One of the more under-promoted campaigns taking place in Japan is the release of the 47 Prefectures Coin Program. Supposedly created to mark the 60th anniversary of the Local Autonomy Law, the Bank of Japan is minting 500 yen coins with designs associated with each prefecture. It started in 2008, and there have been 24 coins since then. The first I noticed anything about it was at the end of November when I was in the Bank of Kagoshima, and I saw a poster on one wall showing this year's designs. The bank only had the last three of the coins - Kanagawa, Miyazaki and Okinawa. They are regular 500 yen coins and can be traded in stores for face value, but they don't work in vending machines.
(My camera won't focus on them. I'll try scanning them if I get the chance).
What was weird was just how many hoops I had to jump through to buy them. They're just like the U.S. State Quarters, but I had to fill out paperwork, giving my phone number and address, just as if I was opening a new bank account, even though they're only worth a total of 1500 yen ($18 USD). It took over 15 minutes for the teller to come out with them, and he presented them as if they were made of gold. Makes me hesitant to try getting the 2013 coins, because of the hassle. Also, I tried visiting the bookstores to find collector books to put the coins in, but came up empty. This is nothing like coin collecting in the U.S....
(On a side note, the post office will release #19 of the Anime Heroes series of stamps on Jan. 23, 2013. This one is for Heidi of the Alps.)