Japanese mon (currency)

The mon () was the currency of Japan from the Muromachi period in 1336 until the early Meiji period in 1870. It co-circulated with the new sen until 1891. Throughout Japanese history, there were many styles of currency of many shapes, styles, designs, sizes and materials, including gold, silver, bronze, etc. The kanji for mon () also shares its name with Chinese wén, Korean mun, Vietnamese văn.

Kan'ei Tsūhō (寛永通宝) coins. The top coins were each worth 4 mon; the middle and bottom coins were worth 1 mon each.
Bunkyū ēhō (文久永宝). Branched ("Edasen" 枝銭) Mon coins of the Bunkyū period. This shows the foundry technique to make the coins: the coins would then be clipped and filed to obtain the final round shape.

Denominations edit

Coins denominated in mon were cast in copper or iron and circulated alongside silver and gold ingots denominated in shu, bu and ryō, with 4000 mon = 16 shu = 4 bu = 1 ryō. In 1869, due to depreciation against gold, the new fixing officially was set for 1 ryō/yen = 1,000 mon. The yen started to replace the old non-decimal denominations in 1870: in the 3rd quarter of 1870, the first new coins appeared, namely 5, 10, 50 sen silver and 2, 5, 10, 20 Yen. Smaller sen coins did not appear before spring, 1873.[1] So the mon coins (1, 4, 100, 250 mon etc.) remained a necessity for ordinary peoples commodities and were allowed to circulate until 31st December 1891. From January 1, 1954, onward, the mon became invalid: postwar inflation had removed sen, mon etc. denominations smaller than 1 Yen. Due to the missing small coinage, the Japanese posts issued their first stamps (Meiji 4.3.1 / 1871.4.20) in mon and fixed postal rates in mon until April 1872 (Meiji 5.2.28).[2]

During the co-existence of the mon with the sen between 1870 and 1891, the metal content of the old currency became important. Official exchange for coins from 1871.6.27: 4 copper mon = 2 rin, 1 bronze mon = 1 rin (1 rin = 1/10 of a sen). So while not all mon were valued equally, their metal kind counted after the transition to decimal sen: bronze was valued more highly than copper. The first physical rin denomination was introduced in 1873 with the 1 rin coin (with the 5 rin coin introduced in 1916), as until that time the rin had existed only as an accounting unit (10 rin = 1 sen). The most current coin, the Tenpō Tsūhō (天保通寶, a coin with a face value of 100 mon) was valued at only 8 rin (0.8 sen) in that sen period.[3]

History edit

Toraisen, Shichūsen, and Bitasen edit

An Eiraku Tsūhō (永樂通寳) coin, one of the most commonly circulating coins of the era before the Edo period.
The flag (Nobori) of Oda Nobunaga displaying Chinese Eiraku Tsūhō coins.

Though the production of copper, silver, and gold coins had already started in the eighth century, they were not often used as a medium for exchange until later when the Japanese started importing Chinese coins, which replaced the Japanese commodity currency economy. As internal trade grew due to agricultural and handicraft developments, the people started preferring coinage to barter, leading to a growth of demand for copper coins.[4] The Southern Song dynasty prohibited the export of its coinage in 1179 due to its problem with the outflow of currency, but shiploads of Chinese coins would still enter Japan annually through Ningbo.[5][6] There is evidence to suggest that the Yuan dynasty used to extensively export Chinese cash coins to Japan for local circulation. The Sinan shipwreck, which was a ship from Ningbo to Hakata that sank off the Korean coast in the year 1323,[7] carried some 8,000 strings of cash coins,[8] which weighed about 26,775 kilograms (59,029 lb).[9]

