Japan’s program honoring each of the nation’s 47 prefectures continues.
The Japan Mint in February released the latest three 500-yen
circulating coins from the program, although distributors have not
obtained the coins. The Japan Mint also released the third of the
corresponding Proof .999 fine silver 1,000-yen collector coins from
the trio commemorating the same prefectures (the other two Proof coins
were released late in 2011).
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 latest coins celebrate Shiga, Iwate and Akita, and are the
17th, 18th and 19th coins in the program, respectively.
The program, announced in 2008, celebrates each of Japan’s 47
prefectures. Authorized for each prefecture are two companion pieces:
a circulating 500-yen coin and a colorized Proof 1-ounce silver
version. The program runs through 2016.
Each 500-yen coin (with a face value worth about $6.13 in U.S.
funds) is composed of 75 percent copper and 12.5 percent each of zinc
and nickel. Each weighs 7.1 grams, measures 26.5 millimeters in
diameter and has an estimated mintage of about 1.8 million coins per prefecture.
The .999 fine silver 1,000-yen coin weighs 31.1 grams, measures 40
millimeters in diameter and has 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 coins shows snow crystals, the
Moon and cherry blossoms.
Shiga is located in the Kansai region of Honshu Island, the
largest of Japan’s islands.
The Shiga 500-yen coin shows Biwa catfish and round crucian carp,
indigenous species that live in Lake Biwa. The lake is one of the
world’s few ancient lakes, with a history dating some 4 million years,
making it home to many rare creatures not found anywhere else,
according to the Japan Mint.
The lake is the most important water source for people living in
the main part of western Japan including Osaka where the Japan Mint is located.
The 1,000-yen coin also celebrates Lake Biwa, showing the
prefectural bird, the little grebe, as well as the Ukimido temple
where locals pray for the safety while on the lake.
Iwate Prefecture, the second largest prefecture in Japan, faces
east toward the Pacific Ocean on the northern end of Honshu Island.
The prefecture was devastated by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and
tsunami with most ports destroyed and the fishing industry effectively
The 500-yen coin depicts the Konjiki-dô (Golden Hall) of the
Chûson-ji temple in the Hiraizumi UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the
foreground is Gokusui no En, a poetry party held by poets wearing
traditional Japanese kimono costumes at Pure Land Garden of Môtsû-ji
temple every May.
The Golden Hall also appears on the 1,000-yen coin with lotus
flowers from the Pure Land Garden of Môtsû-ji temple in the foreground.
The Konjiki-dô Golden Hall was constructed by Fujiwara no
Kiyohira, the founder of the warring Oshu Fujiwara family in the 12th
century. The overall site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage in
June 2011 and is now regarded as a symbol of restoration of Iwate prefecture.
Akita Prefecture is also at the northern end of Honshu Island, but
Explorer Shirase Nobu features prominently on both coins
celebrating Akita. Nobu led the Japanese Antarctic Expedition in 1910
to 1912, which landed Jan. 16, 1912, on Antarctica and headed to the
South Pole together with four team members. Shirase was born in Akita.
The obverse of the 500-yen coin depicts the Kanto festival, a wish
for a prosperous harvest.
The Kanto festival is held in Akita City every August, and during
it, the performers balance bamboo poles with many lanterns, which are
called Kanto, on their foreheads, shoulders and lower backs. In order
to pray for good harvest, the shape of the whole Kanto is regarded as
that of the ear of rice, and the 46 lanterns are intended to imitate
the traditional means of storing bags of rice.
The 1,000-yen coin honors the traditional folk ritual called
“Namahage,” a unique ritual observed through Oga Peninsula in Akita.
Men wearing eerie demon masks and holding scary but fake tools made of
wood make house-to-house visits in a settlement.
Two distributors will offer the silver 1,000-yen coins to American
collectors as they become available; the Iwate and Shiga coins are now
available from PandaAmerica for $109 plus $7 shipping, while Euro
Collections International prices the coin at $130 plus $10 shipping.
The Akita coins are not yet available from distributors. Euro
Collections will also offer the 500-yen coins but they are not yet available.
Telephone PandaAmerica toll free at 800-472-6327 or visit www.pandaamerica.com. Telephone
ECI at 877-897-7696 or visit the website www.eurocollections.com. ■