While political pundits said his Cabinet appointments Tuesday made good use of veteran lawmakers versed in policy matters, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi sought novelty from a new angle — the issuance of a 2,000 yen bill.

Emboldened by a seemingly stronger economy and greater popularity than when he became prime minister in July last year, Obuchi now plans to add the new bill to his list of achievements.

The prime minister took the nation by surprise by saying the Bank of Japan would roll out the bills to mark the coming year and the country’s hosting of the Group of Eight leaders’ summit in Okinawa in 2000.

Government officials said the bill would be a permanent bill, rather than one issued for simply commemorative purposes, and that it would be issued around springtime, in time for the G8 summit next July.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki, on the front of the bill will be an illustration of Shureimon Gate in Naha, a symbol of Okinawa Prefecture, while the back will feature an illustration from the “Tale of Genji,” a classic romantic novel written nearly 1,000 years ago.

Obuchi played down the strangeness of having a bill with the numeral 2. He pointed out that the United States issues $20 bills.

Some observers said the prime minister might be hoping to loosen consumers’ purse strings with the new bill and boost private spending, but many others questioned whether it would have any effect at all.

The new denomination bill will be the first issued in Japan since the old 10,000 yen note was issued in 1958. Although that note is still in circulation, it has since been redesigned.

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