News / Graphic Design

Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave to feature on one of Japan’s redesigned banknotes

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Katsushika Hokusai: The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Via Wiki Commons)

Heading to Japan on holiday soon? Lucky you. Do us a favour will you? No, we’re not after quirky variations on the classic Kit Kat. We want money. For research purposes. Obviously.

Today (9 April) sees the news that Japanese ATMs are to fill with a whole range of redesigned bank notes. Well, by 2024, anyway.

Art-mad residents and tourists will be able to strut into pachinko parlours and ramen bars with a masterpiece in their pocket, with the brand spanking new 1000 yen note set to feature a print of Katsushika Hokusai’s iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Other denominations will be emblazoned with images of industrialists (Eiichi Shibusawa, the so-called “father of Japanese capitalism”), bacteriologists (the clever clogs who co-discovered the infectious agent of bubonic plague in Hong Kong in 1894) and educational reformists (the pioneering Tsuda Umeko).

The Japanese Ministry of Finance hasn’t just shown us the faces we’ll see crumpled and worn as we unreel them from the clammy depths of our collective back pockets in years to come; it also proudly trumped a series of anti-counterfeiting systems, including what CNN describes as, “an elaborate watermarking system and 3D holograms that appear to move the images on the bills as they are rotated.”

It is the first time the notes have been given a refresh since 2004, and (unwittingly, says the Ministry) coincides with the naming of the new imperial era – the Reiwa – that’ll follow the abdication of Emperor Akihito on 1 May 2019. The outgoing emperor is to be replaced his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

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Photograph by Toru Hanai