Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 133






A Study in the Use of Coins


Delmer M. Brown

Publishcd for


Yale Univcnity. Ncw Haven, Connccci01t

Copyright 1951 by Far Eastern Association


$2.25 to members

2.50 to non-members "Orders received with remittance will be shipped postpaid"

All orders to be sent to Far Eastern Publications 26 Hall of Graduate Studies Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut









Japanese Coins in the Period of T'ang Influence



Chinese Coins in the Period of Sung Influence




( 1300-1550)


TenryO Temple Trade


Wako Activities


KangO Trade


Korean Trade


Wako Trade and Piracy





Copper Mining



Minting of Coins in Japan




Temple Donations and Gifts


Political Gifts and Assessments


Sales and Purchases


Bills of Exchange


The DosO




Commerce and Industry






New Supply of Silver Ore



Export of Silver


Minting of Silver Coins







New Supply of Gold


Importation oí Gold


Minting oí Gold Coins







Political Gifts and Assessments


Payment of Taxes


Transactions at the Tamon In Temple


Commerce and Industry









A. Manuscripts


B. Collected Documents, Letters and Works


C. Contemporary Works


D. Monographs and Special Studies


E. General Works



The startling technological and industrial developments of the modern age have led an increasing number of social scientists to give more attention to the part which economic expansion has played in the molding of human history. But Western scholars of Japanese history have assumed, for the most part, that there was no significant eco- nomic growth in Japan prior to the arrival of Perry in 1853, and in their studies of earlier periods they have limited their attention largely to the fields of art, literature, religion and politics. Japanese economic historians, on the other hand, have made remarkable advances since the pioneer efforts of Miura Hiroyuki in the l 920's. A great mass of source materials has been collected and published, and hundreds of specialized studies have been made. This work makes it imperative that we in the West reexamine our old assumptions regarding pre- Perry history.

One of the more misleading conclusions that we have drawn is that

the emergence of money economy reached significant proportions only in modern times. The oversimplified view that in 1868 feudalism was destroyed and money economy born has done much to distort our inter- pretations of Japanese social developments, past and present. In 1927 Matsuyo Takizawa, a graduate student at Columbia, submitted a Ph.D. dissertation entitled The Penetration of Money Economy in Japan which showed clearly that there was a highlydeveloped exchange economy in the eighteenth century, but she too became a victim of the old assump- tions when, in the first sentence of her first chapter, she wrote that "Money economy did not penetrate in Japan until after the seventeenth ''


As an initial attempt to explore the extent and nature of the develop- ment of money economy in Medieval Japan ( from about 1200 to 1600) • I have concentrated on the importation of Chinese coins, the mining and

importation of precious metals, minting operations, and the extent and

nature of the transactions in which coins were used as money.

pose has be'en to gain a clearer understanding of the astounding social

changes which make these transitional centuries an intriguing period in the history of Japan.

My pur-

The basic research for this study was carried out in connection with the preparation of a Ph. D. dissertation submitted at Stanford University

in 1946 under the title of "An Historical Study of the Use of Coins in Japan between 1432 and 1601." Since that time additional work has been done--some of the results of which have appeared in the form of arti- cles in academic journals. The original dissertation therefore has been recast in much wider limits and almost entirely rewritten.

For the reader who is not familiar with the Japanese language, it should be noted that some terms do not lend themselves readily to trans- lation. I have used such words in their romanized forms, but an attempt has been made to explain their meaning when they first appear in the text. In regard to dates, only the years have been transposed to the Western equivalent, unless a more specific date was essential in estab- lishing the proper chronological sequence. Personal names are used in the Japanese fashion, surname first. When a single name for a famous historical figure is used, that name, according to Japanese custom, is his given name.

The writer is deeply indebted to the Rockefe~ler Foundation for providing financ!al assistance during the preparation of the study and to the Harvard-Yenching Institute for making available the unusually complete collection of Japanese materials in its Oriental Library. Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following journals for permis- sion to use material from articles written by me: the American Histori- cal Review, the Far Eastern Quarterly and the Harvard Journal of Asi- atic Studies; also the University of California Press for permission to quote from Yoshi S. Kuno's Japanese Expansion on the Asiatic Continent (Berkeley, 1937). 1 wish to thank Professor Serge Elisseeffof Harvard University who gave generously of his time in helping me through diffi- cult passages in sixteenth century texts. Dr. Kaiming Chiu, Librarían of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, provided invaluable bibliographical assistance, and Dr. Chou Yi-liang of Harvard helped with Chinese texts and Japanese documents written in Chinese. I am indebted to the follow- ing persons for reading the manuscript and making valuable suggestions:

Dr. Royal Wald of the Department of State, Dr. Derk Bodde of the Uni- versity of Pennsylvania, Mr. William Holland of the Institute of Pacific Relations and Dr. Hilary Conroy of the University of California, Berkeley. Finally, 1 want to express my appreciation for the painstaking guidance of my doctoral adviser, Professor Yamato Ichihashi of Stanford University, and to thank the Far Eastern Association for including this study in its new Monograph Series.

University of California

Delmer M. Brown



Early Use of Chinese and Japanese Coins

Japan's pre-Meiji history includes three comparatively short peri-

ods during which great strides were made toward the establishment of

a more interdependent, and thus a more modern, social structure.

first period extends roughly from the Great Reforms of A. D. 645 to

the end of the Nara Era in A. D. 784.

sale borrowings from the culturally advanced China of the T'ang dynas-

ty, for the organization of a centralized bureaucratic government, the improvement of roads, the growth of markets, and marvelous achieve- ments in the various fields of art and literature. But toward the end of the ninth century there was a gradual decline in the power and glory of the T'ang dynasty; localism began to spread in Japan, and the seeds of

a unique type of feudalism were sown.

centuries sorne of Japan's greatest literature was written at the Im- perial Court, but as far as the rise of modern social phenomena was concerned, these centuries were a relatively inactive interlude in Japa- nese history.


This period is notable for whole-

During the tenth and eleventh

The second period of great social change falls approximately be- tween the beginning of the Kamakura era in 1185 and the failure of the second attempted invasion of Japan by the Mongols in 1281. It was dur- ing this period that possibly the highest level of political unity to date was reached. There was extraordinary economic activity, including advances in metal work, the discovery and exploitation of rich gold de- posits in the province of Mutsu, the rise of an active foreign and in- terna! trade, and the development of such modern financia! institutions as bills of exchange and lending institutions. In the field of religion three important new Buddhist sects, with a more popular appeal, were founded and a movement arose which has been frequently termed the Japanese Reformation. In various literary and art forms a far more lively interest in mundane affairs was reflected. But after the pro- longed and costly efforts of the Hojo regents to strengthen their de- fenses against the Mongols, the milita.ry government began to weaken, and for more than two centuries thereafter Japan suffered from almost constant civil war. These centuries are frequently referred to as Japan's "Dark Ages" and were the heyday of Japanese piracy, peasant



Money Economy in Medieval Japan

uprisings and militant Buddhism. It was then that feudalism probably reached its most mature stage of development.

The third period of social effervescence begins in about 1543, when the first Europeans arrived in Japan, and ends around 1638 with the adoption of the exclusion policy which permitted only the Dutch and the Chinese to carry on a restricted trade at Deshima. In preceding decades hundreds of small feudal lords had been fighting among them- selves for political supremacy, and the emperors were living in pover- ty. But by the end of the sixteenth century that great military genius Hideyoshi had created a strong central government that was sufficiently powerful to attempt even an invasion of Korea and China. Large armies were now equipped with firearms, huge castles were being constructed, and prosperous commercial centers were springing up throughout the country. It is with the expansion of money economy during the first half of this period that the present study is primarily concerned but, as in the case of an analysis of any modern development, the historian finds strong roots in earlier, dynamic periods of history.

