Banana money is an informal term given to a type of currency issued by Imperial Japan during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak and Brunei, and was named as such because of the motifs of banana trees on 10 dollar banknotes.
It 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.
Following the fall of Singapore into the hands of Imperial Japan on February 15, 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. Similar currencies were issued in Japanese-occupied Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines.
To supply the authorities with money whenever they required it, they simply printed more notes. This resulted in high inflation 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. Sharp drops in the currency’s value and increased price of goods frequently occurred following a Japanese defeat in battle abroad. After the surrender of Japan, the currency became entirely worthless, and to this day the Japanese government has refused to exchange these currencies.