man smiling at the Japanese yen notes in his hands

Photo: すしぱく on Pakutaso

Interesting Facts About Coins, Currency Notes in Japan

It is necessary to exchange your money to the local currency once you enter into a new country. It will be convenient if you are doing it right at the airport once you reach Japan. For your small shopping, it is difficult if you use your debit or credit cards in some places. If planning for some days of stay in a nation for visit or if staying there for long, it is helpful to know about the coins and currency notes currently in circulation.

For visitors coming to Japan, you should know there are six different types of coins here and three currency notes being currently used. Japanese currency is yen (円). 108 yen is equivalent to around 1 USD. (It’s the current exchange rate. For updated values, please check out www.xe.com. Convert and find out the exchange value with your nation’s currency).

Japanese Coins

The six different coins currently in circulation are 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen, and 500 yen. Each coin is made up of different metals and they have a fixed diameter and shape which helps to recognize them easily. Every coin has the amount inscribed on one side of it in figures and in Japanese along with the nation’s name (日本国) and Japanese year of the coin's manufacture coin beneath it (on this one, Showa 63 or 1988). The pictures in each coins and currency are related to the culture, custom or history of Japan.

1 Yen

The 1 yen is the smallest valued coin available in Japan. It is made of aluminum and weighs only around 1 gram. The front part of this coin has its value inscribed at the centre with the manufacturing date at its bottom. While the other side has the nation’s name with the picture of a tree branch at its center part and the coin value written in Japanese beneath it.

5 Yen

This coin has a unique feature with other ones. It is made of brass with a hole at the center. The whole is to conserve resources used to make the coins. There is no written value in figures, but it is written in Japanese only with a stem of rice around it.

10 Yen

The 10 yen bronze coin has the front part with the value 10 inscribed at the center with the year of manufacture below it. There is also a picture of two evergreen tree stems through its both sides with a knot at the bottom. The rear side of this has the picture of the Byodoin Temple of Kyoto which is one among the world heritage sites of Japan.

50 Yen

Like the 5 yen, this coin also has a hole at its center, but the value is written above this hole with manufacturing date at the bottom of the hole. On both sides of the coin hole, there is a picture of some chrysanthemum flowers and its leaves. Chrysanthemum flowers of early autumn are the symbols of longevity. This coin is made up of an alloy of copper and nickel.

100 Yen

Made up of the same material as that of 50 yen coin, this coin has its value at the center of the front side with the manufacturing year beneath it. Other side has a picture of a cherry blossom.

500 Yen

It is the heaviest among the Japanese coins and the highest valued coin too. Made out of nickel and brass alloy, this coin has its value written at the center of one of its sides beneath which the year is written. One of the peculiarity of this coin is that the inscription 500 is written in a special way using a number of horizontal bars and the two zeros contains the value of the coin, 500円 written vertically inside them. There are pictures of orange stems on both sides of this and five bamboo leaves each at the top and bottom. Both the bamboo and the orange are considered as the symbols of prosperity and good luck. The rear side of this coin has its value and日本国 written on it like all other coins. At the center of this side, there is a picture of the Imperial tree (Paulownia tree) blossom which is considered as a very special tree in Japan and the wood of this tree is used for making musical instruments and other special items.

Currency Notes

There are only three different currency notes currently used in Japan. They are the 1000 yen, 5000 yen and 10000 yen notes. The widths of all these notes are the same, 7.6 cm. Every bank note has a portrait of some renowned Japanese personalities on its front side. This side also has the value of the currency note, in figures and words, seal, and the name of the bank issuing it (Nippon Bank). The rear side of the notes has different pictures on it. All the notes currently in use in Japan are first issued in 2004. Like all other nations currency notes, many security features are incorporated by the Nippon Bank in these notes. We can understand them once we closely observe it. 

1000 Yen

1000 Yen Currency

This is the smallest valued currency note of Japan. It has the picture of famous bacteriologist, Hideyo Noguchi on its front part and the other side has the pictures of Sakura (cherry blossoms) and Fujisan (Mt.Fuji) on it.

5000 Yen

5000 Yen currency

This note has the portrait of the Japanese author Ichiyo Higuchi on its front side and the back side has the famous ‘Painting of Irises’ (Kakitsubata-zu) done by Ogata Kouri. 

10000 Yen

10000 Yen Currency

This note is the highest valued currency no used in Japan. Known as Ichiman (10000) yen satsu (currency note), its front side has the portrait of the famous writer and the founder of the Keio University of and the newspaper Jiji-Shinpou, Fukuzawa Yukichi. While the back side has the picture of the statue of Phoenix bird of Byodoin temple, Kyoto (the temple inscribed on 10 yen coin).

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