Although coins were first issued in Japan in the eighth century, dur- ing the first period of great change, it is possible that primitive forros of money, such as pottery, were used as media of exchange or units of value as early as the late neolithic period (c. A. D. 100), for there was already sorne specialization of production that would have made the ex- change of goods desirable and the use of money convenient. But proba- bly most exchanges wer.e still by barter. However, with the intro- duction and use of iron at about the beginning of the third century, there was far more specialization. Now such important articles as iron swords, knives and hoes were made and agriculture gradually became more important than fishing and hunting as a means of sustaining life, particularly after the spade was devised to turn over the soil ( not mere- ly to chop it up) and after a primitive plow was developed that made it possible to substitute the work of oxen for that of human beings. A larger proportion of the population became swordsmiths, armor smiths, builders, weavers, soldiers and merchants. In the third and fourth centuries the more progressive clans, armed with iron swords, carried out extensive military campaigns, resulting in the emergence of the so- called Imperial clan to a position of preeminence in many areas of Kyüshü and Honshü. By the last half of the fourth century this clan was undertaking invasions of Korea where it demanded, and received, large amounts of "tribute" which further stimulated industry and interna! trade. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that long before the Great Reforms of A. D. 645 the Japanese not only had turned to the use of rice and cloth as money, but that apparently they also had adopted the more sophisticated practice of using, as money, the coins which had



seeped into the country from the continent.* The Nihon Shoki includes an item for the year 683 to the effect that a decree was issued which legalízed the circulation of copper coins and prohibited the use of silver coins.1 No further details concerning the action are given, but it is generally agreed that this entry provides strong evidence of the circu- lation of coins, made either in China or Korea, during the seventh century.

Japanese Coins during the Period of T'ang Influence

It was under T'ang ( 618-906)

influence, however, that Japan ex-

perienced truly remarkable política!, economic and cultural advances that led her to mint her own coins. An insular position had placed Japan somewhat outside the pale of earlíer outpourings of Chinese culture, but by the turn of the seventh century the channels of cultural

diffusion were greatly improved. Many high-ranking officials of the Im- perial clan had learned the system of Chinese writing and were now able to read Chinese books and to exchange notes with Chinese officials. Furthermore, Buddhism in Japan had grown steadily since its introduc- tion from the continent, traditionally in A. D. 552, to become the major cultural tie with China. Following the civil war of 587 the victorious Soga clan gave wholehearted support to 'Buddhism because some of the rival clans were in a stronger position, as regards local cults, and be- cause the establishment of Buddhist temples, as representations of a superior culture, was an extremely important means of exercising po- litical influence in outlying areas. The priests in a sense became local officials who served, and were loyal to, the patron Soga clan. 2 A few years later the famous Prince Shotoku of the Imperial clan also became a Buddhist devotee. He too seems to have realized the political value of the religion, as is shown in his Seventeen Article Constitution of 604 which was a collection of Confucian principles anti Buddhist philo- sophical precepts designed to provide a greater política! strength for bis clan. By 624, six years after the establishment of the T'ang dynas- ty, 46 temples had been built. The demand for Buddhist statues, bells, incense burners, altars, screens and many other paraphernalia aroused tremendous interest in direct and continuous contact with China, for the

'Ihe first specific reference to coins in Japanese chrenicles is found in the Nihon Shoki wider the date A.D. 486. In describing the peace and prosperity of the times, it states that a koku (currently 4.9629 bushels) .of rice ns valued at ene piece

of silver; kokushi Taikei (TOkyo, Keizai Zasshi Sha, 1897-1901), 1, 273;

in W. G. Asten, 'Nihongi, Chrenicles of Japan frcm the Ear liest Times to A.O. 697,'

Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, London, Supplement 1 (1896), I,

391. The entry suggests that sil ver coins were already circulating, Dut the refer- ence is dismissed by Aston as "a flight of the author's fancy, sti1111lated by his recollectiens of Chinese literature." Ibid., note 2.



Money Economy in Medieval Japan

high quality and authenticity of the Chinese products were readily ap- parent to the Japanese.

Just as the Japanese were becoming more interested in closer and more extensive contacts with the Chinese, there emerged in China one of the most glorious of all dynasties. The Japanese emissaries to the T'ang Court could not but be impressed, for China under this new dynas- ty was probably the most powerful and the best ruled country in the world. Her frontiers ~eached the borders of Persia, the Caspian Sea, and the Altai Mountains. The T'ang Emperor was an absolute ruler surrounded by able ministers and assisted by local officials in clearly defined administrative districts. The examination system, the legal codes, the large standing armies, the beautiful capital and many other achievements made the Japanese determined that such political, eco- nomic and cultural heights be attained in Japan.

The palace revolution of 645 brought an end to Soga rule in Japan and raised mento positions of power who turned to scholars of Chinese institution'S and learning for advice on reforms that should be adopted. The laws and orders that soon emanated from the Court wrought funda- mental changes in the whole of Japanese society. Many of the old institutions were abolished and in their place was built a political framework, along Chinese lines, that set the stage for a centralized government with far more power over the lives of people in extensive areas of the islands. To increase the financia! strength of the govern- ment, hereditary titles to land were abolished, all cultivated land was distributed among the farmers on a per capita basis, and a regular tax system was devised. Roads, ferries, and post-stations were built to facilitate tax collection and the supervision of local affairs. A con- script army was planned that would center military power in the government, rather than in the old clans. Finally, in 710, a perma- nent capital modeled after the fabulous T'ang capital at Ch'ang-an was constructed at Nara. 3 During the following seventy-four years, while Nara remained the capital, Japan enjoyed one of the brightest periods of her history. In this politically centralized and economically pros- perous age the Japanese government first turned to the minting of standardized coins.

By the end of the seventh century experience with coins from the continent undoubtedly had shown that this form of money was far more useful than rice, which was more bulky and more liable to wastage. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before the Japanese saw the further advantage of coining their own money. With the turn of the eighth century they had learned from the Chinese the techniques of



minting and had discovered deposits of silver, copper and gold.* In 708 a new copper deposit was found in the province of Musashi which was considered of such importance that the name of the current era was changed to WadoAa~ soft copper) and Empress Gemmyo issued a special decree announcing the good news and proclaiming that the dis-

covery must be a sign that "the deities of Heaven and Earth

to make Us happy .' • 4 Only seven months later the government ordered the minting of Japan's first coins.t It is significant that this event pre- ceded, only by two years, the establishment of Japan's first permanent

capital at Nara.

ized and intricate procedures that are necessary for the establishment

of a strong rule.


Coins greatly facilitated the working of those special-

Bu~ before Japanese coins were to serve their functions efficiently severa! problems had to be solved. First, there was the problem of counterfeiting. A few months after coins were first struck, an Imperial decree was issued which proclaimed that a counterfeiter would be en- slaved and bis possessions handed over to the informer; persons pass- ing counterfeit money for gain were to be given 200 strokes with the stick and further punished with forced labor; and a person who was cognizant of counterfeiting operations, but did not report them, was to be given the same kind of punishment.5 SÚll another difficulty was the establishment of the proper relationship between silver and copper coins. For a time an attempt was made to enforce the use of silver coins in larger transactions, but this arrangement seems to have pro-

• 5ilver was discovered on the island of lsusliima in 674 (Nihon Shoki,


laikei, I, 506) and a few years later in the province of Iyo ( ibid., 559). Copper was presented to the Imperial Court from the provinces of !naba and Suo in 698

(Shoku Nihongi, Kokushi Jaikei, II, 4-5; translated in J. B. Snellen, 'Shoku

Nihon¡;;i, 01ronicles of Japan, C.OOtinued, from 697-791 A.D.,' 1ransactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan 2nd 5eries, XI [ 1934]. 173). Aston has expressed the

view that copper was produced in Japan earlier (op.

