Japanese mon (currency)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Kan'ei Tsūhō (寛永通宝) coins. The top ones were each worth 4 mon, the middle and bottom ones 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.

The mon (?) was the currency of Japan from the Muromachi period in 1336, until 1870. It co-circulated with the new sen until 1891. The Kanji for mon is and the character for currency was widely used in the Chinese-character cultural sphere, e.g. Chinese wen Korean mun. 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 ryo. In 1869, due to depriciation against gold, the new fixing officially was set for 1 ryo/yen = equal to 10.000 mon. The yen started to replace the old duodecimal denominations in 1870: in 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 allowed to circulate until 1891.12.31. Only from Jan. 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 e.g. 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 with the sen (1870/91), the metal content of the old currency became important. Official exchange for coins from 1871.6.27: 4 mon copper = 2 rin, 1 mon bronze = 1 rin (1 rin = 1/10th of a sen). So "a mon was not a mon", but its metal kind counted after switchover to decimal sen: bronze was better than copper. There were no "rin" coins before 1873, it was just accounting unit (10 rin = 1 sen). By the way, the most current coin, the "Tempo" (天保, or 100 mon) was accounted merely with 8 rin (0.8 sen) in that sen period.[3]


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. E.g. 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.

Through Japanese history, there were many different styles of currency of many shapes, styles, designs, sizes and materials, including gold, silver, bronze, etc.

See also[edit]

Currencies with the same etymology[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. ^ Respective wikipedia.jp entries; 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.

Further reading[edit]