Japanese government-issued dollar in Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei

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Banana banknotes in the possession of civilian internees at Batu Lintang camp, Sarawak, Borneo. The term "banana money" originates from the motifs of banana trees on the currency's 10 dollar banknote, seen here at the bottom.

The Japanese government-issued dollar was a form of currency issued by Imperial Japan during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei between 1942 and 1945. The currency was also referred informally (and with more than a trace of contempt) as banana money (Malay: duit pisang), named as such because of the motifs of banana trees on 10 dollar banknotes. The Japanese dollar was in widespread use within the occupied territories where the previous currency became a scarcity. The currency were referred to as "dollars" and "cents" like its predecessors, the Straits dollar and Malayan dollar.

The Japanese dollar was one of several forms of Japanese invasion money issued throughout the then newly expanded Empire of Japan. Similar currencies were issued in Burma (as the Japanese rupee), the Dutch East Indies (as the Japanese guilder), the Philippines (as the Japanese peso) and various Melanesian and Polynesian territories (as the Japanese pound).

History[edit]

Following the fall of Singapore into the hands of Imperial Japan on 15 February 1942, the Japanese introduced new currencies as a replacement of those previously in use in the occupied territories of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei. The new currency in Malaya and Singapore were issued with the same value as the Malayan dollar, and first entered circulation in 1942. As with other currencies issued by Japan in occupied territories, local residents were forced to adopt this type of currency, while existing coins were allowed until a shortage of coins required the Japanese administration release issued notes for cents.

To supply the authorities with money whenever they required it, they simply printed more notes. This resulted in hyperinflation and a severe depreciation in value of the banana note. Moreover, counterfeiting was rampant due to its lack of a serial number on many notes. Increasing inflation coupled with Allied disruption of Japan's economy forced the Japanese administration to issue banknotes of larger denominations and increase the amount of money in circulation.[1] Sharp drops in the currency's value and increased price of goods frequently occurred following a Japanese defeat in battle abroad.[1]

Different denominations of the banana money (top and left) on display at Memories at Old Ford Factory, Singapore. As banana money was rendered worthless immediately after World War II, banana money notes are now either museum exhibits or collectors' items.

After the surrender of Japan, the currency became entirely worthless, and to this day the Japanese government has refused to exchange these currencies. Some locals managed to escape poverty because they had hidden Straits dollars and Malayan dollars, the previous currencies before the Japanese invaded. Those with hidden stashes of the old dollars were thus able to use them the moment the British resumed control of Singapore and surrounding colonies, when they became valid again. A number of surviving banknotes were stamped as war souvenirs, while its use as printing paper for rudimentary calendars for 1946 was also recorded.[1]

The present value of the currency as a collector's item remains mixed depending on their condition, the presence of serial numbers, the use of woven paper, and their use as specimens.[1] Common notes lacking serial numbers are still worth below their printed value, while rarer versions are worth slightly over or several times their printed value.[1] Notes stamped as war souvenirs are currently rare, while notes with 1946 calendar overprints fetch about RM3,000 (as of September 2006).[1]

Ten dollar-sized leaflets reprinting the ten dollar note's obverse were also airdropped by British air forces during the Japanese occupation as a warning to the population on the potential worthlessness of the currency in the event of Japanese defeat.[1] Fear among the population of possessing the leaflet lead to the their rarity and present high value (at an estimated RM3,000 as of September 2006).[1]

Banknotes[edit]

The currency – both dollars and cents – was released solely in the form of banknotes, as metals were considered essential to the war effort. The notes retain certain features that were common among preceding currencies, such as the use of the dollar and cent currency name, albeit without the use of their respective currency symbols ($ and ¢). However, the languages used on the notes were reduced to English, and Japanese at the lower edge of the notes. Each note bears different obverse and reverse designs but retains similar layouts. Intended for circulation in Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak and North Borneo, the notes were marked with stamped block letters that begin with "M" for "Malaya".[1]

1, 5 and 10 dollars (1942)[edit]

The first series of notes were originally of lower denominations of 1, 5 and 10 dollars, issued in 1942. Each bear different obverse and reverse designs but retain similar layouts, with the obverse illustrating plantation crops. Additional 10 dollar notes were printed in 1944.

First Series
Image Value Main colour Description Date of issue
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse
1 dollar 1 dollar $1 Blue Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals. 1942
5 dollars 5 dollars $5 Brown Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals. 1942
10 dollars 10 dollars $10 Grey Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals, illustration of the sea from a coastline. 1942, 1944

Cents (1942)[edit]

In September 1942, non-serialised currency notes were issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50 cents as a response to a shortage of old coins.[1] The cent notes were of a simpler design, lacking plantation crops on the obverse; the 50 cent note is an exception. The cent notes are noticeably smaller than dollar notes.

First Series
Image Value Main colour Description Date of issue
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse
1 cent 1 cent Blue Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals. September 1942
5 cents 5 cents Brown Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals. September 1942
10 cents 10 cents 10¢ Grey Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals. September 1942
50 cents 50 cents 50¢ Brown Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals. September 1942

100 and 1,000 dollars (1944)[edit]

Worsened economic conditions in the following years forced the Japanese government to begin printing notes of larger denominations of 100 and 1,000 dollars in 1944.[1] The 100 dollar notes were printed in two dramatically different versions, while the 1,000 dollar note were available in only one version. Illustration on the notes center more around images of rural life. The 100 and 1,000 dollar notes were the last new notes introduced before the surrender of Imperial Japan in August 1945.

First Series
Image Value Main colour Description Date of issue
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse
100 dollars 100 dollars $100 Brown Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, illustration of rural life, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals, illustration of rural life. 1944
$100 Brown obverse, green reverse Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, illustration of a rubber estate, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals, illustration of rural life. 1944
1,000 dollars 1,000 dollars $1,000 Brown Bank value in Arabic numerals and English; "The Japanese Government" text in English, illustration of rural life, stamped block letters. Bank value in Arabic numerals, illustration of rural life. 1944

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Boon, K.N. (September 2006). T. Thiruchelvam, ed. Malaysia Banknotes & Coins (1786-2006): A Complete Educational Reference (3rd Edition ed.). Trigometric Sdn Bhd. ISBN 983-43313-0-4. 
Preceded by:
Malayan dollar
Location: present day Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei
Reason: fall of Malaya, Borneo and Singapore in the hands of Japan in World War II.
Ratio: at par
Currency of British Malaya and Brunei
1942 – August 1945
Succeeded by:
Malayan dollar
Location: present day Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei
Reason: Japan lost World War II.
Ratio: The occupation currency became worthless. The value of the pre-occupation currency was restored.
Preceded by:
Sarawak dollar
Location: present day Sarawak, Malaysia
Reason: fall of Borneo in the hands of Japan in World War II.
Ratio: at par with the Malayan dollar
Currency of the Kingdom of Sarawak
1942 – August 1945
Succeeded by:
Sarawak dollar
Location: present day Sarawak, Malaysia
Reason: Japan lost World War II.
Ratio: The occupation currency became worthless. The value of the pre-occupation currency was restored.
Preceded by:
British North Borneo dollar
Location: present day Sabah, Malaysia
Reason: fall of Borneo in the hands of Japan in World War II.
Ratio: at par with the Malayan dollar
Currency of North Borneo
1942 – August 1945
Succeeded by:
British North Borneo dollar
Location: present day Sabah, Malaysia
Reason: Japan lost World War II.
Ratio: The occupation currency became worthless. The value of the pre-occupation currency was restored.

External links[edit]