Gold was sent to the Imperial C.OUrt from Tsushima in 701, and in the same year officials of the Court were dispatched to the province of Mutsu to refine gold

cit., II,

H4-5, note 2).

(Shoku Nihongi, Kokushi laikei, II, 14).

Two Cirectors of the Mint (ChÜsenshi

Taikei, I, 567), but in

spite of one writer's conclusion that, judgin~ from these appointments, copper coins proLably were minted in Japan before 694 (Leon van de Polder, 'Abridged History of the Copper Coins of Japan,' Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan first Series, >JX [~lay, 1891], 426), there is no conclusive evidence that

coins were struck prior to A.D. 708.

~~Jt ~) were appointed in 694 (Nihon Shoki, Kokushi

t C.Oins so marked are described in Polder, op. cit., 429-30. 1he Shoku Nihongi contains no reference to the minting of such coins, but the conclusion that

they were first made in this year is based on the statement that, silver money was used for the first time (Kokushi laikei, II, 55).

in 708,


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

vided no satisfactory solution, for a month or so later silver coins were abolished and only the copper coins were left in circulation.6

The most serious problem, however, was gaining acceptability for

the Japanese coins.

the difficulties which the government was facing in this connection:

An Imperial Decree in the year 711 clearly shows

The use of money is to pranote the exchange of goods. But at the present time people still cling to their old habita and do not

yet understand this. Although they trade,

1hose of Ju-roku-i [Junior Sixth Rank] and lower who have saved te~

thei r ranks. rai sed

han (10, 000 pieces) of [ copper] coins

one step, those who have saved more than twenty kiPan two steps.7

they do not save money.

wi 11 get

In the following months other orders of a similar nature had to be is- sued. On one occasion travellers were required to carry coins, 8 and shortly thereafter it was decreed that in transactions involving the sale of land all prices were to be stated in terms of metallic coins.9 Gradually, however, the problem of gaining acceptance for government coins was solved, not so much because of the frequent decrees and orders but rather because the practica! experience of traders preved the superiority of this form of money.

Japanese scholars have given considerable attention to the subject of the circulation of metallic currency in the Nara and Heian eras ( 710- 1160), and their general conclusion is that coins carne to be used ex- tensively in the markets of the capital and vicinity. It is their con- tention, however, that even at the peak of the circulation in the eighth and ninth centuries, coins were not widely used in the rural areas. In fact, the greater the distance from the capital the less coins were cir- culated. In the country districts, therefore, rice, silk and the like con-

tinued to serve

as money .*

• A valuable study of the circulation of coins in the Nara era is: Kida Shinroku,

'Naracho ni okeru Senka no Kachi to Ryütsü to ni tsuite'

(Conceming the Cir-

culation and Value of Copper Coins in the Nara Era), Shigalw Za.sshi, XLIV, 1




For a study of coins in the Heian era aee:


Naojiro, 'Heiancho ni okeru Kahei no Shiyo oyobi RyÜtsü ni tsuite' (Concern- ing the Circulation and Use of Coins in the Heian Era), in Kaiz0sha, ed. , Nihan Keizai Shi Kenlryii (Studies in the F.c:onomic History of Japan) (TOkyo: Kai- zO.ha, 1926), 63-89. Also see Kobata At~ushi,'Ocho Jidai Kahei Shi no KenkyÜ' (Study of the ffistory of Coins in the Dynastic Era), Keizai Shi Kenlryü, No. 10 (August, 1930), 1-16; No. 11 (September, 19~), 1-20; and Nakamura Naokatsu, 'Ocho Jidai ni okeru Senka no RyÜtsÜ ni tsuite' (Concerning the Circulation of Copper Coins in the Dynastic Era), in Nihon Keizai Shi Kenkyü,' 90-109. For a recent work on the general history of money economy during the period prior to 1167 see Hosoka- Kameichi, .Todai Kahei Keizai Shi (History of Money F.c:cnomy in Ancient Times) (TOkyo: Moriyama Shoten, 1934).



With the unusual expansion of industry and trade in Nara and in certain other commercial centers the demand for currency increas~d to such a degree that the government was faced, after the turn of the ninth century, with its old problem in reverse: how to mint enough coins to fill the demand.10 Instead of encouraging the saving of money, the accumulation of excessive savings was prohibited and, shortly there- after, an Im~erial Edict abolished the right to purchase Court ranks with coins. 1 Another policf: adopted to meet this new situation was to mint coins with less copper 2 and at the same time to force their cir-

culation at even a higher value. When new issues were made ( there were twelve issues between 708 and 958),* the copper content was de- creased and the government usually ordered that the new coins circu- late at a value ten times that of the old coins. This made it possible to produce more coins with a given amount of copper, and yet in 821 there was a sharp drop in the total number of coins made. Up to this time sorne 5,670,000 were made yearly, but in 821 the number fell to

3,000,000.1 3 Thereafter it

government to obtain enough copper for coinage.14

became increasingly difficult for the

The policy of devaluating the coins and enforcing circulation at a level well above their intrinsic value resulted in an increase in the number of coins which could be made from the available supply of copper, but it also resulted in the reemergence of the old problem of

non-acceptability. The gpvernment in 865 felt obliged to prohibit merchants of Kyoto and Omi from refusing to accept inferior cash, 15 and regularly thereafter similar orders were issued. Another effort in the same direction was the readjustment of prices upward so that the value of the inferior coins more nearly approximated the value of com- modities. In 866, for example, the government pegged the price of rice at 40 mon ~ t for one sho 1f" ,tt whereas it had formerly been 26 mon per sho.16 The officials even resorted to ordering temples and shrines to offer up prayers that coins be more widely used.17 But in spite of all these efforts, more and more merchants refused to accept the poorer coins and reverted to the use of such commodities as rice and cloth as money. It was estimated in one source that in the year


from twenty to thirty percent of the coins were rejected, 18 and in


it was recorded that •'Ever sinee the middle of the ninth month of

last year money has not been used at all as a medium of exchange. •.19

Probably the temples used currency for a longer time. because their

•1be names and dates,

together with pictures, of all the twelve 'dynastic coins'

are found in Tsukamoto Toyojiro, 1he Old and New Coins of Jopan (íokyo: TOyo

Kahei KyOkai,

1930), 1-25.

t A unit of copper money equivalent to one copper coin.

tt C.Urrently 1.5888 quarts.