Since the trade had begun with Japan, and they received payment in Chinese coins for Japanese goods, they stopped minting their own copper coinage until 1587. The Ashikaga shogunate imported Kōbu Tsūhō (洪武通寶), Eiraku Tsūhō (永樂通寳), and Katei Tsūhō (嘉靖通寶) from the Ming dynasty, which they referred to as Toraisen (渡来銭) or Minsen (),[10][11] but the high demand for copper coinage inspired local and private production of copper coins (Shichūsen, ). An example of a Shichūsen used for trade with China and the Ryukyu Kingdom would be a Kōbu Tsūhō coin minted by Satsuma domain which included the character "" (Ji) on the reverse indicating that it was minted at the town of Kajiki, while still using the inscription of the Hongwu Emperor of Ming China. Some Shichūsen would also bear the inscriptions of coins from the Song dynasty, although it was not uncommon for many coins to simply be recasts and copies of older Song and Ming dynasty coins in the form of Iutsushi (鋳写し) or by simply adding extra carvings on existing circulating Chinese coins.[12][13]

Bitasen [ja] refers to the Shichūsen [ja] coinage produced in Japan by the nobility and private local mints, and not by the imperial government or before the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate which were often poor in appearance, as well as damaged and worn out imported Chinese coins.[14][15]

Over time these coins would become damaged, and this made sellers more discriminating in what coins they would accept at face value, often accepting them only at ¼ of a good quality coin. Though Chinese coins would continue to circulate in Eastern Japan, the confusion and chaos caused by the Bitasen coinage caused rice to replace copper coinage in Western Japan.[16] From 1608 onwards it was illegal to pay with Bitasen, and the shogunate opened more mines for the production of copper, silver, and gold coinages.[17][18][19][20][21] Despite this, however, Bitasen continued to circulate within Japan, but from 1670 the Eiraku Tsūhō was completely prohibited from circulation and depreciated in favour of the Kan'ei Tsūhō.[22]

Kan'ei Tsūhō edit

In 1636, the Kan'ei Tsūhō (Kyūjitai: 寛永通寳 ; Shinjitai: 寛永通宝) coin was introduced by the government of the Tokugawa shogunate as a means to standardise copper coins and keep up a sufficient supply of copper coinage, being the first government minted copper coin in 700 years, despite this however they were introduced in the Mito domain 10 years prior during the 3rd year of the Kan'ei era. These coins would become the daily currency of the common people and would be used for small payments.[23][24][25] Due to the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa shogunate, the outflow of currency halted and Kan'ei Tsūhō coins would continue to stay the main coin circulating in Japan. Kan'ei Tsūhō were minted for 230 years despite the fact that the Kan’ei era ended in 1643, and coins would continue to bear the Kan’ei legend, even when a new denomination of the coin was introduced a century later, though they were not all uniform as the shogunate outsourced the mintage to regional and local merchants who would cast them at varying weights and sizes, as well as occasionally having local mint marks. By the 1650s 16 private mints were opened for the production of Kan'ei Tsūhō coins all over Japan.[26] Kan'ei Tsūhō produced before 1688 are referred to as "old Kan’ei" and are recognisable by their similar calligraphic styles making them hard to differentiate from one another, meanwhile Kan'ei Tsūhō coins produced after 1688 (or "new Kan’ei" coins) tend to be more diverse in calligraphic styling, and the 4 mon denomination has waves on its reverse making it easily distinguishable from other coins.

From 1738 the government authorised the manufacture of iron Kan'ei Tsūhō 1 mon coins, and in 1866 (just before the end of the Edo period) iron 4 mon Kan'ei Tsūhō were authorised. While iron coins were being minted, the quality of copper coins would decrease due to frequent debasements.

Export edit

As Bitasen coins were no longer allowed to circulate within Japan, Japanese traders started selling them on foreign markets for profits, especially on the Vietnamese market where a huge influx of Eiraku Tsūhō and Kan'ei Tsūhō coins from Japan made the Japanese mon the de facto currency of the region. The large export of Japanese coins to Vietnam during this period mostly happened on Red seal ships.

