Knowing about Japanese Coins

The Strength of the Japanese Yen

The international value of the Japanese yen is a strong indication of the financial and economic status of the country. It started out as very valuable that the first time the yen was established, the value of 1 yen is equivalent to about 10,000 yen today.

Through the decades the value of the yen declined as the cost of living in Japan rose up. This is why the Prime Minister in Japan immediately declared new fiscal, monetary and financial policies the moment he was sworn into office in December of 2012. He had established what he calls as the Abenomics as a state policy to finally improve the condition of the Japanese economy.  Since then the financial situation in Japan continuously rose up.

The value of the yen is strongly related to the position of the Nikkei stock in the global stock market. Just in September of this year, Tokyo stock has been continuously fluctuating. This means that there are an unstable rise and dip to the value of the yen against the dollar in the past months. Everyone got seriously tensed when the value of the yen declined by the end of April.

Money, in general, is a means of creating ease in trade. It is also a great way of establishing a standard of fairness when it comes to product exchanges. It is a clear record of purchases, payments, and debts. Money is such an important element in the daily lives of all citizens of the world – it provides them comfort in life by providing opportunities to buy both needs and luxuries.  The yen is compared to a certain amount of gold. The value of the yen will then fluctuate depending on the value of this precious metal.  

The Basics of Japanese coins

The Different Japan coins name

For those who wish to travel to Japan, understanding the different systems of money is essential. This is to help in understanding how to pay, how to ask for change, and how to ask for prices.  In Japan, the term used to generally refer to money would be Okane. The coins are known as en while the bills are known as satsu. It is known as en because of its common round shape. The word for change is otsuri and for small change is komakai okane.

By Tokyoship (Source:Misogi) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The One Yen is known as Ichi en, the Five Yen coin is known as Go En, the 10 yen coin is Jyu en. The 50 yen, 100 yen, and 500 yen coins are known as go-jyu en, hyaku en, and go-hyaku en respectively. In more formal terms, the name must be followed by the word ‘tama’. For instance, a one yen coin is referred to as Ichi En Tama.

For the bank notes, the 1000 yen note is known as Sen en satsu. The 5000 yen note is known as go-sen en satsu, and the 10,000 yen note is known as the Ichi-man en satsu. There are only three kinds of banknotes in Japan and six type of Japanese coins.

The Different Japan coins value

The cost of living in Japan is known throughout the globe to be very high. For instance, a simple meal in a fast food chain in Japan costs about 1,000 to 3,000 yen. Cheap meals can be bought for as low as 500 yen but these are very basic meals. A haircut usually costs about 1,000 yen.

In Japan, the idea of cheap would be buying items for as low as 100 yen. These are low-quality kitchen goods and home appliances that can be bought really cheap. For the Japanese, buying anything for less than a hundred yen is already a great bargain! This is why low-valued Japanese coins cannot buy items any longer.

The exchange rate for every one US dollar in Japan is roughly about 112 to 113 yen. This has been known to fluctuate through the years. The Japanese government has been working towards reducing the exchange by creating foreign policies to welcome international investors to the country. Successfully, they have reduced the exchange between the yen and the US Dollar significantly in the last ten years.

Japan Coins in Present Circulation

The One Yen or Ichi En Dama

The one yen coin is a small coin of about 20 mm in diameter and is made from aluminum. The Ichi en Tama has the lowest monetary value in the Japanese money system. One side of the coin has a gigantic number One with the inscription of the year it was minted. Then on the reverse side, it is designed with a tree branch with the written value of the coin in Japanese. At the top, there is an inscription that reads Nihon-koku, which is the name of Japan in their language.  

Japan Coins 5 Yen or Go En Dama

This coin is distinct from all other because it has a hole in the center. What makes it distinct is the fact that it is the only coin that does not have the number 5 in it. The coin is made entirely out of nickel and is the second lowest monetary value in Japan. The coin designs on the front side with the value of the coin written in Japanese letters. The reverse side is designed with a rice stem and the year of minting at the bottom in the Japanese letters. The coin is designed as such because rice is believed to be one of the most important commodities in the Japanese society.

Japan coins 10 yen or Jyu en dama

The Jyu en dama is designed with the Phoenix hall of the Byodo-in temple. This is because of the fact that the hall symbolizes power, modernization, and beauty especially at the time when Kyoto was the capital city of the country. The reverse side is designed with a large number 10 with evergreen tree stems at the bottom. This particular coin is made out of copper.