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

holdings were extensive and coins were popular as contributions. As late as the year 1000 the Toji Temple was still receiving metallic money in payment of taxes from its fiefs in Omi, Izu, Kai, Kozuke, No- to and Etchü. But thereafter its records show that all taxes were paid in kind and that rice, woven fabrics and silk were used as units of ac- count and as media of exchange.20

The government's failure to increase the number of coins made each year and to reestablish acceptability for its devaluated coins is only one aspect of the general emergence of localism during the tenth and eleventh centuries. No attempt will be made here to analyze that larger problem, but it should be pointed out that there was one develop- ment which was directly rela:ted to coinage and which may well have been a major fact in the wider area of political decentralization:· the decline in the amount of copper available for coinage. The edict of 821, which announced the decline in the number of coins minted in that year, explained that the decline was "due to a decrease in the amount of

copper mined

during the latter half of the ninth century by the discovery of new copper deposits; in 865 a copper mine was opened in the province of Yamashiro, and five years later new sources of copper were found in the provinces of Bitchü and Bingo. Copper was also discovered in Mi- saku, Bizen and Iwami, and the supply available for minting of coins was further augmented by several measures taken by the government to encourage mining and to check the use of copper for purposes other than coinage.22 Nevertheless, the new deposits and the efforts of the government to encourage mining apparently resulted in no appreciable increase in the production of copper, for no greater number of coins were minted and the quality of the coins continued to fall.

21 The copper shortage was temporarily alleviated

But in the absence of statistics on copper production in these centuries, it may well be that the inadequate supply of copper for coin- age was due more to the fact that an increasing amount of this precious metal was being used for other purposes. There is no doubt but that an enormous drain on the copper s.upply was caused by the casting of large numbers of bronze statues and bells at the numerous Buddhist temples throughout Japan.23 Takimoto estimates that during the period from 1072 to 1128 more than one thousand statues were cast.24 In making the great statue of Buddha at Nara in 1195 over 900, 000 pounds of copper were required.25 The large bell at Katnakura, cast in 1235, had a more direct bearing upon the circulation of coins, since in this case 300,000 copper coins were melted down and used for the first cast- ing. A few months later the bell had to be recast, and at that time an additional 30,000 coins were used.26

During the tenth and eleventh centuries few acceptable Japanese



coins were made, but sorne coins were being imported from China. As indicated above, the Japanese were probably acquainted with Chinese money as early as the fifth century. Even after Japan began to mint her own coins, Chinese currency continued to flow into the country. For example, in 753 as muchas 25,000 kan~ * were brought to Japan in one Chinese vessei.27 As long as trade with China continued to be limited to an exchange of official envoys and as long as the government was able to monopolize all trade rights, it was comparatively simple to restrict the importation of Chinese currency. But as the central government began to weaken, private merchants carne to dominate the trade and currency regulation proved to be more difficult. A large number of Chinese merchants entered Japan to carry on private trade; many of them took up their residence in the leading ports of Dazaifu and Tsuruga.28 Private trading increased after 890,29 whereas the official "trade" was completely broken off.in 894. All Japanese were strictly forbidden to sail for China for the sole purpose of carrying on trade, and hence the major part of the commerce, thereafter, fell into the hands of Chinese merchants. The following edict of 903 shows the difficulties that the Japanese government faced in regulating foreign trade:

From what I have heard,

latcly when a Oiinese merchant-ship

canes, l>efore the official envoy of the ship has been up to the Court,

from the temples and Miya, from the daimyo and ministers, emis- saries are sent to huy things up with great eagerness, and the wealthy people of Kyoto also desirous to get articles from far

1he fault of

all this mismanagement is greatly due to the bad a<lministration of the custom officials who do not fulfil their duties. 1he article of the la-A· seems to be forgotten, where it is said that any one who, before the government have given their approval, does any commercial transactions secretly with the banjin

( savages or foreigners) will be considered as a thief,

lands at any high price can not get them •••


accordingly and be condenned to three years hard labour • • •

3 o

Throughout the eleventh century the Heian Court struggled to enforce

its regulations against private trading.

Severa! men were exiled in

1040 for carrying on trade with China privately, and in 1094 a noble

lost his rank for the same offense.31 ·

But gradually the impotent Japanese government lost its control over foreign trade, and the coins which were brought into Japan carne largely into the possession of officials and merchants residing at Da-

zaifu and Tsuruga.

There are no available statistics on the amount of

•A string of copper cash containing l,000 mon (i.e. 1000 copper coins).


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

Chinese coins which found their way into Japan through illegal private trade with China, but it is clear that the amount was not sufficient to check the general trend toward a wider use of rice and cloth as money.

Chinese Coins in the Period of Sung Influence

The Sung Dynasty ( 960-12 79) did not play such

a spectacular role

in Chinese history as did the T'ang and yet it was a period of great cultural achievement. It was also a period of remarkable expansion in overseas commerce due, in part at least, to technological developments in shipbuilding and navigation. The superior quality of the Chinese ships has been described as follows in an account of 1178: "The ships which sail the Southern Sea and south of it are like houses. When their sails are spread they are like great clouds in the sky. Their rudders are severa! tens of feet long. A single ship carries severa! hundred men. It has stored on board a year's supply of grain."32 As to new techniques in navigation we have this passage in an account of the year 1119: •'The Ship-master or captain ascertains the ship's position, at night by looking at the stars, in the day time by looking at the sun; in dark weather he looks at the mariner's compass or the south-pointing needle. ,,33 By the twelfth century the Chinese merchants, especially at Canton, were carrying on an extensive trade throughout the Far East, including Japan.

The discovery of rich deposits of gold in the province of Mutsu was another factor in the upsurge of trade between Japan and China after a- bout 1175. Although wood continued to be the most important item in Japanese exports, such large amounts of gold were shipped to China

that Japan became noted, even in Europe, as a country rich

Sino-Japanese trade was further enlivened by a growing demand in Japan for coins which in turn was related to the current reemergence of política! unity under the military, and to the general expansion of in-

dustry and commerce.* A greater volume of trade transactions created a far greater demand for a better medium of exchange than rice or silk.

in gold .

Again there are no available statistics to show clearly how many Chinese coins were imported from China, but judging from the various orders issued on the subject after 11 75 it can be deduced that the

• 1bis trade has been studied by Mori Katsumi in his 'Nisso KotsÜ ni okeru Waga

Nódoteki BOeki no Tenkai'

[China]), Shigaku lasshi, XLV, 2 (February, 1934), 143-87; 3 (March, 1934),

(Development of an Active Trade Aetween Japan and Sung

291-358; 4 (April, 1934), 441-85.

Akiyama Kenzo's study, Nisshi Kosho Shi Ken-

kyü ( 1939), also throws new light on the subject, tensive use of Cliinese sources.

especially since he made ex-



number was considerable. In 11 79 the government attempted to fix prices in terms of Chinese coins, and undoubtedly because it was un-

able to control the amount and types of coins in circulation it decided in 1193 to prohibit all use of Chinese coins.34 By this time the new

military government ( Bakufu) had been firmly established at

kura, and although a military organization was being devised which gave Japan a much greater degree of political unity, the government apparently was not able to enforce its order against the use of Chinese coins. At any rate, a change of policy was made in 1226, and Chinese coins were accepted as legal tender.35 The increased demand for this foreign money is indicated by a report that in 1261 Hojo Tokimune sent an envoy to China with a large quantity of gold with instructions to buy up Chinese coins.36 This was the beginning of a practice which was continued intermittently by Emperors and Shoguns until the end of the Ashikaga era ( 1573), and which accounted for a tremendous increase

in the total circulation of Chinese coins in Japan.