Years Annual number of Red seal ships going to Northern Vietnam Annual number of Red seal ships going to Southern Vietnam
1604–1605 5 9
1606–1610 2 9
1611–1615 3 26
1616–1620 9 22
1621–1625 6 7
1626–1630 3 5
1631–1635 9 9

From 1633 the Tokugawa government adopted the isolationist Sakoku policy. The Shogunate, however, opened up the seaport of Nagasaki to export with the Dutch East India Company and Chinese merchant ships from Southeast Asia. The Japanese merchants who were now prohibited from exporting mon coins directly to Vietnam used the Dutch traders as middlemen and exported, between 1633 and 1637, around 105,835 strings of 960 Eiraku Tsūhō and Kan’ei Tsūhō coins (or 101,600,640 mon) to Vietnam. From 1659 this continued with the Nagasaki trade coins which were specifically minted for foreign markets; this is why they were escribed with Song dynasty inscriptions as coins from the Song dynasty were already circulating in Southeast Asia and the populace had already become accustomed to them. The trade of mon coins stopped however after the Shogunate banned the export of copper in 1715.[27][28]

Inflation during the Bakumatsu edit

A Hōei Tsūhō (寳永通寳) coin, these were unsuccessfully introduced as a large denomination 10 mon coin in 1708, but failed because of their debased copper content.
A Tenpō Tsūhō (天保通寳 - 當百) coin of 100 mon, with the Kaō of the Kinza mint's Gotō San'emon.

In 1708 the Tokugawa shogunate introduced the Hōei Tsūhō (Kyūjitai: 寳永通寳; Shinjitai: 宝永通宝) which had a face value of 10 mon (but contained 3 times as much copper as a 1 mon Kan’ei Tsūhō coin), which lead to the coin being discontinued very shortly after it started circulating as it was not accepted for its nominal value.[29]

However, in 1835 (during the Bakumatsu) the Tokugawa shogunate tried issuing a larger denomination copper coin again with the Tenpō Tsūhō 100 mon coin which this time only contained five and a half times the amount of copper in a 1 mon coin,[30] but was accepted nonetheless. The introduction of this denomination caused large scale inflation comparable to that of caused by the 100 wén coin minted by the Qing dynasty in 1853, or the 100 mun coin issued by the Kingdom of Joseon in 1866.[31][32] The reason for the change in mentality was the scarcity of copper which had earlier forced the Japanese to mint iron coins breaking the previously established tri-metallic system. The concurrent circulation of 1, 4, and (heavily debased) 100 mon coins caused for a chaotic reaction from the market, as did widespread circulation of forged coinage.[33]

Another major cause for inflation was that from 1859 local Daimyō started minting their own coinage often with high denominations to increase the money supply or to get more gold and silver for their low copper supplies. In 1862 this inspired Daimyō Shimazu Nariakira to produce Tenpō Tsūhō derivatives in the form of 100 on Ryūkyū Tsūhō coins and even ½ Shu Ryūkyū Tsūhō coins under the pretence of minting coins for their vassal Ryukyu Kingdom, this proved profitable for the Satsuma domain.[34][35]

Stringing of coins edit

Bundles of 100 copper mon coins strung together for convenience of both transportation and payment.

Mon coins were holed, allowing them to be strung together on a piece of string. In the Edo period of Japan (1615-1868), stringed together coins received a small discount when presented like this. For example, for 100 Mon payment: if those 1 Mon coins were all tied in a row, discount given was 4 mon, so 96 stringed coins of 1 mon were accepted at par with 100 mon. Similar discounts existed probably for other bulk payments with small coinage in stringed form.

List of Japanese mon coins edit

Proliferation of local Japanese coinage during the Bakumatsu period.

