In times of crisis, cash is king, and COVID-19 era Japan is no exception. One of its national newspapers—the Asahi Shimbun—recently reported a sharp rise in the circulation of 10,000-yen notes: the country’s highest-value cash, worth around €77 or $91.
As of the end of 2020, Asahi reports, the number of 10,000-yen notes rose 5.3 percent higher than the previous year, compared to a typical rise of two to four percent in recent years. Their total value was around 110 trillion yen, which is 1.5 times more than it was in 2010. Hideo Kumano, a chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said this sharp rise ‘is a reflection of the growing sense of anxiety in the world.’
The main reason behind the popularity of high-value cash is thought to be a combination of people wanting the reassurance of having physical money to hand, and banks urging people to limit their branch visits in order to minimise the risks posed by COVID-19. The value of 10,000-yen notes being kept in this way is estimated to be around 55.5 trillion yen, according to Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
A survey by the Bank of Japan put the amount of cash (in notes and coins) circulating among homes and businesses at about 123 trillion yen as of the end of 2020. This adds up to a little less than one million yen per person (€7,670 or $9,107).
Monetary easing measures have been boosting overall cash in circulation since the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, part of the economic policies known as ‘Abenomics’. Additionally, in 2020, the central government provided virus-related cash handouts of 100,000 yen per person.
In contrast to high-value notes, the 1,000 yen note saw a small, 0.3 percent decline in circulation. The Bank of Japan says it is hard to point at one specific reason for this, but it may be related to a decrease in people eating out. From small crepe stands to large restaurants, it is common for Japanese customers to pay cash, and for food and drink the 1,000 yen note is particularly useful.
High-denomination coins have also seen an increase, with 500 yen coins in circulation growing by 3.9 percent by the end of 2020, which is around 1.3 times the number circulating a decade ago. These coins are the most popular for saving in jars at home, with many dedicated jars available for purchase.