Japan coins 50 yen or go-jyu en dama

Just like the five yen coin, the go-jyu en dama has a hole in the middle. It is made of a mixture of copper and nickel. The coin has a large number 50 on one side with the year of minting written at the bottom. The coin is designed with a picture of Chrysanthemum flowers which is the symbol of royalty in Japan. It is also a symbol of long life and longevity.

Japan coins 100 yen

None of the coins in Japan are made from silver, gone are the days when the coins are made from such precious metals. Instead, most of the coins are made from copper and nickel or the combination of the two. The 100 yen coin is designed with a picture of cherry blossoms. This quite obvious because it is unofficially considered as the national flower of Japan. Furthermore, this flower holds great importance in the culture of Japan where celebrations, holidays, and festivals are done to commemorate such beauty.

Japan 500 yen Coin

This particular coin not only has the largest value but also has the largest diameter. It has a thickness of 2 mm and it has a weight equivalent to about two one yen coins. The coin is designed with five pieces of bamboo leaves, orange stems, and the Paulownia plant. All of these are considered of great importance in the Japanese society. Bamboo is a symbol for versatility while Paulownia trees are considered as imperial trees. Wood from these trees are highly valuable and are used to make houses, boxes and musical instruments.

Japan Coins issued in the past

In history, the use of Japanese currency can be dated back to as far as the 8th century. Originally, just like in other places in Asia the Japanese used shells, rice, rocks, and precious stones were used as currency. However, there came a time that they realized there must be a standard of exchange for fairness in market trade.

It was between the 7th and 9th century when the use of coin became quite popular in Japan. These coins were made from precious metals like silver, copper, and gold – a clear indication of its value. They realized that these precious metals were easy to transport and barter for goods. It is through this that mining for gold became quite a popular business. It was only in the Tokugawa period when paper bank notes or feudal notes became popular. They used kobans or differently shaped coins which are flattened gold, copper, and silver.

It was in the late 1800s when the yen was considered as the standardized currency in the country. They have adapted to the gold standard internationally and valued the yen at 1.5grams of pure gold. This was also the time when they started printing out paper notes for national use. At the time, the one yen was made from paper and was not a coin.

The Designs of Japanese coins and Banknotes

The 1000 Yen note (Sen en Satsu)

The 1000 yen note is designed with the photo of a man named Hideyo Noguchi. He was born in the late 1800s and had become a world-renowned bacteriologist during his time. His life, research, and works are dedicated to the discovery of causes and bacterial agents of common diseases at the time. His most popular discovery was the bacteria that causes syphilis and how this bacteria causes paralysis in its hosts. On the reverse side of the note, there is a clear photo of Mount Fuji and Cherry blossoms – two of the most important icons in Japan.

The 5000 yen note (Go-sen en satsu)

The woman on the portrait in the 5000 yen note is Ichiyo Higuchi. She was among the first women in Japan who wrote during the Meiji period – a symbol that women started gaining status and importance in society. All of her works are prominent and her short stories are still read up until today. The artwork of irises at the back side of the note was painted by a man named Ogata Korin. He was a famous painter and designer.

The 10,000 yen note (Ichi-man en satsu)

The portrait of the man on the 10,000 note is Yukichi Fukuzawa. He was the founder of the Keio University and worked as a prominent writer, journalist, and teacher. This school that he established is the oldest institute of modern education in Japan. It was established in 1858 and continues to be the center of Western studies then and now.

Japanese Money Fun Facts Trivia

Why does it have a hole?

Most of the coins from earlier Japan and China had holes in them because of the way that they were minted. They are usually attached to a long stick of metal and must be detached for easier exchange. The holes also served a great deal of ease. During the time when pockets and bags were not popular, the people had an easier time handling money by tying strings at the center of the coin.

The lucky  5 and 50 yen coin

There actually is no other reason why the 50 yen coin has a hole other than the fact that it looked very similar to the 100 yen coin without. However, urban myths indicate that the hole in the middle is for people to find unity with peace when in prayer. Others also say that the 5 yen and 50 yen coin are lucky because the word ‘go-en’ is pronounced in the same way as saying ‘good fortune’ or ‘good luck’ in English. This is why putting a 5 yen coin in gifts is a popular related tradition in Japan. It is a way of showing the receiver that the giver is giving them and wishing them luck.

Money Policies in Japan

There is a Monetary Damage control act in Japan that gives fines and punishment to people intentionally creating damage on coins and banknotes. It is a policy in Japan to take care of money, some even say that folding bank notes are not allowed.