During the history of the Japanese mon, many coins with different inscriptions were cast. The main coins cast by the central government were:[36]

Inscription Kyūjitai Shinjitai Year of introduction
(Gregorian calendar)
(Japanese calendar)
Denomination(s) Image
Keichō Tsūhō[37] 慶長通寳 慶長通宝 1606 Keichō 11 1 mon  
Genna Tsūhō[38] 元和通寳 元和通宝 1616 Genna 2 1 mon
Kan'ei Tsūhō[39][40] 寛永通寳 寛永通宝 1626 (1 mon)[a]
1768 (4 mon)
Kan'ei 5 (1 mon)
Meiwa 5 (4 mon)
1 mon
4 mon
Hōei Tsūhō[41] 寳永通寳 宝永通宝 1708 Hōei 5 10 mon  
Tenpō Tsūhō[42][43] 天保通寳 天保通宝 1835 Tenpō 6 100 mon  
Bunkyū Ēhō[44][45] 文久永寳 文久永宝 1863 Bunkyū 3 4 mon  

Many Japanese domains produced their own currency, which happened chaotically, so that the nation's money supply expanded by 2.5 times between 1859 and 1869, leading to crumbling money values and soaring prices.[46][47][48][49][50]

These coins were often produced with the name of the domain or province on them. The mon coins produced by domains are:

Inscription Kyūjitai Shinjitai Domain Image
Sendai Tsūhō 仙臺通寳 仙台通宝 Sendai  
Hosokura tō hyaku 細倉當百 細倉当百 Sendai  
Isawa Tsūhō 膽澤通寳 胆沢通宝 Sendai
Tetsuzan Tsūhō 鐵山通寳 鉄山通宝 Morioka
Hakodate Tsūhō 箱館通寳 箱館通宝 Matsumae  
Dōzan Tsūhō 銅山通寳 銅山通宝 Kubota
Ashū Tsūhō 阿州通寳 阿州通宝 Tokushima
Tosa Tsūhō 土佐通寳 土佐通宝 Tosa
Chikuzen Tsūhō (100 mon) 筑前通寳 - 當百 筑前通宝 - 当百 Fukuoka
Ryūkyū Tsūhō (100 mon) 琉球通寳 - 當百 琉球通宝 - 当百 Satsuma  
Ryūkyū Tsūhō (½ Shu) 琉球通寳 - 半朱 琉球通宝 - 半朱 Satsuma  

See also edit

Currencies with the same etymology edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ The Kan'ei Tsūhō was first minted in 1626 (Kan'ei 5) in the Mito domain on a small scale, but the Tokugawa government started mass producing the coin in 1636 (Kan'ei 15).

