Japanese coins and notes

31 Mar

The currency of Japan is the Yen – though when you are pronouncing amounts you say ‘En’ ie ‘go en’ (5 yen)


1 yen (pronounced ichi en) – This very light coin is made from aluminium. There is a picture of a young tree on this coin

5 yen (pronounced go en) – Made of brass with a hole in the centre. There is a picture rice growing in water on this coin

10 yen (pronounced ju en) – Made of bronze. There is a picture of an evergreen tree and Uji Byodo-in Hoo-do Temple (famous Kyoto temple) on this coin

50 yen (pronounced go-ju en) – Another coin with a hole in the centre. Made from Cupro-nickel there is a picture of a Chrysanthemum on this coin

100 yen (pronounced hyaku en) – Made from Cupro-nickel there is a picture of a Cherry Blossoms on this coin 500 yen (pronounced go-hyaku en) – There is a picture of a Paulownia plant, Bamboo and Orange


1000 yen (pronounced sen en) – There is a picture of Natsume Soseki (a famous novelist) on one side and the tanchozuru (Japanese red-crested crane) on the other. In 2004 a replacement note was issued which features bacteriologist Hideo Noguchi on one side and Mt Fuji on the other.

2000 yen (pronounced nisen en) – This is a relatively new note and was issued to commemorate the Okinawa G8 Summit in 2000 – it is not very common. There is a picture of the Shurei-no-mon (Shureimon Gate in Naha, Okinawa) on one side and a scene from The Tale of Genji (a famous Japanese romantic novel) in the other.
5000 yen (pronounced gosen en) – There is a picture of Nitobe Inazo (famous educator, agriculturist and writer on one side and Mt Fuji on the other. In 2003 a replacement note was issued which features novelist Ichiyo Higuchi on one side and Iris plants on the other.

10000 yen (pronounced Ichiman en) – There is a picture of Fukuzawa Yukichi on one side and two Raicho´s (Japanese grouse) on the reverse (in 2004 this note was updated and the reverse picture is now of a Phoenix from Byodoin temple).


Natsume Soseki (1867 – 1916) was widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). He is commonly referred to as Soseki. He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales. From 1984 until 2003, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen note.

Hideyo Noguchi (1876 – 1928) was a prominent bacteriologist. In 1900 he moved to the USA and took up research. He died in Accra, Ghana, from Yellow Fever while researching the disease. Dr. Noguchi’s portrait has been printed on Japanese 1000 yen banknotes since 2004.

Nitobe Inazo (1862 – 1933)
was an agricultural economist, author, educator, diplomat, and politician during Meiji and Taisho period Japan. He was born in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. Dr. Nitobe held various positions in education, including professor at Tokyo and Kyoto Teikoku University and principal of Daiichi Kotogakkou. He also worked as Japan’s Chief Director to the Institute of Pacific Relations. He passed away in August 1933 whilst in Canada – attending a conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations.

Ichiyo Higuchi (1872 – 1896)
is the pen name of Japanese author Natsu Higuchi. At 14 she attended the Haginoya, a poetry school and after the deaths of her brother and father she became the head of the Higuchi household. After witnessing the success of a friend who wrote a novel, Higuchi decided to become a writer to support her mother and sister – and at 20, wrote her first novel. In 1894 her first major work, Otsugomori (The New Year’s Eve) was published, followed the next year by Takekurabe, Nigorie (Troubled Waters) and Jusan’ya (The Thirteenth Night). These publications were very succesful and met critical acclaim. Sadly, at the young age of 24 – she passed away from tuberculosis. She is remembered for the quality of her works and is considered to be the first professional female writer in modern Japanese literature.

Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835 – 1901)
is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan. Author, writer and teacher, he penned over 100 books and founded Keio University. His views about government and social institutions made a lasting impression on a rapidly changing Japan.

The Tale of Genji is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world’s first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel to still be considered a classic.


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