Tokugawa coinage was a unitary and independent metallic monetary system established by shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1601 in Japan, and which lasted throughout the Tokugawa period until its end in 1867.
The establishment of Tokugawa coinage followed a period in which Japan was dependent on Chinese bronze coins for its currency.Tokugawa coinage lasted for more than two centuries, and ended with the events of the Boshin war and the establishment of the Meiji restoration. However, there is an ongoing discussion of the entity of the precious metal coins. It was not a part of Tokugawa bakuhu which issued gold and silver coins, but private organizations owned by merchants.
The first attempt at a new currency were made by Hideyoshi, who developed the large Ōban plate, also called the Tensho Ōban (天正大判), in 1588.
From 1601, Tokugawa coinage was minted in gold, silver, and bronze denominations.The denominations were fixed, but the rates actually fluctuated on the exchange market.
The material for the coinage came from gold and silver mines across Japan. To this effect, gold mines were newly opened and exploited, such as the Sado gold mine or the Toi gold mine in Izu Peninsula.
Initially, the coinage was used essentially for export purposes in order to pay for imports of luxury goods from China, such as silk.As gold and silver were in short supply, and also because the government was running a deficit, the content of gold in coins was decreased on two occasions, in 1695 and 1706–11, in order to generate more revenues from seigneurage, but with the effect of generating inflation.
With the beginning of the 18th century, Japan started to restrict the export of bullion currency, which came to be seen as a loss for the country. An export ban on monetary specie was imposed by Arai Hakuseki in 1715.Trade substitution was encouraged, but remained limited anyway due to the policy of closure, or Sakoku. Upon Arai Hakuseki's suggestion the government increased again the gold and silver content of coinage in 1714-1715, but this led to crippling deflation this time. In 1736, Japan abandoned this policy and again increased the money supply, with a resulting price stability for the next 80 years.
In the early 19th century, budgetary problems resulting from natural disasters and large Tokugawa governmental expenditures led the government to increase the money supply and the seigneurage associated to it. From 1818 to 1829 the money supply increased by 60%, and from 1832 to 1837 by 20%. Severe inflation again followed as prices nearly doubled.
Tokugawa coinage worked according to a triple monetary standard, using gold, silver and bronze coins, each with their own denominations.The systems worked by multiples of 4, and coins were valued according to the Ryō. One Ryō was worth 4 Bu, 16 Shu, or 4,000 Mon (a cheap bronze coin).
The Ōban (大判) was a very large gold coin plate, equivalent to ten Ryōs, or ten Koban (小判) plates.
The Koban (小判) was a regular ovoid gold coin, equivalent to one Ryō. The initial Keichō Koban (minted from 1601) had a weight of 18.20g. The 1714 Sado Koban (佐渡小判金, 4th year of Shōtoku) also had a weight of 18.20g and was made with an alloy of typically 85.69% of gold and 14.25% of silver.
The Nibuban (二分判) was worth half a Koban and was rectangular gold coin.
The Ichibuban (一分判) could be either made of silver or gold, in which case it was a quarter of a Koban. The gold Ichibuban of 1714 (佐渡一分判金) had a weight of 4.5 g, with 85.6% of gold and 14.2% of silver. The silver Ichibuban from 1837 to 1854 (Tenpō Ichibugin, 天保一分銀, "Old Ichibuban") weighed 8.66 g, with an alloy of 0.21% gold and 98.86% silver.
There were then Nishuban (二朱判) and Isshuban (一朱判) small denominations of silver or gold, before getting to the Mon or Sen bronze coins.
From 1853 to 1865, the silver Isshuban (Kaei Isshugin, 嘉永一朱銀) weighed 1.88 g, with an alloy of 1.7% gold, 98.7% silver and 1.12% copper.
Regarding copper coins, the Kan'ei Tsūhō coin (Kyūjitai: 寛永通寶 ; Shinjitai: 寛永通宝) came to replace the Chinese coins that had been in circulation in Japan, as well as those that were minted privately, and became the legal tender. This put an end to more than four centuries during which Chinese copper coins, obtained through trade or Wakō piracy, had been the main currency of Japan.
In 1835 the Tokugawa government started minting copper 100 mon named Tenpō Tsūhō (Kyūjitai: 天保通寶 ; Shinjitai: 天保通宝) as a way to solve its budgetary deficit, as the coin contained only 5½ as much copper as a 1 mon Kan'ei tsūhō this eventually lead to inflation. This was later followed by the Satsuma Domain issuing a 100 mon coin of their own in 1862 to supposedly produce currency for the Ryukyu Kingdom, while in reality doing it to boost their own economy. These Ryūkyū Tsūhō (琉球通寳) coins eventually started circulating in other provinces as well.
