KOBE — Some words of advice for those who dream of laying their hands on 100 million yen — don’t spend money on lottery tickets, just join a tour organized by the Bank of Japan’s Kobe branch.
In an effort to have the public better understand the work of the central government, the BOJ’s Kobe branch in Chuo Ward has been conducting its “BOJ Exploration Tour” since April.
While similar tours have been organized by the bank’s headquarters in Tokyo and at other 33 branches nationwide, the tour at the Kobe branch has become popular due mainly to its unique content, which was planned by branch chief Shigyo Kimura and is being managed by its 23 officials.
“Some 1,440 citizens have taken part in the tour as of the end of September,” said Misako Tanaka, a spokeswoman for the bank. “Many participants say they joined the tour because they heard that they can hold bank notes worth 100 million yen. But our aim is to let more members of the public, especially young people, get to know our work better.”
As the central bank mainly deals with financial institutions and does not extend services to individual customers, its work is unknown to the general public.
The tour is conducted twice a day — in the morning and afternoon — on weekdays. While the tour is for groups of at least five people of high school age or over, individuals can form other groups, according to the bank.
One such hourlong tour began at 10 a.m. A group of 14 participants first watched a 20-minute video explaining the BOJ’s role in simple terms.
Going past security body searches, the group then walked through various rooms where different banking operations take place. In one exhibition room, photo panels depicting the damage to the bank’s building by the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 1995 are displayed. Bank notes of different countries and ways to prevent counterfeiting are also part of the display.
Then comes the highlight of the tour, seeing several billion yen in bank notes and holding a bundle of bills worth 100 million yen in a room at the bank that handles cash.
Some of the participants are allowed to lift a bundle of bank notes about 38-cm long, 32-cm wide and 10-cm high that weighs about 10 kg.
One participant, housewife Noriko Furukawa, tried to lift it up. “Oh, it’s heavy,” she said. But her moment of sheer bliss passed quickly, as she had to give the bundle to the next tour participant without much time to enjoy the feeling of holding 100 million yen in cash.
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