The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan also had
a ripple effect for the numismatic community that collectors have just
Though Japan Mint officials in mid-March noted that the agency’s
product schedule was unaffected by the dual tragedies, attendees of
the Japan Mint’s World Mint Stage presentation Aug. 18 at the American
Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill., were
told that the events in March delayed the Japan Mint’s commemorative
coin program. The program offers 500- and 1,000-yen coins for each of
the nation’s 47 prefectures.
Release of the coins that were planned as the 14th issue in the
series honoring all 47 of Japan’s prefectures, in this case honoring
Kumamoto, were postponed, with the 15th (for Toyama) and 16th
(Tottori) issues moved ahead one spot in the issue plan. The Kumamoto
coin takes the former place of the Tottori issue.
The Kumamoto coin, originally scheduled for international release
in June, will now be issued in October. The Toyama coin, originally
scheduled for a July release, was just issued in August. The Tottori
coin was slated for and will be released in September, but is now the
15th release in the series.
The delay also pushed back the international issuance of the
500-yen coins, which were originally due in early August, to early
September (they were released to Japanese banks on July 20).
The Japan Mint has released images and information for the coins
being issued for three more prefectures in a multiyear program
honoring its political subdivisions.
The program, announced in 2008, celebrates each of Japan’s 47
prefectures. Authorized for each prefecture is a circulating 500-yen
coin and a colorized Proof 1-ounce silver version, companion pieces.
The program runs through 2016.
Each 500-yen coin (worth about $6.49 in U.S. funds) is composed of
75 percent copper and 12.5 percent each of zinc and nickel. They weigh
7.1 grams, measure 26.5 millimeters in diameter and have estimated
mintages of about 1.8 million coins per prefecture.
The .999 fine silver 1,000-yen coins weigh 31.1 grams, measure 40
millimeters in diameter and have a mintage limit of 100,000 pieces per prefecture.
The 500- and 1,000-yen coins feature reverse designs common to
each denomination. The common 500-yen reverse shows an unspecified
historic Japanese coin, surrounded by English and Japanese
inscriptions indicating the name of the program and the denomination.
The standard reverse of the 1,000-yen coin shows snow crystals, the
moon and cherry blossoms.
The 500-yen coin for Toyama honors the Owara Kaze-no-Bon festival.
The “Bon dance of the wind” is performed nightly during a three-day
festival every September in the small, remote town of Yatsuo.
The dancing ceremony, which has been held for some 300 years, is
said to help appease the wind and ensure an abundant harvest. Male and
female dancers perform different styles of dance while wearing woven
hats low over their eyes while folk songs provide the tempo amid rows
of thousands of paper lanterns.
The Tateyama Mountain Range and the Amaharashi Kaigon (or
“rain-clear”) coast, a natural attraction in Toyama, are honored on
the 1,000-yen coin.
The mountain range, called Mount Tateyama, has three peaks and at
its highest point rises some 3,015 meters (9,892 feet). It is
considered one of three of Japan’s “Holy Mountains.” People believed
they could visit with spirits from the afterlife by visiting its deep
valleys for worship. Mount Tateyama rises high above Toyama Bay in the
center coastal region of Japan, facing the Sea of Japan to the north.
Nageiredo Hall at the Sanbutsu-ji Temple, a site perched some 520
meters (1,706 feet) up on a cliff wall, is featured on the 500-yen
coin for Tottori.
It is also known as “Thrown-in Hall,” as legend suggests an
ascetic at the foot of the mountain threw the temple into place. The
hall dates to circa 706.
The Tottori Sand Dunes, coastal sand dunes off the coast of the
Sea of Japan, are featured on the 1,000-yen coin.
The dunes (the only large dune system in Japan) measure 16
kilometers (about 10 miles) from east to west and 2 kilometers (about
1.2 miles) from north to south. A scenic point on the coast called
Senkan Matsushima, a rock formation with a sole pine tree perched on
top, appears in the background on the silver coin.
Kumamoto’s 500-yen coin celebrates the 404-year-old castle
synonymous with the prefecture.
Kumamoto Castle, built in 1607, is famous for its stone wall
featuring a graceful curved line. The stone wall becomes steeper as it
ascends in order to stop enemies from entering. The castle is one of
Japan’s premier castles.
The 1,000-yen coin for Kumamoto depicts Mount Aso, the largest
active volcano in Japan, which features one of the world’s largest
calderas, measuring some 75 miles in circumference. Clouds of smoke
rise from the caldera on the silver Proof coin.
Two distributors will offer the silver 1,000-yen coins to American
collectors as they are released; the Toyama coin is now available from
PandaAmerica for $99 plus $7 shipping, while Euro Collections
International prices the coin at $130 plus $10 shipping.
Telephone PandaAmerica toll free at 800-472-6327 or visit www.pandaamerica.com. Telephone
ECI toll free at 877-897-7696 or visit www.eurocollections.com. ■