References edit

  1. ^ These 1870 coins were produced outside Japan, as no coinage facilities suitable for mass production existed then. Only after modern coin production equipment had been imported, the mass production of small coinage could begin.
  2. ^ e.g. Yabuuchi, Development History of Japanese Posts, Tokyo 2000 (日本郵便発達史。薮内義彦。東京)
  3. ^ Bank of Japan (BOJ) surveillance office, ed: Illustrated Japanese Currency. Vols. 1-11, Tokyo 1972-1976. (日本銀行調査局,ed.: 図録日本の貨幣. 昭和47-51。東京) Vols. 1-3: vol. 1, Beginnings – old period – middle ages [原始・古代・中世], 1972); vol. 2, The establishment of modern currency system [近世幣制の成立], 1973); vol. 3, Development of modern currency system [近世幣制の展開], 1974.
  4. ^ Sakurai Eiji, "Chûsei no kahei shinyô", in Ryûtsû keizaishi, ed. Sakurai Eiji and Nakanishi Satoru (Tokyo: Yamakawa shuppansha, 2002), 45. (in Japanese)
  5. ^ Richard von Glahn, Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China 1000-1700 (University of California Press, 1996), 54.
  6. ^ Kuroda Akinobu, "Higashiajia kaheishi no naka no chûsei-kôki Nihon", in Kahei no chiikishi, ed., Suzuki Kimio (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 2007), 22-23. (in Japanese)
  7. ^ Richard von Glahn, "The Ningbo-Hakata Merchant Network and the Reorientation of East Asian Maritime Trade, 1150-1350," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74:2 (2014), 272, 279.
  8. ^ Amino Yoshihiko, Alan Christy (trans.), Rethinking Japanese History, Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan (2012), 147.
  9. ^ Portal, Jane (2000). Korea: art and archaeology. British Museum. p. 229. ISBN 9780714114873. Retrieved 14 October 2019. The Sinan shipwreck found off the western coast of South Korea in 1976 contained 26,775 kg (58,905 lb) of Chinese coins, mostly dating from the Song dynasty.
  10. ^ 小葉田淳 『日本の貨幣』 至文堂、1958年 (in Japanese).
  11. ^ 初出は1485年に出された大内氏撰銭令。1500年から1542年にかけては室町幕府も同様の撰銭令を出している。(in Japanese).
  12. ^ "Bitasen 鐚銭". Luke Roberts at the Department of History - University of California at Santa Barbara. 24 October 2003. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  13. ^ Masuo Tomifusa, Honpou bitasen zufu, (Anasendou 1982). (in Japanese)
  14. ^ Aila de la Rive, MoneyMuseum Money in the Land of the Rising Sun I: The Copper Coins of Ancient Japan. Retrieved: 26 June 2017.
  15. ^ Deal, William E. (2007). Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan. Oxford University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-19-533126-4.
  16. ^ Kuroda Akinobu, Kahei shisutemu no sekaishi, 132-33; Sakurai Eiji, "Chûsei no kahei shinyô", 52. (in Japanese)
  17. ^ Việt Touch VIET NAM COINS & PAPER NOTES. AUTHOR: Thuan D. Luc COLLECTION: Bao Tung Nguyen VIET NAM NUMISMATICS © Chi D. Nguyen Retrieved: 24 June 2017.
  18. ^ Dutch-Asiatic trade 1620-1740 by Kristof Glamann, Danish Science Press published.
  19. ^ Japanese coins in Southern Vietnam and the Dutch East India Company 1633-1638 by Dr. A van Aelst
  20. ^ History of the Yen by Hiroshi Shinjo, The Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University published.
  21. ^ Sources of Japanese Tradition by Ryusaku Tsunoda, WM Theodore de Bary, Donald Keene.
  22. ^ Japan Mint - History of Japanese coins. Retrieved: 26 June 2017.
  23. ^ Suzuki Kimio, Shutusdo senka no kenkyû, 202-21. (in Japanese)
  24. ^ Iwahashi Masaru, "Kahei no shinyô", in Ryûtsû keizaishi, 436; Yasukuni Ryôichi, "Kahei no chiikisei to kinseiteki tôgô", 263-64 (in Japanese)
  25. ^ Takayanagi Shinzô and Ishii Ryôzô, eds, Ofuregaki kanpo shûsei 3 (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1958), code no. 1855 (June 1670). (in Japanese)