From 1772, the silver coins had a denomination in function of their value in gold, and had significantly less silver than their face value (rather than being just silver-by-weight) so as to cover coinage expenses, a practice known as token or fiduciary coinage, and a characteristic of modern coinage.This technique was introduced later in England, in 1816, with its adoption of the full gold standard. At the market rates of 1858 10 silver units could be exchanged for 1 gold unit by weight, whereas the face value of silver units was only convertible at 5 to 1. This permitted an increase of monetary circulation without actual production of more bullion, and provided great profit (seigniorage) for the Bakufu.
World ratios for silver and gold were significantly different, gold being generally valued much higher than silver, at about 15 to 16 weights of silver for 1 weight of gold. This difference motivated foreigners to bring silver to Japan, to exchange it for gold at a very profitable rate.
In 1858, Western countries, especially the United States, France and Great Britain imposed through "unequal treaties" (Treaty of Amity and Commerce") free trade, free monetary flow, and very low tariffs, effectively taking away Japanese control of its foreign exchange:The 1715 export embargo on bullion was thus lifted:
"All foreign coin shall be current in Japan and pass for its corresponding weight of Japanese coin of the same description… Coins of all description (with the exception of Japanese copper coin) may be exported from Japan"— Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 1858, extract
This created a massive outflow of gold from Japan, as foreigners rushed to exchange their silver for "token" silver Japanese coinage and again exchange these against gold, giving a 200% profit to the transaction. In 1860, about 4 million ryōs thus left Japan,that is about 70 tons of gold. This effectively destroyed Japan's gold standard system, and forced it to return to weight-based system with international rates. The Bakufu instead responded to the crises by debasing the gold content of its coins by two thirds, so as to match foreign gold-silver exchange ratios.
As a consequence, the Bakufu lost the major profit source of recoinage (seigniorage), and was forced to issue unbacked paper money, leading to major inflation. This was one of the major causes of discontent during the Bakumatsu period, and one of the causes of the demise of the shogunate.
Despite Tokugawa Ieyasu's strong will to unify the currency, there were still some local exceptions, with locally made currency.
The yen is the official currency of Japan. It is the third-most traded currency in the foreign exchange market, after the United States dollar (US$) and the euro. It is also widely used as a third reserve currency after the US dollar and the euro.
The ryō was a gold currency unit in the shakkanhō system in pre-Meiji Japan. It was eventually replaced with a system based on the yen.
The koban (小判) was a Japanese oval gold coin in Edo period feudal Japan, equal to one ryō, another early Japanese monetary unit. It was a central part of Tokugawa coinage.
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. The Kanji for mon is 文 and the character for currency was widely used in the Chinese-character cultural sphere, e.g. Chinese wén, Korean mun, Vietnamese văn. Throughout Japanese history, there were many styles of currency of many shapes, styles, designs, sizes and materials, including gold, silver, bronze, etc. 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. So the mon coins 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 in mon and fixed postal rates in mon until April 1872.
The mun was introduced as the main currency of Korea in 1625 and stayed in use until 1892. Prior to the mun, cash coins with the inscriptions tongbo (通寶) and jungbo (重寶) and silver vases called ŭnbyŏng were used as currency in the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392), as well as imported Chinese currency. The mun resembled and was derived from the Chinese wén. Coins denominated in mun were cast in copper-alloys such as brass or bronze and were round with square holes. From the 17th century until the end of the 19th century, coins denominated in mun bearing the inscription Sangpyeong Tongbo, introduced in 1633, were the most widely circulated currency. In 1888, coins were struck in small numbers denominated in mun and won. The mun was replaced in 1892 when the yang was introduced.
Japanese currency has a history covering the period from the 8th century AD to the present. After the traditional usage of rice as a currency medium, Japan adopted currency systems and designs from China before developing a separate system of its own.
An Ōban (大判) was a monetary ovoid gold plate, and the largest denomination of Tokugawa coinage. Tokugawa coinage worked according to a triple monetary standard, using gold, silver and bronze coins, each with their own denominations.
The Ichibuban (一分判) was a monetary unit of Japan. The Ichibuban could be either made of silver or gold, in which case it was a quarter of a Koban.
The Ryukyuan mon was the currency used in the Ryukyu Islands. The Ryukyuan monetary system was based on that of China, like those of many nations in the Sinosphere, with the mon serving as the basic unit, just as with the Japanese mon, Vietnamese văn, and Korean mun. Like Japan had also done for centuries, the Ryukyuans often made use of the already-existing Chinese cash coins when physical currency was needed.
The Tenpō Tsūhō was an Edo period coin with a face value of 100 mon, originally cast in the 6th year of the Tenpō era (1835). The obverse of the coin reads "Tenpō" a reference to the era this coin was designed in, and "Tsūhō" which means "circulating treasure" or currency. The Kaō is that of Gotō San'emon, a member of the Kinza mint's Gotō family, descendants of Gotō Shozaburo Mitsutsugu, a metalworker and engraver from Kyoto appointed by shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1600 to oversee the Edo mint of his shogunate and oversee its coinage. All mother coins were produced in Edo before they were sent to other mints where they would place the individual mint's mark on the edge of the coin. The coin circulated for 40 years, and stopped being produced during the Meiji Restoration after the introduction of the Japanese yen. Today these coins are now sold as "lucky charms" as well as being collected by numismatists.
