Hokkaido Banknotes

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Hokkaido Banknotes

Two re-imagined banknotes for Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture.

This design is inspired by the Ainu people, customs, and values of ancient Hokkaido; a culture that has been rapidly disappearing ever since becoming a territory of Japan in 1868.


Adobe Photoshop


Spring, 2020

2000 Front: Rituals

Iyomante (イヨマンテ), an important Ainu ceremony in which a brown bear is raised for two years and then sacrificed. Having treated the bear well in life, the Ainu believed that in death its spirit would ensure the well-being of its adoptive community.

5000 Front: Fishing

Ainu men made their livings by skillfully fishing with spears. Their diet relied heavily on the white-spotted char, which was caught in large quantities in the summer and dried over fire to eat throughout the fall and winter.

2000 Back: Offerings

The Ainu offered gifts to the gods and spirits through inau, or carved willow sticks, and prayer. The plant on the right is Acontium, used as arrow poisons to hunt animals and send them back to the gods.

5000 Back: Gathering

While the men would hunt, Ainu women would gather and harvest different fruits and vegetables. The Siberian Onion plant on the right was an important ethnobotanic food that the Ainu would collect to cook in soup and stew.

Patterns and Symbols

Ainu clothing and crafts often have unique embroidered patterns that served as a charm against evil spirits. The left two patterns are "moreu" (spirals) and the middle pattern is "aiushi" (thorns). The last symbol is the flag of Hokkaido.

Four different Ainu patterns