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Newly designed bank notes went into circulation Monday for the first time in 20 years, featuring cutting-edge technology aimed at combating a rising tide of counterfeits.

Bank of Japan officials said the BOJ distributed 2.3 trillion yen worth of new 10,000 yen, 5,000 yen and 1,000 yen bills to financial institutions Monday.

The new 5,000 yen bills carry a portrait of Ichiyo Higuchi (1872-1896), a female novelist and poet. The new 1,000 yen bills feature microbiologist Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928), who dedicated his life to researching infectious diseases.

The new 10,000 yen bills continue to bear the portrait of Fukuzawa Yukichi.

The 2,000 yen bills, first issued in July 2000, have not undergone a redesign.

Commercial banks in Tokyo and surrounding areas started distributing the new notes the same day among customer withdrawals.

“First of all, I want people to use the new bank notes with a sense of relief, as they feature state-of-the-art technology,” BOJ Gov. Toshihiko Fukui said. “I believe these notes will contribute to the establishment of Japan’s new and dynamic economy.”

The new bills feature anticounterfeit technology, including holograms and advanced bar-code patterns. They also make use of some technologies originally introduced in the 2,000 yen bill.

BOJ officials said they expect the number of forged notes to approach 300 million this year, up from 76.13 million in 2001.

Some economists believe the new notes will have a positive impact on the economy.

Dai-ichi Life Research Institute said the new bills are expected to raise fresh economic demand worth about 1 trillion yen, 60 percent of which will stem from upgrades to vending machines and the purchase of new models that accept the new bills.

During a visit to BOJ headquarters Monday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said: “I’m not sure how much economic effect the new printing will have. But I hope the economy will recover steadily.”

People on the street meanwhile didn’t think the new notes will help the economy.

“Some say the notes will prompt people who are saving their money at home to (exchange old bills for new ones and) start using them. But I wonder if there will be such an effect,” said a 64-old-man who was exchanging bills at the BOJ.

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