With this influx of Chinese copper coins, an increasing number of commercial transactions were effected with these coins as media of exchange or units of value. Tamaizumi Tairyo, a scholar of Japanese monetary history, has examined more than four hundred deeds, dating from 1186 to 1283. He found that for the period from 1186 to 1219 the unit_of value, in more than thirty-nine percent of the deeds, was the sen i~ (unit of Chinese copper money) and that in the period from 1220 to 1283 this was true in more than seventy percent of the cases.37 The records of the Todaiji Temple show that in 1269 the taxes to the temple were paid in kind, but in 1280 taxes to the same temple were paid in copper coins.38 During the thirteenth century taxes levied by the central government on non-agricultura! enterprises, such as commercial_ guilds ( ~ ) ,* toll stations ( sekisho ~ J.fp, t and pawnshops ( doso J:_ ~), were also paid in coin.39

• lhe za was an institution established by a special charter granting it the right to carry on trade of a specific type. For a brief survey of the rise of the za see Yosoburo (sic) 1akekoshi, The Economic Aspects of the History of the Civili-

zation of Japan (New York: MacMillan,


1 (January,


1930), 1, 2ll-31 [hereafter cited as Eco-

For a more exhaustive treatment of the subject see Miura Hiro-

n011ic HistoryJ.

yuki, 'Za no lgi ·ni tsui te' (Concerning the Signi ficance of tite Za), Shigaku.


1-6¡ 4 (April,

1918), 343-52.

t 'lhe sekisho prior to the Kamavura era was more like a frontier military post, whereas after about 1200 it took on characteristics of a toll station. In the Tokugawa era (1603-1868) it was sanething of an inmigration station, since it was used primarily to check on the movement of persoñs going to and fran &lo. See Curtis Alexander Manchester, 1he Origin and Development of Sekisho in

Japan (University of Michigan Ph.D. dissertation,



Money Economy in Medieval Japan

An even more definite indication of the part Chinese copper coins was playing in the Japanese economy of the thtrteenth century is found in the growth of such financia! institutions as the doso and in the use of bills of exchange. These developments not only reflected a more extensive circulation of coins but also served to increase the velocity of that circulation. The operations of these institutions meant that coins were used in more and larger transactions.

The pawn business in Japan, as in Europe, was originally associ-

ated with religious institutions and with the government, but in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries loans with pledges as security carne

to be made

cause these shops were among the first to gain a sufficient accumu- lation of capital to undertake operations of this kiI)d for profit. Con-


extensively by sake ( Japanese wine) shops--probably be-

the term sakeya do so 5~Ji J:.~ ( the storehouse of the wine

shop) was used to designate such lending operations, undoubtedly be- cause the pledges, and possibly the records, were kept in the store- house of the wine shop. By the end of the thirteenth century, or the beginning of the fourteenth, the word sakeya was dropped from the term sakeya doso, leaving only the word doso to signify this business of making loa~lt is assumed that tJle change was associated with the

rise of the business as an independent enterprise. ~ were so numerous and prosperous at the time that the taxes levied on them by the military government constituted an important source of revenue.40 This explains why, when the military government ordered a general cancellation of debts in 1297, an exception was made for loans made by the doso. 41 At the beginning of the Ashikaga era in 1336 a "legal code'' was formulated which provides further evidence of the growth of these institutions:

Doso should be encouraged. L\ie to the burden of high taxes and to illegal entries [sane doso] have been forced to close. 1hereby noblemen have been deprived of a way of meeting emer- gencies and poor people have lost a means of ltemporarily] sus- taining life. Consequently, if dosó are encouraged, greater se- curity will be provided for everyone.•

The article suggests that at the middle of the fourteenth century the doso had attained a position of great importance in the economic life of Japan.

• 'Kenmu Shil<imoku Jójó,' Gunslw Ruijü. (1okyo:

Keizai Zasshi Sha,

1893-1902), XIV,

35. 1he code has

-- 1he Ashikaga Code ( 'Kenmu Shikimoku' -- A.D. 1336),' 1'ransactions of the Asi-

in 'Japanese Feudal Laws : 11

been translated by John Carey Hall

atil! Society of Japan, XXXVI, 2 ( 1908), 1-23, but my

ticular article is quite diHerent, due primarily to Mr. Hall's having trans-

interpretati~ of this par-



The practice of paying off accounts at distant points by means of bills of exchange* probably first arase in Japan during the thirteenth century. t They were used, in the beginning, for sending money back and forth between Kyoto ( where the Imperial Court and many of the larger temples were located) and Kamakura, the seat of the military government. The earliest known bill of this type is dated 1282. The document, though not in the traditional form of later years, is thought to be a bill of exchange used by a monk going from the Koyasan Monas- tery to Kamakura in arder to represent the Monastery in sorne legal proceedings. It was presumably drawn up to provide the monk with funds during his stay in Kamakura.42 Another bill dated 1293 reveals considerable development and suggests that this means of effecting payments already was being used extensively. It reads:

Bill of Exchange


5 kan

1he above swn has been paid in Kamakura and is to be col- lected within five days [fran sight] fran Priest Iko of the Jisso Temple of 'íoj i [in Kyoto]. If for sane reason the payment• is not

forthcaning within the agreed period of time,

is to be paid as canpensation. 1he above is hereby certified.

2nd day,

[Seal of Yorihira]43

an additional

5 kan

12 Moon,

Einin 1 [1293]

Like loans made by the doso, the bills of exchange were not affected by

the government's broadtokusei(debt cancellation arder). of 1297.

arder itself did not mentían bills of exchange, but shortly afterward the

government handed

(kaesen) : As usual /Such transactions7 shall be binding. However, the charging of interest{ ribun :fj 'JJ'\ willnot be approved, even if s'1ch

charges are recorded on the document.

shall be paid."44


down this decision: '' Regarding /bills of/ exchange


The {fulf/ amount of the bill

It appears that such a long-period of time general-

ly elapsed from the time a bill was drawn until it was paid that inter-

est was charged during the intervening period 45 and, therefore, there was sorne doubt as to whether or not the cancellation arder applied to such interest-bearing instruments. So a government decision was handed down requiring the payment of bills of exchange but cancelling interest charges. The necessity of making such a decision indicates that bills of exchange had come to be used widely.

•1he term kawashi or kaesen -í,lft'. was cannonly used in the Middle A¡,es to de- note the exchange of money by~bills of exchange, whereas ka111ashiww.i ~-*. re- ferred to similar exchanges of rice. The bill itself was called a warifu (or saifu) f~Jf . loyoda Takeshi, 'Oiüsei no Kawase' (Bills of Exchange of the ~iddle Ages), Shakai Keizai Shigaku, VI, 10 (February, 1937), 69-70.


tfor study of the origins of the bilis of exchange see Miura Hiroyuki,

Tegata no Kigen'

(Origin of fílls of Exchange),

in /fosei Shi no KenkyÜ (Studies


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

With the Mongol Invasions of 1274 and 1281 a definite leveling off of Japan's economic expansion is noted. The invasions severed the trade with China and also inflicted a heavy financia! burden upon the entire military class. Even in the years before the invasions both the warriors and the military government were beginning to suffer from relying primarily upon fixed income from land at a time of rapid eco-

nomic expansion. Thei:-e was now a much greater demand for consumer goods, particularly after an Imperial Prince became Shogun in 1252 and introduced the luxurious tastes of the Imperial Court to the military men at Kamakura. The economic difficulties of the warrior class could not be alleviated by the central military government, not only because its revenue was adversely affected by the expanding economy but also because it was faced with new and urgent demands upon its resources. In 1257 there was a violent earthquake in Kamakura, and two years

