Kanei-tsuho (寛永通宝)

Kanei-tsuho refers to coins that were in wide use throughout the entire Edo period in Japan. Kanei-tsuho was minted for the first time in 1636. Minting continued until the end of Edo period.


Kanei-tsuho was round and included a square hole in the center. It was marked with '寛永通寳' on the front face. These characters were ordered top to bottom, and left to right. Copper was a common material, but iron, refined iron and brass were also used available. For the value of the currency, Kanei-tsuho which was inscribed with raised markings, was equivalent to four Mon (a "mon" was a unit of copper currency in Edo and 4,000 mon were equal to 1 ryo (a unit of gold currency)). Ones with no inscriptions were equal to one mon. In those days, a collection of 96 mon of Kanei-tsuho tied together by a string known as zeni-toshi was equivalent to 100 mon (tanhaku). This was called Toshi hyakumon (stringed 100 mon).

Brief history

Kanei-tsuho, which was minted before 1659, was called Ko-Kanei (old Kanei-tsuho). Kanei-tsuho was not minted for a while thereafter. Kanei-tsuho, which as minted around 1668 was called Shin-Kanei (new Kanei-tsuho). Minting processes were different in Kanei and Shin-Kanei. There were also significant differences in the calligraphic style called zenimon (the letters displayed on a coin).

Around 1739, a one-mon iron coin appeared.

In 1768, a four-mon brass coins was established.

Around 1860, a four-mon iron coin appeared.

Kanei-tsuho which was made of copper or brass continued to be recognized as a currency around the period of the Meiji Restoration. Four- and one-mon copper coins were also legally equivalent to two-rin ("Rin," a monetary unit equivalent to one-thousandth of one yen) and a one-rin coin, respectively, until 1953.
(It is estimated that such coins were actually used as currency until around the mid-Meiji period.)

According to a large quantity of articles unearthed in various places in China, and records and literatures in China, Kanei-tsuho had been circulated even in China during the Qing Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty prior to the Qing Dynasty, the use of copper coins was prohibited, and copper coins were replaced by paper money, but in the Qing Dynasty, the use of coins was revived. However, due to a small quantity of circulated coins, Kanei-tsuho was imported from Japan in order to respond to the demand for coins.


In 1626, Shinsuke SATO, a rich merchant in Mito, Hitachi Province, started minting this coin upon obtaining the permission of Edo bakufu and Mito Domain, but this coin was not a coin officially permitted by the government yet at this time.

The coin which is thought to have been minted around this time was a so-called Nisuiei because the top part of letter '永' looked like '二' (ni), and it is believed that a letter of '三' (three) marked at the bottom on the reverse side indicated the 'third year of Kanei era,' the year it was minted.

Although the minting came to an end because Shinsuke died of illness before long, Shobei SATO, Shinsuke's son, who succeeded to Shinsuke's business in 1635 requested to be allowed to reminting the coin. He restarted minting the following year (1636), which is equivalent to the 13th year of Kanei era. It is believed that a coin marked with letters of '十三' (13) on the reverse side was minted at this time.


In July 1636, the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) established zeniza (an organization in charge of casting coins during the Edo period) at Hashiba in Edo and Sakamoto in Omi Province. The manufacture of Kanei-tsuho as officially minted coin started.

A main minting factory was zeniza located in Edo where the bakufu existed, and in Sakamoto (Otsu City), Omi Province. However, the Mito Domain, Sendai Domain, Matsumoto Domain, Mikawa-Yoshida Domain, Takada Domain, Okayama Domain, Choshu Domain, Oka Domain and so on also obtained the bakufu's permission, and established zeniza.

Ko-Kanei minted in the above places was classified as follows in a large sense. With respect to places where coins were minted, places known in the world of ancient coin collection were applied, and the place of minting was confirmed through excavation activities only for some coins such as Nagato-sen and so on.

Zeniza was established in 1636.

Asakusa-sen/Okura-sen ("Okura" refers to a rice storehouse of the Edo shogunate): These coins were minted at zeniza in Asakusa-Hashiba, Edo.

Shiba-sen: This coin was minted at Aminawate, Shiba, Minato Ward, Tokyo. For many of Shiba-sen, the soten method (a dot part of letter was displayed in sosho-tai (cursive style writing)) was used like displaying dot part of '通' and the top part of '永' in sosho-tai (cursive style writing).

Sakamoto-sen: This coin was minted in Sakamoto (Otsu City), Omi Province. For many of Sakamoto-sen, a letter of '永' was displayed in a style of flipping the end part.

Zeniza was established in 1637.

Mito-sen: This coin was minted in Mito, Hitachi Province.

Sendai-sen: This coin was minted in Sendai, Mutsu Province.

Yoshida-sen: This coin was minted at the Mikawa-Yoshida Domain in Mikawa Province.

Matsumoto-sen: This coin was minted in Matsumoto City, Shinao Province. Since only the vertical line of '永' was displayed by boldface, this coin was called 'futoboso' (thick and thin).

Takada-sen: This coin was minted in Takada City, Echigo Province.

