Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Japan Issues New Currency

What's the latest in the wackiest country on earth? New currency.

Ostensibly, the newly designed notes that will flood into A.T.M.'s this week were introduced to foil counterfeiters. In 1998, only 800 cases of forged yen notes were detected.

Counterfeiting probably costs Japan only $1 million a year in direct losses. Most fake bills, generally 1,000-yen notes, are swallowed by vending machines, Japan's ubiquitous mechanical purveyors of drinks and cigarettes. Introducing the new currency will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, partly to issue 10 billion new bank notes, and partly to modify the 1.8 million vending machines in Japan.
I love the vending machine culture in Japan. Where else can you buy hot and cold drinks and whatever else you want?
"The trick in Japan is to unlock the mattress money, the futon money," Jesper Koll, chief economist for Merrill Lynch Japan, said. "In Japan, coins and notes account for about 15 percent of national income, which compares to 6 percent in Germany and 3 to 3.5 percent in America."

Until Japan's banking crisis hit a decade ago, 7 percent of the national income was held in cash. Now, with the banks increasingly stable, the government hopes to lure some of the $700 billion in mattress money into banks, or better yet into consumer spending and investments.
Those crazy cash in the mattress hoarding Japanese grandparents. Most countries have a black market, the Japanese have a mattress economy.
The new 1,000-yen bill features Hideyo Noguchi, a scientist credited with isolating the bacteria that causes syphilis.
Ahh, why? No way I am touching that bill without plastic gloves. All I read in that last line was "The new 1,000-yen bill ... causes syphilis."

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