later Japan experienced a fa mine which

government officials were ordered to cancel tax collections and to give relief to the peasants. There was also interna! military strife, particularly among the militant Buddhist institutions in the neighbor,- hood of Kyoto. But the most extensive and costly military operations were those which arose out of the invasions of Japan by the mighty Mongols. Even after the second attack was driven off the Japanese con- tinued to prepare for still another invasion, which did not materialize. The financia! burden, not only to the military government but to indi- vidual warriors, was staggering. In earlier victor.ies by the Minamoto family and the Hojo regents large areas of land had been taken from the enemy and distributed among deserving retainers. But from the operations against the Mongols there were no newly acquired areas of land. Furthermore, the warriors found that, owing to the absence of large ¡mmbers of men from the fields, there was a marked decline in rice production, which was reflected in a decreased income for the Bakufu.4 6

was so serious that military

Therefore, by the end of the thirteenth century the economic dis- tress of the warriors was causing an increasing number of fiefs to fall into the hands of nonmilitary persons, and the military government did not have sufficient economic strength to give its retainers any positiv·e assistance. When sumptuary laws, price fixing, and other legal measures failed to improve the economic position of the retainers, the Bakufu was forced to consider more drastic methods for preventing the transfer of fiefs to nonmilitary men. The tokusei of 1297 was probably the most positive of the steps taken. The military government by this

in Legal History) (Tokyó, 1919), 912.:24. Miyazaki has brought out tlae point

that early Japanese bills of exchange were probably related to Chinese usage dur-


change Systems of Ancient Japan and China), Shigaku Zasshi, XII, 1 (January, 1901),

Íng the T' ang era, Miyazaki Michisaburo, 'Nihon Shina Kodai no Kawase Seido'



means made a positive, though futile, effort to save its retainers from economic ruin. But in the face of an expanding economy the warriors, who were supported by fixed incomes from land, could gain no per- manent or substantial economic assistance from the cancelation of

their debts or the return of their fiefs.

proved to the government that such disregard of creditors' rights was

highly detrimental to its own interest.47

In fact the tokusei apparently


During the first part of the fourteenth century the military govern-

ment became progressively weaker.

ficials began to act independently of the central government and final- ly there broke out a series of ci\ril wars which marked the beginning of Japan's so-called "Dark Ages."

An increasing number of local of-


Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)

Recent studies in the history of medieval Japan tend to show that in spite of the prevalence of civil war, piracy and peasant uprisings, there was considerable economic growth during the so-called period of the

"Dark Ages."

China, Korea and islands of .the Pacific, 1 and certain financia! and com- mericial institutions continued to expand.* To be sure, from 1300 to 1550 economic life was relatively sluggish, especially when compared to the effervescent activity of the thirteenth and late sixteenth centuries, but during the intervening two hundred and fifty years changes took place which cannot be disregarded in any study of the rise of modern social in- institutions. This is particularly true in considering the emergence of money economy. The widest circulation of metallic money carne during the last quarter of the sixteenth century, after the Japanese expanded their production of precious metals and resumed the minting of copper, gold and silver coins, but the significance of a constant influx of Chinese copper coins in earlier centuries cannot be overlooked.

Trade, both official and private, was carried on with

Tenryü Temple Trade

The reestablishment of a semi-official trade relationship with Mon- gol China shortly after the beginning of the Ashikaga era ( 1336) seemed to suggest the rise of another period of unusual economic activity. The first of the Ashikaga Shoguns, Takauji, granted the Tenryii Temple per- mission to carry on trade with China, ostensibly that the Temple might obtain funds for the construction of a building dedicated to Emperor Godaigo. The Tenryii Temple ships did a flourishing business and were instrumental in importing into Japan huge sums of Chinese coins. After a prolonged period of limited contact with China there was now a strong- er demand for Chinese coins. Another factor in the active trade was the availability in Japan of two items which were then in great demand in China: swords and sulphur. The Japanese metalsmiths were making swords which, according to sorne, were of a quality that has never been equaled elsewhere at any time in history, and these swords brought a

For an excellent general survey of economic history of the period see Shiba Kentaro,

'Oiüsei no Keizai'

(~ledieval Economy),

in Nihon Rekishi,

nami Lecture Series (TOkyo-:

lwanami Shoten,



3 of Series 10 of lwa-

Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


high price in China.2 The Tenryfr Temple trade, which lasted until the end of the YÜan (Mongol) dynasty in 1368, resulted in the importation of such a large quantity of Chinese coins that Kobata Atsushi, an outstand- ing scholar of Japanese monetary history, concludes that this trade is an extremely important factor in the emergence in Japan of a more com- plex exchange economy.3

But the Tenryü trade carne to an end with the collapse of the Mongol rule and the rise of the Ming dynasty in 1368. The Ming Emperors were · in no mood to permit the Japanese to continue such a profitable t.rade un- til something was done about the Wako1~jt( Japanese pirates) * who had been ravaging the coasts of China, and until the Japanese were willing to accept the status of a tributary state -- the type of relationship which had long been traditional in China's dealings with neighboring states. For the next several years the Chinese continued to insist that sorne satisfaction be given on these two matters, and although the Japanese were anxious to regain the profits of the old trade, they were apparent- ly unable, or unwilling, to check piracy and they did not wish to pay tribute to the Ming Emperor. Finally in 1380 all diplomatic relations were broken off, not to be reestablished until Yoshimitsu reopened negotiations in 1.401. He was much less squeamish about accepting the tributary status and was far more interested in monetary gain.

Wako Activities

The Wako might well have brought more coins into Japan during the fourteenth century than did the Tenryü Temple ships. Again we have merely indirect evidence. The pirates were engaged in illegal operations and left few records of their loot or trade, but the constant references to pirates in Chinese and Korean chronicles indicate that the expeditions were numerous and large. Wako were first mentioned in historical ac- counts of the Heian era ( 794-1160). when they were based along the shores of the Inland Sea. During the first part of the Kamakura era they were making raids along the coasts of Korea, and in the thirteenth century they began to concentrate their operations along the shores of China. in following decades the Wako attacks became so devastating that the Chinese had to set up coastal defenses for protection.4 The extent of Wako activities at the beginning of the Ashikaga era ( 1336-1573) is

Wakó is most conmonly translated as 'Japanese pirates'·but that translation leads to considerable misunderstanding for Wako did not always limit their activities to piracy and not all Wakó were Japanese. 1hey carried on a considerable amount of peaceful trade. Sane writers on the subject have concluded that the Wakó resorted

to force only when they met opposition or when they received what they considered to be unjust treatment. Contemporary Chinese accounts reveal that many Wakó bands

contained as many as twenty,

or even thirty per cent Chinese.

Kóshó Shi,

552 and 591;

and Takegoshi, Story of the Wakó.

See Akiyama, Nisshi


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

suggested by the steps which the Japanese government had to take in order to insure safe passage for the Tenryü Temple ships. Prior to the departure of a ship, orders were sent to local governors along the coasts of Shikoku, Kyüshü and southern Honshü. Each local official was ordered to provide protection for the vessel while it sailed through the waters under his jurisdiction. Shoda, the Japanese scholar who has studied this subject, has concluded that these precautions were solely for protecting the ships against Wako seizures and that the wide dissemination of the orders clearly indicated extensive Wako operations.5

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty ( 1368), when relations between Japan and China became strained and were ultimately broken off, the Wako activities increased. One of the prime concerns of the Ming Emperor, in his negotiations with the Japanese government, was that these Wako should be suppressed. For example, in the communication sent to Japan in 1369 he wrote:

lf your kingdom is a righteous one, then you will cane to our

Court [i.e.

your anns and strengthen your defenses.

trating acts of brigandage, We shall inmediately conmand our

generals Lor admiralsJ to proceed to your subjugation. Reckon wi th th is, O King! 6

send envoys],

if not,

then [you had better] prepare

lf you insist on perpe-

The following year the Ming Emperor warned: "The accumulated evils and the continuous violation of the laws of humanity by your subjects do certainly offe.nd Heaven, from whose punishment Japan is destined to


raids continued, extending from the province qf Shantung in the north to

Fukien in the south. When a rebellion, in which Japanese were thought to have been involved, broke out in 1380, the Ming Emperor severed all relations with Japan and ordered the strengthening of defense works along the coast.