Hagi-sen/Nagato-sen: This was minted in Hagi City and Akamura of Mine City, Nagato Province.

Okayama-sen: This coin was minted in Okayama City, Bizen Province.

Takeda-sen: This coin was minted in Takeda City, Bungo Province. Since '寳' (ho), a letter on the coin, turned up, it was called 'shaho' (literally, oblique 寳).

Zeniza was established in 1639.

Inomiya-sen: This coin was minted in Inomiya, Suruga Province. The coin which had been believed to be Inomiya-sen was revised to Okayama-sen by a finding through excavation. Since '寛,' a letter on the coin, was small, it was called 'shukukan' (literally, shrinking 寛).

Zeniza was established in 1653.

Kenninji-sen: This coin was minted at the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto. There is a theory that the coin which had been believed to be Kenninji-sen was minted in Nagasaki City.

Zeniza was established in 1656.

Kutsunoya-sen: This coin was minted in Kutsunoya, Suruga Province.

Torigoe-sen: This coin was minted in Asakusa-Torigoe (Taito Ward).

Although the total minted amount of Ko-Kanei is unknown because no detailed records remain, the amount was estimated from the target amount of minted coins to be 3.25 million kanmon (1,000 kanmon equaling 10,000 yen) (3.25 billion coins). One record claimed that the amount included 300 thousand kanmon (300 million coins) of Torigoe-sen and 200 thousand kanmon (200 million coins) of Kutsunoya-sen.


Shin-Kanei-bunsen which spread across the country along with the establishment of shogunate system almost completely expelled Torai-sen (coins imported from China) including Eiraku-tsuho (bronze coins struck in the Ming dynasty) in around the Kanbun era about 30 years after the first minting, and domestic production of all coins was realized. A coin which was issued in Kameido, Edo in June 1668 was commonly called 'Daibutsu-sen' (Great Buddha coin) because rumors spread that the coin was minted by recasting Kyo no daibutsu (Daibutsu of Kyo) at Hoko-ji Temple in Kyoto. In addition, the coin was also called Bun-sen because it was marked with a letter of '文' on the reverse side.
(Letters of '寛文' on the coin which were formed by combining '文' with '寛' on the front face indicated that the coin was minted in the Kanbun (displayed as 寛文 in Japanese) era.)

A large-scale minting was conducted at zeniza in Kameido, Edo, which was established by giving a contract to Gofuku-ya kimono shops and so on, and good-quality and homogeneous coins came to be minted.

Hakuseki ARAI estimated that the amount of coins minted from 1668 to 1683 had been 1.97 million kanmon (1.97 billion coins), but the "Bishu-Chayake Kiroku" (records of the Chaya family in Bishu (Owari Province) said that the amount of coins minted during such period had been 2,138,710 kanmon (2,138,710 thousand coins).


The market price of the currency rose suddenly because of the issuance of the Genroku Koban (oval gold coin issued in the Genroku era) and the Genroku Chogin (oval silver coin issued in the Genroku era). Their quality levels deteriorated, and the market price of one ryo (unit of gold currency) decreased from around 4,800 mon (unit of currency) in 1694 to 3,700 mon in 1700. In addition, since a shortage of coins became remarkable due to economic development, Shigehide OGIWARA, kanjo bugyo (commissioner of finance), decided to also decrease ryome (a weighed value) of one-mon copper coin, and the ryome decreased from about one monme (equivalent to 3.7 grams) in the past to about eight bu (equivalent to 3.0 grams). The minting was started at zeniza in Kameido, Edo in 1698, and at zeniza in Shichijo-dori Street, Kyoto in 1700. Coins minted at this time were commonly called Ogiwasa-sen.

The amount of coins minted at Shichijo, Kyoto during a period from April 1700 to January 1708 recorded 1,736,684 kanmon (1,736,684,000 coins), and copper produced from Tatsukawadozan Copper mine (Besshidozan Copper mine), Iyo Province was mainly used.

In 1708, coins minted in Kameido, Edo were small. They were called Yotsuho-sen because the quality was poor like Hoei Yotsuho Chogin.
(However, there appears another theory that coins which were conventionally considered to be Ogiwara-sen and Yotsuho-sen were minted in a different period.)

In 1714, in the light of the issuance of Shotoku Koban and Shotoku Chogin whose quality levels were returned to those of Keicho Koban and Keicho Chogin, the quality of one-mon coin was returned to a level equivalent to that of monsen. A coin which was considered to be minted in Kameido at this time was called Maruya-sen or Mimishiro-sen, and it is said that coins equivalent to 500 thousand kanmon (500 million coins) were minted. The minting started at Aikawa-cho, Sado Province in 1717 (coin marked with a letter of '佐' on the reverse side), at Jumantsubo, Fukagawa (Koto Ward), Edo, and Shichijo, Kyoto in 1726, and at Nanba, Osaka and Ishinomaki in 1728.

