National Printing Bureau

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National Printing Bureau
National Printing Bureau logo.svg
Kyodo News (former head office).jpg
Head office, in the Kyodo Tsushin Kaikan
FormationJuly 1871;149 years ago (1871-07) as Paper Money Office
April 1, 2003;18 years ago (2003-04-01) as National Printing Bureau
Type Incorporated Administrative Agency
Legal statusActive
PurposeTo contribute to the stability of the monetary system by manufacturing banknotes
Region served
Official language
English (secondary)
Takehito Matsumura
4,196 (as of January 1, 2019)

National Printing Bureau (国立印刷局, Kokuritsu Insatsu-kyoku) (NPB) is a Japanese governmental agency in charge of the production of Japanese paper money, Japanese yen. It also produces various other products, such as postage stamps and the official governmental gazette.



The Paper Money Office was created on July 27, 1871 under the administration of the Ministry of Finance, and was soon renamed in August the Paper Money Bureau. At the time, banknote printing was outsourced to the United States and Germany, as Japan did not have the required facilities for domestic production. The bureau managed the private national banks and managed the issue and exchange of banknotes.

In January 1872, production of paper money was handed over to the Paper Money Bureau, and it acquired papermaking and printing duties. These included the production of banknotes, securities, postage stamps, and typographic printing. The first domestically produced Japanese money, a 1-yen banknote, was created on October 15, 1877.

The Paper Money Bureau was merged with the Official Gazette Bureau on January 1, 1898, and thus acquired the duty of printing the Official Gazette, starting July 2, 1898. The Bureau became an incorporated administrative agency (Independent Administrative Institution) in April 2003. [2]


The NPB includes a Head Office, Research Institute, Government Publications Service Center, and several production plants.

Head office

The head office includes strategic planning, evaluation and auditing, security products, information products, research and development, general affairs, human resources, and finance and accounting departments.


Cherry Blossoms at National Printing Bureau's Odawara Plant (2015) Cherry Blossoms 1 at National Printing Bureau's Odawara Plant.jpg
Cherry Blossoms at National Printing Bureau's Odawara Plant (2015)
Cherry Blossoms Open House for Hanami at National Printing Bureau's Odawara Plant (2015) Cherry Blossoms 2 at National Printing Bureau's Odawara Plant.jpg
Cherry Blossoms Open House for Hanami at National Printing Bureau's Odawara Plant (2015)

The NPB has several production plants. Toranomon is responsible for publishing the Official Gazette and other government publications. At Takinogawa banknotes, public bonds, and certificate stamps are made, and at Oji postage stamps are printed. Plants at Odawara, Shizuoka, and Hikone also produce banknotes, while Odawara makes paper as well, along with Okayama. [3]

The Odawara Plant, where about 500 Someiyoshino and other cherry trees are planted, holds on an weekend in early April, every year, an open house to let the general public enjoy viewing cherry blossoms. [4]

Environmental activities

The Bureau's environmental philosophy is "Conduct business activities in harmony with the environment." It is attempting to acquire ISO 14001 certification. Five of its plants have already done so: Takinogawa in 2002, Odawara in 2004, Hikone in 2006, Okayama in 2007, and Shizuoka in 2009. The Bureau prepares and publishes an environmental report on its website yearly.

Five areas of focus are:

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The 1 yen note (1円券) was a denomination of Japanese yen in seven different series from 1872 to 1946 for use in commerce. These circulated with the 1 yen coin until 1914, and briefly again before the notes were suspended in 1958. Notes from the Japanese government, known as "government notes," were the first to be issued through a company in Germany. Because they were being counterfeited, they were replaced by a new series which included the first portrait on a Japanese banknote. Almost concurrently, the government established a series of national banks modeled after the system in the United States. These national banks were private entities that also released their own notes which were later convertible into gold and silver. All three of these series came to an end due to massive inflation from the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. National bank notes were re-issued as fiat currency before the national banks themselves were abolished. Both national bank and government one yen notes were gradually redeemed for Bank of Japan note starting in 1885. This redemption process lasted until all three series were abolished in 1899.

