The yen: Japan’s national currency

Authored by: Mark Ravina

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter is a study in Japanese numismatics and financial institutions, but more broadly a survey of changing notions of ‘Japanese-ness’ as evident in the changing shapes of the Japanese currency. Japan’s national currency, the yen, was created by the Meiji government in 1871. The relative stability of the yen, both as a medium of exchange and a store of value, parallels the remarkable durability of the modern Japanese state. Despite financial crises such as the 1927 Sh?wa Financial Crisis and the 1929 Great Depression, not to mention Japan’s defeat in World War II, the Japanese continued to treat the yen as ‘real money’. They did not abandon the state’s official currency for foreign currencies or specie. Nonetheless, the appearance of Japan’s national currency changed substantially. The iconography of the yen reflects changing understandings of Japanese history and culture and how those should be celebrated.

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