, happy!"
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Tuesday, April 01, 2008