| 28 Apr 2004 @ 08:21, by ming|
No one could call the yen Mickey Mouse money, but in one struggling Tokyo neighbourhood it is about to come up against a rival currency inspired by another popular cartoon character with a high-pitched voice.
From tomorrow, shoppers in Takadanobaba will be able to buy their groceries with notes bearing the unmistakable features of Astro Boy, the most popular Japanese animation hero of all time.
Community groups hope the currency - named horsepower after Astro Boy's units of strength - will encourage residents to shop in local stores and revitalize the slightly down-at-heel neighbourhood.
In denominations of 10, 100 and 200 horsepower, 1 HP = 1 yen at current exchange rates and will be legal tender at dozens of Takadanobaba shops, including supermarkets.
Astro Boy, who appeared in comic form in 1952 before becoming a huge TV hit, wasbuilt with a boy's heart inside in Takadanobaba's fictitious science min istry, on April 7, 2003 - then several decades into the future - the creation of a scientist whose son had died in a car accident.
Shoppers who use the currency will be rewarded for responsible consumer habits. Those who re-use plastic carrier bags, for example, will receive a 10 HP (5p) refund.
This is not the first time the people of Takadanobaba have turned to the diminutive robot with the soft mohican and unfeasibly large eyes to turn around the local economy.
Before his birthday last year, they organized several days of celebrations and special promotions, including the mural, above, to persuade the legions of Astro Boy fans to part with their money.
From his early days in downtown Tokyo, Astro Boy, the most famous creation of the late manga illustrator and animator Osamu Tezuka.
Success might see the idea taken up in other parts of the world. But is the eurozone ready for the 100 Tin Tin note?