10,000 yen note Highest circulating denomination of Japanese yen

The 10,000 yen note is the largest banknote denomination of the Japanese yen.

5000 yen note Japanese paper currency

The front side of the note includes a portrait of Ichiyo Higuchi, a Meiji era writer and poet. The reverse side depicts Japanese irises (kakitsubata) from the Irises screen by Korin Ogata.

1000 yen note

The 1000 yen note (¥1000) is currently the lowest value yen banknote and has been used since 1945, excluding a brief period between 1946 and 1950 during the American occupation of Japan. The fifth series notes are currently in circulation, and are the smallest of the three common bank notes, measuring 150 x 76 mm. The front side shows a portrait of Hideyo Noguchi, who in 1911 discovered the agent of syphilis as the cause of progressive paralytic disease. The reverse depicts Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms, adapted from a photograph by Koyo Okada. It was first issued on 1 November 2004. Extensive anti-counterfeiting measures are present in the newest banknotes. They include intaglio printing, holograms, microprinting, fluorescent ink, latent images, watermarks, and angle-sensitive ink. While the older notes are no longer issued, they continue to be legal tender.

Lost Continental

The Lost Continental is a light-purple 24¢ United States postage stamp depicting General Winfield Scott, printed around 1873 on vertically ribbed paper by the Continental Banknote Company. It is the only known copy of this 24¢ Scott stamp—among the many surviving examples—that can be positively identified as a printing by the Continental firm, and not by the National Banknote Company, which had originally produced this 24¢ issue three years earlier. For more than a century experts could not determine with certainty whether Continental had ever, in fact, printed its own version of this stamp—or, if it had done so, whether any of the copies it printed survived. Conclusive evidence did not begin to emerge until a collector named Eraldo Magazzu discovered the Lost Continental while examining a lot of old stamps he had purchased in 1967. Much debate and analysis followed before the stamp, on the evidence of its paper-type, was finally certified as authentic by the Philatelic Foundation in 1992. How many other copies of this Scott issue printed on normal paper by Continental still exist is a question that philatelists believe will never be answered. Despite this uncertainty about the stamp's actual degree of rarity, the Lost Continental sold for $325,000 at a Siegel Gallery auction in December, 2004 A photograph of the stamp appeared on the front cover of the catalogue for that auction; on page 60 of the catalogue, a photograph of the Lost Continental's back shows the pencil mark "153": a Scott Catalogue number that erroneously identifies the stamp as an example printed by the National Banknote Company.

The 500 yen note (五百円紙幣) was a denomination of Japanese yen issued from 1951 to 1994 in paper form. Crudely made notes were first made in an unsuccessful attempt to curb inflation at the time, and the series as a whole is broken down into three different types of note. Only the last two have a known design which feature Iwakura Tomomi on the obverse, and Mount Fuji on the reverse. Starting in 1982, new 500 yen coins began to be minted which eventually replaced their paper counterparts. While the production of 500 yen notes continued until 1984, all of the notes issued were officially withdrawn from circulation in 1994. Five hundred yen notes were allowed to retain their legal tender status, but they are now worth more on the collector's market than at face value.

The 5 sen note (五銭紙幣) was a denomination of Japanese yen that was issued from 1944 to 1953 in paper form. Five sen notes were worth one-twentieth of a yen making them the lowest subsidiary yen banknote ever made. These notes are broken up into two types which were issued before and after World War II. Those issued before the war filled a void left when 5 sen coin production became difficult. The Japanese government later issued notes in a unsuccessful attempt to curb inflation. Neither of these notes are currently legal tender as the "sen" was abolished in 1953 when the yen system was modified to exclude the old fractional currency. These banknotes are now easily collectable as they were issued in large amounts.