Nagasaki trade coins (長崎貿易銭), also known as Nagasaki export coins refer to Japanese mon coins specifically cast for export by the Tokugawa government between 1659 and 1685 during the Sakoku era. Though the inscriptions on the coins often match Chinese coins from the Song dynasty they’re often cast with different typefaces such as the fact that the Genpō Tsūhō (元豊通寳) produced at Nagasaki was in Clerical script while the Song dynasty’s versions were in Seal script and Running script. Due to the success of these coins they’re often still found in modern day Vietnam and Java, and were copied by contemporary Vietnamese mints as they had become the de facto standard coinage in Vietnam as native production had declined in the 17th century. As the export of gold and silver was banned by the Qing dynasty Japanese merchants were most likely to go to Hanoi and Hội An to gain access to Chinese products causing these coins to start circulating en masse on the Vietnamese market. A special “5 elements” series of Nagasaki trade coins were also cast for export to Taiwan.
The Kan'ei Tsūhō was a Japanese mon coin in use from 1626 until 1868 during the Edo period. In 1636, the Kan'ei Tsūhō coin was introduced by the Tokugawa shogunate to standardise and maintain a sufficient supply of copper coinage, and it was the first government-minted copper coin in 700 years. The government adopted the coin after its successful introduction in the Mito domain ten years prior in 1626, the third year of the Kan'ei era. These coins would become the daily currency of the common people and would be used for small payments.
The Yongle Tongbao was a Ming dynasty era Chinese cash coin produced under the reign of the Yongle Emperor. As the Ming dynasty didn't produce copper coinage at the time since it predominantly used silver coins and paper money as the main currency, the records vary on when the Yongle Emperor ordered its creation between 1408 and 1410, this was done as the production of traditional cash-style coinage had earlier ceased in 1393. The Yongle Tongbao cash coins were notably not manufactured for the internal Chinese market where silver coinage and paper money would continue to dominate, but were in fact produced to help stimulate international trade as Chinese cash coins were used as a common form of currency throughout South, Southeast, and East Asia.
The Dangbaekjeon refers to a series of cash coins that were used during late Joseon period of Korean history, it was first issued in November of the year 1866 by the order of Heungseon Daewongun.
The mạch was a Vietnamese currency unit introduced in 1837 during the Nguyễn dynasty, the mạch represented a value of 60 văn and was itself 1⁄10 of the quán (貫).
The Dangojeon refers to the 5 mun denomination of the Sangpyeong Tongbo (常平通寶) Korean cash coins introduced in February 1883 following the disastrous introduction of the earlier Dangbaekjeon (當百錢) two decades earlier. The Dangojeon had a nominal value that was five times higher than that of the regular yeopjeon, but its purchasing power was just twice as high, like the previous series of high denomination Sangpyeong Tongbo cash coins, this would prove to be a major cause of inflation and disrupted the Korean economy.
Daqian are large-denomination cash coins produced in the Qing dynasty starting from 1853 until 1890. Large denomination cash coins were previously used in earlier Chinese dynasties and had faced similar issues as 19th-century Daqian. The term referred to cash coins with a denomination of 4 wén or higher.
The 20 sen note (二十銭紙幣) was a denomination of Japanese yen in three different government issued series from 1872 to 1919 for use in commerce. Meiji Tsūhō notes are the first modern banknotes issued after Japanese officials studied western culture. These notes were replaced due to counterfeting by a redesigned series called "Ōkura-kyō" for "sen" denominations. Both of these series were officially abolished in 1899 in favor of notes issued by the Bank of Japan. Government issued notes only returned during the Taishō era in the form of an emergency issue due to a coin shortage. These were only issued between 1917 and 1919 before they were finally abolished in 1948. Twenty sen notes are now bought and sold as collectors items depending on condition.
The 2 yen note (2円券) was a denomination of Japanese yen issued in two different overlapping series from 1872 to 1880 for use in commerce. Meiji Tsūhō "two yen" notes were the first to be released as inconvertible government notes in 1872. These notes were produced both domestically, and in Germany using western technology. While they had an elaborate design, the notes eventually suffered in paper quality, and were counterfeited. Two yen Meiji Tsūhō notes were not redesigned with other denominations in response to these issues. The series as a whole was effected by massive inflation that occurred during the aftermath of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. Too many non convertible notes had been issued to pay for the expenses incurred. Government notes stopped being issued in 1879, and the Bank of Japan was established in 1882 as a way to redeem old notes for new ones issued by the bank. This redemption period expired when the notes were abolished on December 9, 1899.