.,7 Threats and requests were made almost yearly but the

Korea probably suffered more from Wako invasions during the

fourteenth century than did China. Yoshi S. Kuno has stated that the

greater part of Korea 's coast had become virtually a "No Man's

and a Korean account of 1385 describes an invasion of one province by a pirate fleet of 150 vessels.8 Akiyama Kenzo has tabulated the raids by Wak6 ~n Korea during the period from 1375 to 1388:9



Number of Raids









Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)




















Toward the end of the fourteenth century a Korean leader, Yi Taijo, be- came famous for his success in protecting Korea from the Wako. It was he who founded the great Yi dynasty of Korea and who adopted a policy toward the pirates which tended to make them more interested in peace- ful trade than in piratical incursions into the interior. Consequently, by the beginning of the fifteenth century the attacks were reduced somewhat in number and intensity.

Although Japanese records provide no accurate data relative to the nature and amount of the loot taken by the Wako in the fourteenth century, most of the writers on the subject have concluded that precious metals and coins were the articles which they were most anxious to acquire. It is significant that the Shimazu family, which was in control of the Wako-infested coasts of Kyüshü, was collecting taxes in copper money as early as 1393.*

Kang0 Trade

In 1401 Yoshimitsu decided to reopen negotiations with the Ming Emperor. He indicated his willingness to suppress Japa:nese piracy and acccepted from the Ming Emperor the title, "King of Japan" (.Nihon Ko- kuo EJ~I~ ~) Such a reversa! of policy was undoubtedly due to his- need for money, as is pointed oµt by Yoshi S. Kuno: "Because of his imperative need for money, Yoshimitsu was ready to bow low befare a possible source of revenue, and even to barter the national honor and dignity of Japan for the trade privileges and other p'ecuniary conces- sions and grants that the Ming emperor was a ble to offer.' •l O It took sorne time to work out the details of the arrangement to carry on ''of- ficial trade" because the Ming officials wanted to make certain that each

Akiyama, Nisshi KOshO Shi, 491. Takekoshi draws this conclusion: uAfter the

civil war in the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties in Japan the coins in circulation were in shortage more and more. 1here was no alternative for

Japan but to obtain Chinese coins through the Wako trade

1he Wako, 65. In the same work he explains why there are no extant relics of ••

WakO plunder: " • copper coins

• " The Story of

the lfoko robbed the Mings of gold, sil ver bullion and

" !bid., 96.


Money Economy in Medieval J apan

ship was really sent by the Shogun and not by a leader of one of the hated Wako bands. The traditional certificates ( kangob~> * were used; a certain route had to be followed; the number of ships and the size of the crew were limited; the port of call, the ship's markings, the ceremonies to be followed were fixed; and even the food and clothing of members of

the mission were regulated.11

But finally in 1407 a mission from the

Ming Emperor arrived in Japan, and Yoshimitsu received as a "present"

It appeared that a

truly profitable arrangement had been made, but shortly after Yoshi- mitsu fell ill, and he began to fear that the deities were angered by his

decision to accept the harsh terms of the Ming Emperor. On his death bed he made his son promise that he would break off the agreement, and in spite of the requests and demands of the Ming Court, the wishes of Yoshimitsu were respected until 1432.

15,000 kan of copper coins and 1,000 ryo;r,f of silver.

When Yoshimitsu decided to cancel the arrangements he had made with China, efforts to check the activities of the Wako were discontinued and Wako depredations along the co~st of China again became a source of great anxiety to the Ming Court. 1 In the year 1429 a Korean official, who had just returned from Japan, included in his report considerable data concerning the Wako, and after mentioning dozens of places along the Inland sea where bases for such activities were located, he esti- mated that the number of men engaged in piracy ran into the tens of thousands and that the number of vessels was well above the one- thousand mark.13 It is clear that Wako organizations wex:-e no longer small isolated bands acting in contravention to local law, but that they were well-equipped and well-organized groups operating with the sup- port of powerful military lords of Western Japan. When Yoshinori,

1he patents were divided, one part being taken by the Japanese and another part retained in China. A mission fram Japan had to effect a joining of the patents at a specified place in order to obtain recognition as a bona fidi tributary


For details see Akiyama, Nisshi Kósho Shi,


t In the Nara era the Japanese had adopted the Chinese system of weights and there-

fore had two systems, the "big" (daishi> 1;;.ift4, ) and the "small" (shóshó1J' ;t.ií ). 1he "big" system was used for measuring silver, copper, etc., whereas the "smaIÍ" was used for other articles. By both systems the largest·unit was the kin, end

there were 16 ryo in a

the ryo was equivalent to 10 110-.e (or 37.5 grams), whereas in the "small" system

a ryo was equal to only 3.33 1101U1e (or about 12.48 grams).

ryo of the ''big" system was three times as large as that of the "small." Nihon

k in,


the si ze of

the ryo varied. In the "big" system

In otlaer words,


Keizai Shi Jiten,


364 and 808;

II, 966.

But at.about the middle oí the

fourteenth century the size oí the ryo was cut down to about one-half of its

at íirst at

least, to distinguish it fram the old ryo. It was equivalent to 4.5 •Olllle (or about 16.87 grams). Ryütsii Shi, 344. Therefore, 1000 ryo of silver, by the new system, was equal to about 16,800 grams or 540 oz. troy.

former size for the "big" system, and

the word ryO.e ~


was used,

Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


the grandson of Yoshimitsu, decided to reopen diplomatic negotiations once more,* the Chinese Emperor was far more co-operative than be- fore, since he was even more anxious to gain sorne relief from the Wako incursions. In return for Japanese promises to take positive measures in suppressing the Wako, the Ming Emperor relaxed sorne of the old restrictions. All trade, however, was to remain in the form of "tribute" to the Ming Emperor and '' gifts'' to the Shogun and his envoys. The Emperor established a new custom of sending, with ea.ch mission, a gift of 200 ryó of silver to the "King of Japan" andan additional 100 ryo to his "Queen." Japan was permitted to send three ships each year and each ship was allowed to carry 300 men. 14 The resumption of this "Kangó Trade" in 1432 marks the beginning of a new era in the mone- tary history of Japan, for after this date eleven missions were sent to China ( the last in 1547) , and each was responsible for the importation of a new supply of Chinese copper coins.

Shortly after the restoration of diplomatic relations five Japanese vessels sailed through the lnland Sea for China. They returned in 1434 carrying, among other things, 30,000,000 Chinese coins, a present from the Ming Emperor to the Shogun. The money, although termed a "gift," was considered compensation for 3,000 Japanese swords, valued at 1O,000 mon each, which the Shogun had sent to the Ming Court as "t.ribute:'In addition, Yoshinori received the 300 ryo of silver which became a customary "gift" to the Shogun and his wife and which was not considered compensation for "tribute" but rather a token of ap- preciation, it seems, for efforts made to suppress the Wako.l!>

The enormous profits gained from the first mission immediately prompted the Bakufu to send another. Again the ships carried 3,000

swords which were valued at

a return of 30, 000 kan, 16 but

ceive their money. Whether the Chinese were dissatisfied with the Japanese efforts to quell the pirates is not known. We do know that the third mission was not sent until 1451, and it is assumed that the failure to obtain the "gift" of copper coins at the time of the second mission accounts for the long delay, although it may also have been dueto the

chaotic political conditions which prevailed within Japan.

