The planned introduction of Japan’s new 10,000-yen bills in fiscal 2024 has been inspiring domestic growers of a plant used to make paper for the banknote.
Regions growing mitsumata, or oriental paperbush, are aiming to boost production while the National Printing Bureau relies on cheap imports for over 90 pct of the material supply. Mitsumata is a deciduous shrub with a height of one to 2 meters, of which the bark is used to make the 10,000-yen bills. Its fibers are long, sturdy and durable.
In Japan, the plant is mainly grown in the Chugoku and Shikoku western regions. According to the Japan Speciality Agriculture Products Association, the country produced 16 tons of white-bark mitsumata, the variety used in banknotes, in 2018.
The output was down some 70 pct from a decade earlier, due to aging farmers. However, growers have been spurred by the government’s announcement of the new banknote plan in April 2019, with one farmer in Okayama Prefecture in the Chugoku region saying, “We want to supply domestic mitsumata of which we have pride in the quality.”
Nepari, a company in the city of Miyoshi in Tokushima Prefecture, part of Shikoku, produces around 3 to 4 tons of processed mitsumata for banknotes per year, mainly using plants grown in-house. After planting 10,000 mitsumatas this year, the company aims to increase the number to more than 50,000 next year, using nearby abandoned farmland.