Ichiyo Higuchi is familiar to the residents of Japan as the face of the ¥5,000 bank note where she has resided since 2004. A writer of classical short stories, she studied poetry from the Heian period ~800 - 1200AD, and wrote in a flowing style almost unintelligible today. She died after her brief career at the age of twenty four having contracted tuberculosis, something not uncommon in the late 1800s.
However, she was not the first woman to feature on the national currency. Beating her by four years, and appearing in the lower right corner of the ¥2,000 note to this date, Murasaki Shikibi, the author of arguably the worlds first novel, The Tale of Gengi, coincidentally actually written in the Heian period, is something of a rarity. The note itself is somewhat unpopular being considered a little unlucky by denominating a number starting with "2" (a whole different story).
These two ladies were simply following in ancient footsteps though. Adorning the ¥1 note in 1881, a little less than a decade following the currency's introduction, came the Empress Jingu. Something of a mythical figure from the time when the Romans walked across the lands of Europe, she was actually imaged by the Italian engraver Edoardo Chiossone, and today he can be found in Aoyama Botchi, the cemetery in central Tokyo. But she can't; sadly no one knows where she departed this mortal coil.
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