In 1737, it was planned to increase the production of coins in response to sharp increase in the market price of currency to 2,800 mon per ryo due to issuance of Genbun Koban (oval gold coin issued in the Genbun era) and Genbun Chogin (oval silver coin issued in the Genbun era) whose quality levels were deteriorated in 1736, and these coins came to be marked with letters indicating a place of minting on the reverse side. Zeniza was established in various places such as Jumantsubo of Fukagawa and Yokooji of Yodo-Toba (Rakugai (outskirts of Kyoto)) in 1736, Kameido in Edo and Honjo-Koume in Edo (coin marked with a letter of '小' on the reverse side), Nikko City in Shimotsuke Province and Uzu in Kii Province in 1737, Anidozan Copper mine, Akita Prefecture in 1738, Hirata-Shinden of Fukagawa, Fujisawa City, Sagami Province and Yoshidajima, Sagami Province in 1739, Takatsu, Osaka (coin marked with a letter of '元'), Ashio, Shimotsuke Province (coin marked with a letter of '足') and Ichinose, Nagasaki (coin marked with a letter of '一') in 1741, Nagasaki City, Hizen Province (coin marked with a letter of '長') in 1767 and so on. Therefore, large quantities of small-sized coins were issued.

There is no way of finding the total amount of one-mon copper coins minted through the Edo period, but the survey on the amount of circulated coins which was conducted by the Ministry of Finance in the Meiji period revealed that 2,114,246,283 coins were circulated in total. However, the above figure showed an amount of coins collected in exchange for iron coins and accumulated in the bakufu's treasury during the Ansei era, and as already stated in the above, the amount of minted coins went beyond it.

One-mon iron coin

In 1739, the minting of one-mon iron coin started at zeniza located in Jumantsubo of Fukagawa in Edo, Ishinomaki of Sendai, Oshiage of Honjo (Sumida Ward) in Edo, and so on, due to correction of high market price of currency and short supply of materials. Moreover, since a large amount of one-mon coins was minted at zeniza in Kameido, Edo from 1765 under the supervision of kinza (an organization in charge of casting and appraising of gold during the Edo period), at zeniza in Fushimi, Kyoto from 1767, and at zeniza in Ishinomaki of Sendai (coin marked with a letter of '千'), Hitachiota City, Hitachi Province (coin marked with a letter or letters of '久' or '久二') and so on from 1768, the market price of currency fell and dropped to about 6,000 mon per ryo in around 1778. The iron coin was also called 'Nabe-sen' (literally, pan, or pot coin). It was unpopular because of its poor quality.

The survey on the amount of circulated coins which was conducted by the Ministry of Finance in the Meiji period revealed that 6,332,619,404 one-mon iron coins were minted in total, and the amount of one-mon iron coins minted in and after the Meiwa era was especially high as shown by the following figures: 2,262,589 kanmon (2,262,589,000 coins) in Kameido, 1,422,782 kanmon (1,422,782,000 coins) in Fushimi, 690,500 kanmon (690,500,000 coins) in Hitachiota, and so on.

Four-mon brass coin

Because one-mon iron coin looked poor and was unpopular, a four-mon brass coin was established in accordance with the proposal made by Hisataka KAWAI.. Zeniza was established in Shinden of Fukagawa-Senden (Koto Ward) in Edo in 1768 under the supervision of ginza (an organization in charge of casting and appraising of silver during the Edo period), and the minting of four-mon coin started there. The coin which had a display of waves on the reverse side and struck turmeric gleam was called Nami-sen (literally, "wave coin") and was well received. Ryome (a weighed value) was one monme and four bu (5.2grams), and the specified composition was 68% of copper, 24% of zinc, and 8% of lead and so on. In the initial year of issuance, the number of waves on the coin was 21, but was changed to 11 in 1768 so as to make the minting easier because of difficulties in minting.

The increased production of four-mon coin started in Asakusa-Hashiba in November 1821. The specified composition of coins minted at this time was changed to 75% of copper, 15% of zinc, and 10% of lead and so on, and the coin was called Aka-sen (literally, "red coin") because of reddish coin.

In December 1857, the minting of four-mon coin started in Higashidaiku-cho, Edo, and the specified composition was changed to 65% of copper, 15% of zinc, and 20% of lead and so on. The coin was blackish, and the inside of center hole was sanded. It is considered that this coin was similar to Bunkyu Eiho coin in terms of manufacturing method.

Four-mon iron coin

The four-mon coin also came to be issued as iron coin from January 1861. The bakufu insisted that the four-mon iron coin was a four-mon refined-iron coin which was especially made of refined iron ingots, but only a small quantity was issued because of bad reputation and loss caused by the minting of coin.

The minting of four-mon iron coin also started in Higashidaiku-cho in 1860, in Mito (coin marked with a letter of 'ト') in 1865, in Ohasama, Mutsu Province (coin marked with a letter of '盛'), Ishinomaki (coin marked with a letter of '千') and Jumantsubo of Fukagawa (coin marked with a letter of 'ノ') in 1866, and in Hiroshima City, Aki Province (coin marked with a letter of 'ア') in 1867.

[Original Japanese]