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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7 responses to “2,000 yen bills: The Unwanted and Unloved Yen of Japan

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  2. 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.

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

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