My Grandfather's Banana Money


Bryan Lim
Lim Kuang Yeow

       These two pieces of $1 and $10 “banana money” notes belong to my maternal grandfather who was born in Singapore in 1916. The notes were issued by Imperial Japan during the occupation of southeast –Asia between 1942 and 1945. 
	During the Japanese Occupation, many lived in poverty and suffered from malnutrition and diseases. Essential foodstuffs like rice, salt and sugar were sold at high prices in the “black market”.  The situation was made worse by the unlimited supplies of banana notes because whenever the authorities needed more money, they simply printed more notes.  As my grandfather was the sole breadwinner of his family, he had no choice but to become a sailor and worked on a Japanese ship. He sailed to Palembang, Indonesia, transporting goods for the Japanese soldiers there. 

         Finally, after seven months of sailing, Grandfather returned to Singapore with a handsome pay of eighteen thousand “banana money”.  Unfortunately, before he could spend the money, the Japanese surrendered in 1945.  All of a sudden, the money became useless and Grandfather became penniless.	However, he did not despair and in fact, was relieved and elated that the Japanese Occupation was over.  Many people threw away the “banana money” but my grandfather decided to keep a few as a reminder of the sufferings and hardship he had gone through!