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Japan 1668 1 Mon Kanei Tsuho Square Hole Copper Cash Coin with Bun Mint Mark for Edo (Tokyo)

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Revisit the era of samurai, daimyo and shoguns in fedual Japan with this 340-year-old square hole coin!

Sold out at the Mint!Talk about holding history in your hands - literally! This 1668-Bun 1 Mon Square Hole Kanei Tsuho coin is 340 years old! It was cast in solid copper nearly three and a half centuries ago in what is now modern Tokyo, then called Edo (Yedo or Yeddo). These coins were issued by the most powerful warlord in the land, the de facto ruler of Japan, the Tokugawa Shogun Ietsuna, the fourth of this dynasty. Think of all the hands this coin has passed through and how much history it has witnessed!

Click here for a Dragon Square Hole Pure Silver Proof from Canada!

A Japanese samurai in full regaliaTravel back in time to storied feudal Japan - to the land of samurai, daimyo (warlords) and shoguns! This much-mythologized period has been widely celebrated in the popular media and arts. From NBC's Heroes to the novel and miniseries Sh?gun to the Tom Cruise big-screen epic The Last Samurai, feudal Japan has captured our collective imagination for decades. The original kanei tsuho coins were made at the Edo mint, which was most likely inside Edo Castle proper, the main stronghold of the shogunate in Tokyo.

Japanese Numismatics
The mon was the main unit of currency in Japan until 1870, when it was replaced by the yen. It resembles and was derived from the Chinese wen or cash coin. The coins have a square hole in the middle, which allowed them to be produced using less metal than a solid coin, but which more importantly allowed them to be strung together on a piece of string, for easy transport and payment.

The "bun" mint mark is the kanji character on the reverse of the coin (?). It indicates that this coin was cast in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). The coins are sometimes called bunsen, because of the "bun" character. The term "bun" is the second syllable of the Japanese word kanbun (Japanese: ??). The Kanbun era is the name for the Japanese era spanning the years 1661 to 1673, during which the coins were made.

Kanei Tsuho coins are named after the era in which they were introduced. Kanei (often written "Kan'ei" (Japanese: ??)) is the name of the Japanese era spanning the years 1624 through 1643. Thus the term kanei tsuho literally means "money of the Kan'ei era". Even though the Kan'ei era ended in 1643, the term for the 1 Mon coins remained in use for over two hundred years!

Despite their high grade and attractive appearance, these coins are not reproductions. Each coin is guaranteed to be an original, solid copper 1668-Bun Square Hole 1 Mon, cast in Edo (Tokyo) and grading a very nice very fine. A little bit of verdigris is typical on these coins, but they are much nicer than usually found (when they can be found at all!).

For a more detailed exploration of the Tokugawa Shogunate, as well as the city of Edo and the culture of the Floating World, please see the article further down in this presentation.

The Franco-Japanese Coin Program
This artistic coin program commemorates the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and Japan with three different designs, each available on a silver 1.5 euro and a gold 10 euro proof. The obverse of each coin depicts a different aspect of art or commerce:
2008 Japan & France 1.5 Euro Common Reverse     1)  Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, a French painting of the ideal of democracy, the form of government both France and Japan enjoy.
    2)  A Japanese woodblock print depicting a second Japanese art form, the theater, features kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo IV by the mysterious artist Sharaku.
    3)   A kanei tsuho one mon square hole Japanese coin, representing commerce, exactingly reproduced on a modern French coin. This coin also pays tribute to the centuries-old numismatic tradition of Japan.

The reverse, common to all coins in this program, is an ingenious amalgam of key icons of each country - a kimono and the Rising Sun for Japan, and the Eiffel Tower for France.

Click here for all coins in the Franco-Japanese Relations Program!

The characters kanei and tsuho mark this square hole cash coin as a one mon copper coin from 1668.

The Bun mint mark indicates that this kanei tsuho was struck in Edo (Tokyo), at the mint of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Country Japan
Year of Issue 1668
Face Value 1 Mon
Weight 5 g +/-
Diameter 25 mm
Composition Copper
Edge Plain

Edo, the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the Floating World

Edo (Japanese: ??; formerly spelled Yedo or Yeddo) is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa Shogunate. Edo started in the middle ages as an obscure fishing village, but the building of a feudal castle in 1457 increased its status. When the Tokugawa Shogunate came to power, with Edo as its de facto capital, its prestige increased significantly. By 1721 the feudal town had become a sprawling metropolis with over 1,000,000 residents, making it the largest city in the world at the time!

The city of Edo or Tokyo Edo was repeatedly devastated by fires, with the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657, in which an estimated 100,000 people died, the most disastrous. During the Tokugawa period there were about one hundred fires, typically started by accident and often quickly escalating to giant proportions, spreading through neighborhoods of wooden houses heated by charcoal fires.

The Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan from 1600 to 1868, a time known as the Edo period. During this era the effective power rested with the shogun in Edo, not the emperor in Kyoto, even though the former ostensibly owed his position to the latter. The shogun controlled foreign policy, the military and feudal patronage. The role of the emperor was ceremonial, similar to the position of the Japanese monarchy after the Second World War.

During the Edo period the city became the site of a vibrant urban culture centered on notions of ukiyo or the "Floating World" (Japanese: ?? and ??). "The Floating World" is a term used to describe many aspects of life, including, but not limited to, the pleasure-seeking lifestyle and culture of the Edo Period.

This view of the Floating World is centered on Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo. The area's brothels, teahouses and kabuki theaters were frequented by Japan's growing middle class. The Floating World culture also was prevalent in Japan's other major cities of the time, Kyoto and Osaka. The famous Japanese woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the Floating World", depict scenes from the Floating World: geisha, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, samurai, chonin (or merchants) and prostitutes.

A panoramic view of Edo or Tokyo circa 1865 or 1866

The Opening of Japan
Commodore Matthew Perry Japanese Woodblock Print 1854 On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed into Tokyo Bay with his four-ship squadron, in what has famously become known as the Opening of Japan. Previously, the Japanese shogunate had practiced a 200-year policy of isolation, in which only a handful of foreigners were tolerated. Perry’s negotiations culminated with the Convention of Kanagawa (the Kanagawa Treaty) in March, 1854, which granted limited rights. A much more extensive trade agreement, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (the “Harris Treaty”), was concluded by the first American Consul General to Japan, Townsend Harris, on July 29, 1858. (A Japanese woodblock print of Commodore Perry in naval dress uniform, c. 1854, can be seen at left.)

France quickly followed suit, signing the Franco-Japanese Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Commerce on October 9 of the same year. Both countries quickly benefited. France became a model for Japanese modernization, while Japanese art and culture quickly permeated France. Naturalistically stylized Japanese forms such as etchings, watercolors and ceramics strongly influenced the French art world, inspiring the Impressionist movement. One hundred fifty years later, this mutually advantageous exchange continues.

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