The 10 sen note (十銭紙幣) was a denomination of Japanese yen issued in four different series from 1872 to 1947 for use in commerce. Meiji Tsūhō notes are the first modern banknotes issued after Japanese officials studied western culture. There circulated alongside ten sen coins until their withdrawal in 1887. The other three series of ten sen notes issued are in some way tied to the impacts of World War I and World War II. Taishō fractional ten sen notes were issued as a response to a coin shortage that was caused by the first of these wars. They were eventually suspended in the early 1920s when things had settled down, and were later demonetized in 1948. The last two series of ten sen notes were issued by the Bank of Japan rather than the treasury. First series notes were issued as ten sen coins could no longer be produced, while the A series was released after the war in a futile attempt to curb inflation. These last two issues were demonetized at the end of 1953 when the Japanese government passed a law abolishing subsidiary notes in favor of the yen. Ten sen notes are now bought and sold as collectors items depending on condition.

The 20 sen note (二十銭紙幣) was a denomination of Japanese yen in three different government issued series from 1872 to 1919 for use in commerce. Meiji Tsūhō notes are the first modern banknotes issued after Japanese officials studied western culture. These notes were replaced due to counterfeting by a redesigned series called "Ōkura-kyō" for "sen" denominations. Both of these series were officially abolished in 1899 in favor of notes issued by the Bank of Japan. Government issued notes only returned during the Taishō era in the form of an emergency issue due to a coin shortage. These were only issued between 1917 and 1919 before they were finally abolished in 1948. Twenty sen notes are now bought and sold as collectors items depending on condition.

The 50 sen note (五十銭紙幣) was a denomination of Japanese yen in six different government issued series from 1872 to 1948 for use in commerce. Those in the "Meiji Tsūhō" series are the first modern banknotes issued after Japanese officials studied western culture. Counterfeiting eventually became an issue which led to the issuance of "Ōkura-kyō" notes in 1882. These were issued as part of a larger series featuring Empress Jingū on the obverse. Both of these series of fifty sen notes circulated alongside fifty sen coins until their abolishment in 1899. No additional notes were issued for this era as the other four series are tied in some way to the world wars. Fifty sen notes returned during the Taishō era in the form of an emergency issue due to a coin shortage and rising silver prices. These were issued between 1917 and 1922 before the situation settled enough to resume coinage. Silver became an issue again during the Shōwa era in lieu of the Second Sino-Japanese War, which prompted the government to issue "Fuji Sakura" notes in 1938. As the war raged on, the notes were changed in design to be more nationalistic. The "Yasukuni" series was issued from 1942 to 1945 depicting images related to State Shinto. These were allowed to be released again for a final time after the war had ended. Fifty sen notes were last issued in 1948 featuring no references to the Emperor. Pre-war notes were abolished on August 31, 1948 while the last series continued to circulate until the end of 1953. Fifty sen notes are now bought and sold as collectors items depending on condition.

The 2 yen note (2円券) was a denomination of Japanese yen issued in two different overlapping series from 1872 to 1880 for use in commerce. Meiji Tsūhō "two yen" notes were the first to be released as inconvertible government notes in 1872. These notes were produced both domestically, and in Germany using western technology. While they had an elaborate design, the notes eventually suffered in paper quality, and were counterfeited. Two yen Meiji Tsūhō notes were not redesigned with other denominations in response to these issues. The series as a whole was effected by massive inflation that occurred during the aftermath of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. Too many non convertible notes had been issued to pay for the expenses incurred. Government notes stopped being issued in 1879, and the Bank of Japan was established in 1882 as a way to redeem old notes for new ones issued by the bank. This redemption period expired when the notes were abolished on December 9, 1899.

The 5 yen note (5円券) was a denomination of Japanese yen in twelve different series from 1872 to 1955 for use in commerce. Only those from the "A series", which was issued from 1946 to 1955 are legal tender today.


  1. "Bureau Overview". National Printing Bureau. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  2. "History". National Printing Bureau. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
  3. "Organization". National Printing Bureau. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
  4. 10. National Printing Bureau, Cherry Blossoms in Odawara City (Odawara City's Sightseeing Bureau)
  5. "Environmental Activities". National Printing Bureau. Retrieved July 23, 2010.

Coordinates: 35°40′08″N139°44′42″E / 35.6688°N 139.7451°E / 35.6688; 139.7451