Japan Data

New Japanese Banknotes to Feature International-Minded Thinkers from the Meiji Era


New banknotes to be issued from the first half of fiscal 2024 will feature renowned names from the fields of medicine, education, and business. All three people have one thing in common—they travelled to the West around the time Japan opened to the world and came into contact with new ideas and progressive learning. 

The government plans to change the designs of the ¥1,000, ¥5,000, and ¥10,000 bank notes in the first half of fiscal 2024. The three people who will appear on the notes—Kitasato Shibasaburō, Tsuda Umeko, and Shibasawa Eiichi—all traveled overseas, experienced progressive Western culture, and consequently introduced new ways of thinking to Japan after the Meiji Restoration.

¥1,000 Banknote: Kitasato Shibasaburō

December 20, 1853June 13, 1931 

Contributed to the development of infectious disease prevention and bacteriology

Kitasato was born in a village in Kumamoto Prefecture to a family that had provided the settlement’s headman for generations. He attended Kumamoto Medical School (now part of Kumamoto University) and Tokyo Medical School (now part of the University of Tokyo), acquiring a particular interest in preventative medicine through his studies. 

In 1883, he entered the Central Sanitary Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs and from 1886 he studied in Germany for six years under the leading expert in pathogenic microbes, Dr. Robert Koch. While there, he successfully grew the tetanus bacillus in pure culture. He also discovered immune antibodies to toxins and developed related therapy methods. After returning to Japan, Kitasato established the Institute for Infectious Diseases as well as the the first tuberculosis therapy hospital in Japan.

Fukuzawa Yukichi, who is currently featured on the ¥10,000 bank note, provided the location and capital to establish Kitasato’s infectious diseases institute. After Fukuzawa died, Kitasato helped found Keiō University School of Medicine and served as the institution’s first dean of medicine. Noguchi Hideyo, who currently appears on the ¥1,000 bank note, is also connected as he was engaged as an assistant at the Institute for Infectious Diseases. This banknote continues to be closely linked with infectious disease research in Japan.

(Based on information from various websites including The Kitasato Institute, Kitasato Memorial Museum, and Terumo Corporation.)

¥5,000 Banknote: Tsuda Umeko

December 3, 1864August 16, 1929 

Pioneer of women’s education in Japan

Tsuda Umeko was the second daughter of Tsuda Sen, an agriculturist and shogunate retainer with a deep interest in Western culture. Through the insistence of her father, Tsuda applied to be a female exchange student on a program proposed by the Hokkaidō Development Commission and in 1871 travelled to the United States with the Iwakura Mission. At the time, Tsuda was six years old, making her the youngest of the five female students that travelled on exchange. She received an elementary and middle school education in Georgetown, near Washington, and returned to Japan in 1882. She began teaching at an educational institute for daughters of the nobility; however, compared to the United States, the status of women was lower in Japan and feeling she had no opportunity to use her exchange experience, she travelled once more to the United States. There, she majored in biology at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia.

After coming back to Japan again in 1890, she founded the Joshi Eigaku Juku (now Tsuda University). Instead of a curriculum based on teaching correct manners and preparation for becoming a married woman, it had a progressive educational program that focused on English language and respected individuality.

(Based on information from various websites, including Tsuda University and International Foreign Students Association.)

¥10,000 Banknote: Shibusawa Eiichi 

February 13, 1840November 11, 1931  

The father of Japanese capitalism

Shibusawa Eiichi was born into a wealthy farming family in Fukaya, Saitama Prefecture. He entered the service of Tokugawa Yoshinobu and was assigned to accompany the Prince’s younger brother Akitake to the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris. During his one-year stay abroad, he learnt about progressive European culture, industry, and thinking, all of which greatly influenced him. Following the Meiji Restoration, he joined the Meiji government and was engaged in the Ministry of Finance. He retired in 1873 to enter the business world. He was involved in the creation of approximately 500 private companies, including Dai-Ichi Bank (now Mizuho Bank), Oji Paper Company, Osaka Spinning Mill (now Tōyōbō), and Tokyo Gas. He believed though that even commercial enterprises could not pursue profit alone because morality was necessary and inseparable from economic activity.

(Based on information from various websites including the municipality of Fukaya in Saitama Prefecture, Fukaya Board of Education, and Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation.)

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: [From left to right] Kitasato Shibasaburō, Tsuda Umeko, and Shibusawa Eiichi. Courtesy National Diet Library.)

money Meiji Restoration Shibusawa Eiichi