"Ryō" redirects here. For other uses, see Ruio
coin worth 10 ryō
. Actual size: 10-15 cm long.
A ryō (両) was a gold piece in pre-Meiji Japan. It was worth about sixty monme of silver or four kan (4,000 coins) of copper (the exchange rate fluctuated). It was eventually replaced with a system based on the yen.
The ryō was originally a unit of weight from China, the tael. It came into use in Japan during the Kamakura period. By the Azuchi-Momoyama period it had become nearly uniform throughout Japan, about 4.4 monme as a unit of weight (about the same as 16.5 g). The Keichō koban, a gold piece, contained about one ryō of gold, so that koban carried a face value of one ryō. However, successive mintings of the koban had varying (usually diminishing) amounts of gold (debasement). As a result, the ryō as a unit of weight of gold and the ryō as the face value of the koban were no longer synonymous.
An idea of the value of the Ryō may be gained from the famous Japanese motion picture "Yojimbo", which is set in pre-Meiji Japan. In that movie, the main character, a solitary samurai swordsman, played by actor Toshiro Mifune, is offered for his services the sum of 50 Ryō -- and the movie's dialogue makes clear that 50 Ryō is a very great sum of money.
See also