  26. ^ Noriko Fujii (Senior Researcher and Director Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies The Bank of Japan.) The History of Japanese Copper Coins Illustrated from the Collection of the Currency Museum of the Bank of Japan. Archived 2017-06-22 at the Wayback Machine(the peer-reviewed pre-print version; published in JOSA vol.45, pp.77-92)– Currency Museum of the Bank of Japan Retrieved: 26 June 2017.
  27. ^ Kobata Atsushi, Nihon no kahei (Tokyo: Shibundô, 1958), 210-11. (in Japanese)
  28. ^ Nagasaki bôekisen was unearthed in Vietnam in 1997. Sakuragi Shinichi, "Shutsudo senka kara mita chûsei kahei ryûtsû", 73. (in Japanese)
  29. ^ TAKIZAWA Takeo, (1996) Nihon no Kahei no Rekishi (History of Japanese Currencies) Tokyo, Yoshikawa Kobunkan. (Takizawa p.242).
  30. ^ Bank of JapanMoney Museum Early Modern Times (2) First half of the 19th century Bunsei and Tenpo recoinages Retrieved: 11 June 2017.
  31. ^ PENG Xin-Wei, (1958) Zhongguo Huobi Shi (Monetary History of China), second ed., Shanghai, Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe, (Peng pp.833-838).
  32. ^ LEE Seok-Ryun (1984) Hanguk Hwapye Geumyungsa Yeongu (Study of Monetary and Financial History of Korea), Seoul, Pakyoungsa. (Lee p.123).
  33. ^ 33 Ishii Ryôsuke and Harafuji Hiroshi, eds, Bakumatsu ofuregaki shûsei 4 (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1993), code no. 4207 (intercalary May 1865). Quote: "According to guidelines for the iron/copper coin exchange ratio, 12 kan’ei tsûhô one-mon iron coins=1 kan’ei tsûhô four- mon brass coin, 4 kan’ei tsûhô one-mon iron coins=1 kan’ei tsûhô one-mon bronze coin, and 6 kan’ei tsûhô one-mon iron coins=1 kan’ei tsûhô one -mon good bronze coin." (in Japanese)
  34. ^ Ryūkyū Tsūhō (in Japanese) Okinawa Compact Encyclopedia, 沖縄コンパクト事典, Ryūkyū Shimpō, 1 March 2003. Access date = 8 June 2017.
  35. ^ Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 192.
  36. ^ Japan Numismatic Dealers Association "The Catalog of Japanese Coins and Banknotes" Archived 2017-10-17 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 4930810175 (in Japanese).
  37. ^ 瀧澤武雄,西脇康 『日本史小百科「貨幣」』 東京堂出版、1999年 (in Japanese)
  38. ^ 『日本の貨幣-収集の手引き-』 日本貨幣商協同組合、1998年 (in Japanese)
  39. ^ "Basics of distinguishing Kan'ei coins". Luke Roberts at the Department of History - University of California at Santa Barbara. 24 October 2003. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  40. ^ Shizuoka Izumika comp., Anasen Nyuumon Kan'ei Tsuuhou: Shin Kan'ei no bu (Shoshinkan: Tokyo, 1997).
  41. ^ TAKIZAWA Takeo, (1996) Nihon no Kahei no Rekishi (History of Japanese Currencies) Tokyo, Yoshikawa Kobunkan. (Takizawa p.242).
  42. ^ "Guide for attribution of Tenpo Tsuho (1835 – 1871) 天保通寶". Heinz Gratzer & Vladimir Balyaev (Chinese Coinage Web Site). 11 October 2003. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  43. ^ XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki 2006 Session 106 Too Commercialised To Synchronize Currencies: Monetary Peasant Economy in Late Imperial China in Comparison with Contemporary Japan by Akinobu Kuroda (University of Tokyo) Retrieved: 11 June 2017
  44. ^ Kosenkan List of East-Asian & Vietnamese mon coins. (in Japanese) Published: 30 April 1999 Last updated: 15 September 2008. Retrieved: 16 June 2017.
  45. ^ "4 mon Kan'ei and Bunkyuu coins". Luke Roberts at the Department of History - University of California at Santa Barbara. 24 October 2003. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  46. ^ 『図録 日本の貨幣・全11巻』 東洋経済新報社、1972 - 1976年 (in Japanese).
  47. ^ 『貨幣手帳・日本コインの歴史と収集ガイド』 ボナンザ、1982年 (in Japanese).
  48. ^ 瀧澤武雄,西脇康 『日本史小百科「貨幣」』 東京堂出版、1999年 (in Japanese).
  49. ^ "Ryuukyuuan coins". Luke Roberts at the Department of History - University of California at Santa Barbara. 24 October 2003. Archived from the original on 4 August 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  50. ^ Japan Currency Museum (日本貨幣博物館) permanent exhibit

Further reading edit