Koban (coin)

Koban (coin)

The koban (小判, alternately ōban) was a Japanese oval gold coin in Edo period feudal Japan, equal to one "ryō", another early Japanese monetary unit (a "ryō" can be imagined as worth a thousand dollars, although the value of the coin, like the value of the dollar, varied considerably).

The "Keichō" era "koban", a gold piece, contained about one ryō of gold, so that koban carried a face value of one ryō. However, successive mintings of the koban had varying (usually diminishing) amounts of gold. As a result, the ryō as a unit of weight of gold and the ryō as the face value of the koban were no longer synonymous.

Foreign trade

The Japanese economy before the mid-1800s was based largely on rice. The standard unit of measure was the "koku", the amount of rice needed to feed one family for one year. Farmers made their tax payments of rice which eventually made its way into the coffers of the central government; and similarly, vassels were annually paid a specified "koku" of rice. The Portuguese who came to Japan in the 1550s, however, preferred gold to rice; and the koban, which was equal to three koku of rice, became the coin of choice in foreign trade.

Some feudal lords began minting their own kobans, but the value was debased with alloys of varying gold content. Edo authorities issued one currency reform after another and just about all of them debased the koban further. Additionally, counterfeit kobans circulated after each reform, their value slightly less than that of the then current kobans. By the time of Commadore Matthew C. Perry's visit in 1853, counterfeit kobans from previous eras were preferred by merchants to the newer variants. The fraudulent older pieces were more valuable than newly-minted kobans.

With the Meiji Restoration in 1868 a new series of coins was ordered based on European currency systems and the koban was discontinued. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE4DA103DF930A3575AC0A96F948260 Stevenson, Jed. "PASTIMES: Numismatics,"] "New York Times." September 3, 1989.]

from the Pokémon series has a koban on its forehead. "Pay Day", the signature attack of the species, is known as Neko ni Koban, meaning as above.]

Cultural references

The Japanese idiom is an equivalent for .

The Maneki Neko is often depicted holding a "koban", though the koban most Maneki Neko hold is indicated to be worth ten million "ryō".


ee also

* Wadōkaichin
* Economy of Japan

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