A Guide to Japanese Money: Coins and Bills
You're finally here to visit in Japan! You've exchanged your money to Japanese money. But what are all these coins? How many types are there? Here is a guide to Japanese money when you need it.
Apr 29 2015 (Jun 18 2021)
Going to a new country means using unfamiliar money (unless you're planning on using on your credit card everywhere you go, which isn't a very good idea in Japan). Here is a simple guide to Japanese money, from the smallest to the largest. The date each piece of money was made is in the Japanese form - using eras, like Showa and Heisei.
Starting with coins:
1. 1 Yen Coinja.wikipedia.org/
The 1 yen coin is made out of aluminum, so it's fairly light in weight. The front is engraved with a Wakagi (若木), which means a young tree, and the name of Japan and 1 yen in Chinese characters. The back is engraved with the number 1, and the date of manufacture in Chinese characters. You may have heavy use of this coin, since the consumption tax raised from 5% to 8%.
2. 5 Yen Coinja.wikipedia.org/
The 5 yen coin is made out of 60% copper and 40% zinc. It has a hole in the middle. The front is engraved with the number 5 in Chinese characters, and an engraved design of ears of rice, a gear and water. The back is engraved with the date of manufacture and the Japanese country name in Chinese characters, and 2 seed leaves. The pronunciation of 5 yen (Goen - 五円) is the same as Goen (ご縁), which is a Buddhist term which explains the ties between people. This coincidence is considered good luck, and is used for money offered at Shinto shrines.
3. 10 Yen Coinja.wikipedia.org/
The 10 yen coin is made of copper. The front is engraved with the design of the Byoudouin Hououdou (平等院鳳凰堂) and the number ten and the Japanese country name in Chinese characters. Byoudouin Hououdou is a temple in Uji city in Kyoto. The back has the number 10, the date of manufacture in Chinese characters, and two Tokiwagi (常盤木) engraved on it. The Tokiwagi is an evergreen tree.
4. 50 Yen Coinja.wikipedia.org/
The 50 yen coin is made out of 75% copper and 25% nickel. It has a hole in a middle. The front is engraved with chrysanthemum, the Japanese country name and 50 yen in Chinese characters. The back is engraved with the number 50, and the date of manufacture in Chinese characters.
5. 100 Yen Coinja.wikipedia.org/
The 100 Yen Coin is made out of 75% copper and 25% nickel. The front is engraved with sakura, the Japanese country name and 100 yen in Chinese characters. The back is engraved with the number 100 and the date of manufacture in Chinese characters.
6. 500 Yen Coinja.wikipedia.org/
The 500 yen coin is made out of 72% copper, 20% zinc, and 8% nickel. The front is engraved with paulownia, and then number 500. The back is engraved with paulownia, the Japanese country name and 500 yen in Chinese characters. The back is engraved with the number 500, designs of bamboo shoots and citrus leaves, and the date of manufacture in Chinese characters. When restaurants are promoting "One Coin Meals," the one coin often means the 500 yen coin.
Moving on to bills...
All Japanese bills are made out of special paper. They all have a white oval space in the middle, and has each special design (the portrait of its bill) printed in it. The 1000 yen bill is the smallest in size, while the 10,000 yen bill is the largest.
7. 1000 Yen Bill
The front has the portrait of Hideyo Noguchi. Hideyo Noguchi (1876 - 1928) was a Japanese scientist who succeeded in cultivating syphilis and discovering it as an agent of disease. The back has the design of Mt. Fuji and sakura blossoms. You can see the reflection of the mountain in the lake's surface. This view of Mt. Fuji is called Sakasa Fuji (逆さ富士), which means the reversed Mt. Fuji. This particular view of Mt. Fuji is from Motosuko Lake (本栖湖) in Yamanashi Prefecture.
8. 5000 Yen Bill
The front has the portrait of Ichiyou Higuchi (樋口一葉). Ichiyou Higuchi (1872 - 1896) was a Japanese writer who was particularly famous for her work, "Takekurabe" (たけくらべ). The back has the design from the art work, "Kakitsubata Zu" (燕子花図) from Kourin Ogata (尾形光琳). Kakitsubata is iris in Japanese. Kourin Ogata (1658 - 1716) is a Japanese artist famous for the "Kakitsubata Zu" and the "Fu-jin Raijin Zu" (風神雷神図), which is shown below.
9. 10,000 Yen Bill
The front has the portrait of Yukichi Fukuzawa (福沢諭吉). Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835 - 1901) was a Japanese philosopher and preceptor. He also started Keio University. The back has the artwork of the Houou Zou (鳳凰像) which is placed in the Byoudouin temple (平等院). Houou is a Chinese Phoenix, a fictional beast that has many tales within Japan and also other East Asian regions. Zou (像) means figure. The Houou Zou is an artwork of the Chinese Phoenix. Byoudouin is the same temple that is engraved in the 10 yen coin. The Houou Zou is kept in the Hououdou (鳳凰堂).
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.