Japanese coins with floral motifs

The growth of markets that began during the Middle Ages accelerated the use of money as a medium of exchange. The exchange of goods did not stop, but money became, as it were, an additional means of buying and selling goods on the market.

Coins were first used by wealthy warriors, but as trade expanded, money also appeared in village markets. By the 15th century, the use of coins had become so widespread that counterfeiting became a profitable business and attracted much attention from the authorities, even falling into the annals of history.

During the medieval period, various types of coins were used for trade. Although Japan minted its own coinage during the Heian period, coins minted in China circulated in the country. For example, the Sousing copper coin was minted in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). By the 13th century.

it came into general circulation in Japan through trade with China. Another Chinese copper coin (koussin) was minted during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in five different denominations. These coins were used in Japan from the Murom chi period until the end of the Edo period.  in China. In Japan, this coin was especially often used in land-tax transactions.

In an attempt to regulate the monetary system at the beginning of the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogun ate issued an edict banning the use of this coin. Nevertheless, it continued to be used until the middle of the 17th century.

During the medieval period in Japan, the three types of coins already mentioned were mainly used – sasin, koussin and eirakusen. However, there was another coin minted already in Japan – betaken. This copper coin was not produced by order of the government, but rather privately. Being in circulation since the 16th century.

betaken contained not only copper, but also a significant amount of lead. The value of betaken fluctuated depending on how it was valued in relation to Chinese coins. Each region set its own betaken value. At the beginning of the Modern Age, the shogun ate established a uniform cost for betaken in all regions of Japan.

A new currency reform was carried out at the end of the Warring States period, as a result of the need to raise funds for the maintenance of the active army.

To buy weapons and other military equipment, it was necessary to pay large sums, hence the need for more expensive coins. To solve this problem, the regional rulers began to develop deposits of gold and silver. Takeda Okiya (the ruler of the Kai region) was the first to issue gold coins, called kosyukin, into circulation.

Even before the beginning of the modern period, Tenotomy Hideyoshi took control of all the gold and silver mines and began to mint gold and silver coins. Under the subsequent Tokugawa shoguns, a national monetary system was created, which included gold, silver and copper coins. Gold coins were used primarily in Edo, while silver coins circulated mainly in Osaka and Kyoto.

To control the monetary system and commercial markets, the Tokugawa shogun ate established direct control over the mints (zap) that minted coins during the Edo period. These mints were run by families who had hereditary rights to such an occupation. At the beginning of the XIX century. all the mints, originally located in various areas of Japan, were transferred to Edo in order to make it easier for the government to control them.

The gold mints (kinds), located until 1800 in Edo, Kyoto and Sade, minted gold coins (kobang). The kobang was first minted in 1601 and had a denomination of 1 rye (the other common denomination unit was but). This coin circulated throughout the country during the Edo period.

Another gold coin was called Oban. Although the Oban had a very limited circulation up until the Edo period, it began to be used more widely during the early modern period. These gold coins had a denomination of 10 royal and were therefore much more expensive than the kobang.  Most often they were used for special occasions as gifts and rewards.

Silver mints (Ginza) were located in Kyoto, Sumps and Edo (on the site of the famous Ginza district in modern Tokyo there was a silver mint). In addition to circulating in the markets, silver coins were sometimes used by the shoguns to cover budget deficits. Both gold and silver coins were often used in large financial transactions due to their high value.

Copper mints (zenial), in addition to copper, also minted iron and bronze coins. The first government-supported copper yards are known from 1636, they were located in Edo and Sakamoto. Copper coins came into widespread use during the early modern period and were used to purchase goods at the market and other daily small transactions. These coins had a hole in the middle and were often worn tied together with a string of 100 and 1000 pieces.

Paper money during the beginning of the New Age was used very limitedly. They were issued by local authorities for use only within their region, despite the fact that the denomination of paper money was tied to the national monetary system of the shogun ate. The Fukui dominion was the first to issue paper money in 1661, and other provinces followed suit.

The use of money, especially during the Edo period, played a crucial role in the growth of trade and the functioning of the merchant class. One of the problems of the monetary system of Japan in the early modern period was determining the ratio of the value of various types of coins and setting the exchange rate when using these coins in the market. Shopkeepers, for example.

had to change the copper coins they received from day trading for gold or silver coins needed to pay debts and other financial obligations. Since Edo used gold coins and Osaka used silver coins, trade between the two regions inevitably involved money exchange as well. The solution to this issue was hampered by the fact that different types of coins were minted from metal of varying degrees of purity and contained a different percentage of precious metal, such as gold.

Government authorities tried to establish fixed exchange rates, but their fluctuations were common. This issue was decided at the level of local markets by ryogaeshō traders. This term, often translated as “changer”, referred to merchants who engaged in currency exchange and other types of financial transactions, including extending credit. A number of well-known firms in the modern Japanese banking world, such as Sumitomo and Mitsui, trace their origins to the money changers of the Edo period.