1O kan each and which should have yielded forsorne reason the Japanese did not re-

When the third "tributary mission" departed in 1451, it was made up of ten vessels that carried far more "tribute" than in 1432 and 1434.

Instead of 3,000 swords, there were now over 9,000; and instead of 23,000

kin of sulphur, there were 364,400 kin.

But the value set on the Japanese

• KlDlo writes that Yoshinori was an egotistic man of str<ng materialistic incli- nati<ns who hoped to gain trade concessions and grants from China and thereby to


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

articles was now much lower. The swords yielded only 6 kan, rather

than 10 kan, and sulphur brought only about one-half as muchas before. Consequently the total income from this mission, in copper coins, was only about 30,000 kan, roughly the amount obtained from each of the earlier I and muchsmaller. missions .1 7 However I the J apanese seem to have received also the 30,000 kan which the Chinese had failed to

hand over on the

total of 60,000 kan or 60,000,000 coins.

previous occasion, 18 and thus they brought back a

The fact that four of the ten vessels in this mission were sponsor- ed by lords of Western Japan has attracted sorne attention, for it indi- cates the beginning of a trend toward control of the "Kang0 trade" by the lords of Western Japan, who were also profiting from the Wakó operations. The ships in the first two missions had been sponsored by the Shogun or by lords and religious institutions located in the neighborhood of the capital. The tendency for Western lords to in- crease their hold on the trade suggests that because of their associ- ation with the Wakó who threatened, if they did not actually control, the sea routes to China, they were placed in a stronger Í!osition for in- sisting upon a greater share of the official "trade." 9

The impact of interna! political rivalries upon the "Kangc) trade" is more clearly reflected in the dispatch of the fourth "tributary" mission in 1468. Seventeen years had elapsed since the sending of the third one, and it is assumed that the delay was due not only to the poor return on "gifts" sent in the previous mission but to a failure to reach any agreement as to who should, or could, sponsor the ships. This was a period of constant interna! strife, and there were few military lords, or Buddhist institutions, who were sufficiently confident of their po- sition to undertake an expensive venture on which no return could be expected for at least two years, the time which generally elapsed be- fore the vessels returned. But finally Yoshimasa, who was then Shogun, found himself in such a difficult economic position that he decided in 1459 to try another "Kangó mission." He was a lavish spender and had done all that he could to obtain additional funds by making special as- sessments, by borrowing from the main temples in Kyoto and by sending envoys to Korea to see what money could be obtained there. Having de- cided to send another mission to China it took nine years to gather · enough funds to fit out the mission and to make all the necessary plans and arrangements. Finally when the mission got under way from the last Kyüshu port in 1468, it consisted of only three vessels; one was sponsored by Ouchi, the Western lord who was enriched by Wako ac- tivities, one by Hosokawa of the Kyoto area and the third by the Bakufu itself. The rivalry which complicated the formation of the mission also was a source of trouble during its passage to China, for en route the Bakufu vessel which was carrying the kangü ( patents) was stopped by


of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


Ouchi forces and the patents seized.20 On the return trip the Hosokawa and Bakufu vessels took the route south of Kyiishii to avoid the waters under the control of Ouchi. Akiyama has concluded that the whole ven- ture took on the aspects of a struggle for power between Hosokawa and Óuchi, and between the merchants of the Ouchi-controlled port of Hakata and those of the Hosokawa-controlled port of Sakai. 21 The Bakufu actually played a minor role in the mission. Yoshimasa made a special plea for 5,000 kan of copper coins but only 500 kan were received.22

A diary kept by one of the members of this mission shows that the lords who sent ships to China had adopted the practice of allowing merchants to carry on private trade in China. This assumption is based on an entry in the diary to the effect that there were eighteen "l,000 kan merchants" and eighteen "500 kan merchants" aboard.23 Japanese scholars have concluded that "1,000 kan" and "500 kan" represented sums of money paid to the sponsor of a shiQ by a merchant

for the privilege

interpretation is correct, a total of 27,000,000 mon ( or 27,000 kan)

was paid by these merchants. Presumably the private trade of the merchants accounted for the importation of a considerable amount of Chinese money, over and above the sum paid to the sponsors.

of boarding that ship to trade

in China. 2 4

If such an

Since ÓUchi was now in control of the patents, the Bakufu attempt- E!d, without success, to obtain new patents through the Koreans. But Ouchi was in no stronger position than the Bakufu with regard to organizing a mission, for the mission would not have been recognized in China without an official letter marked by the Chinese seal which had been presented to the Bakufu. 2 5 Finally an agreement was reach- ed between the two, and three ships sailed from Sakai in 1476; one was sponsored by the Bakufu, one by Ouchi and the third by the Sokoku Temple. To his official message Yoshimasa attached a petition which has been translated, quite freely, by Professor Kuno as follows:

Because of long-continued warfare in my humble state,


of the copper coins have been scattered and lost. 1he state coffers are completely empty. 1he land is laid waste. 1he people suffer

from extreme poverty.

We have absolutely neither means nor ways of

protecting and saving them. 1he books have also been destroyed by the weapons of the soldiers. lt has long been our custom to have copper coins and books provided us by the supreme nation. As the records show, in the Yung-lo era, [1403-1424] the imperial throne made abundant gifts of copper coins to our state. Recently no gifts of this sort have been sent. Nothing is now so ur~~ntly needed in our humble state as are books and copper coins. 1his

state of affairs is hereby reverently laid before the throne with


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

urgent hope for imperial consideration and grants.26

In reply the Ming Emperor Hsien-tsung wrote:

You, King,

have presented a memorial to our throne stating

that because of long-continued national disturbance in your

country your state coffers are entirely ernpty.

events that took place in the Yung-lo era, you have petitioned for a gift of copper coin from our throne so that you may save your people from distress. \\e have referred the matter to the Imperial Board of Rites for investigation. lhat Board has re- ported to the throne stating that there is no record that copper coins were ever given to the King of Japan by the throne. How-


throne for a grant,

we hereby speciall2 7 grant copper coins to you, amount to

thousand kan • • •

On the basis of

because your envoy, Myano,


has repeatedly appealed to our

lest we should disappoint you,


In the year 1480 Yoshimasa again initiated plans for another "Kan- go mission, '' which did not materialize until three years later. When it was found that sufficient capital was forthcoming from merchants at Sakai, it was decided that the Bakufu could send two vessels, instead of one, and that the third vessel should be sponsored by the Imperial Court. Since 6uchi was deprived of the opportunity of participating in the mission, the vessels were again forced to take a route that did not pass through Wako infested waters controlled by 6uchi. 28 From the petition which Yoshimasa sent with his official letter it is clear that his major purpose was to obtain a new supply of copper coins:

As our

hwnble state has long suffered from national disturbances and military onslaughts, our copper coins are exhausted. Nowhere in our land can a single copper coin be found. Our state cof- fers are all empty. We have nothing with which to protect and

look after the interests and welfare of the people. We are now sending an envoy to the throne. 0ur sole purpose in send- ing him is to find sorne way of saving our people from their

suf fering. ~e would appeal to the sympathy and merey


have a serious matter to present to the throne.

of our

sage Emperor for a grant of one hundred thousan·d kan of copper

coins so that our urgent need may be met. Should such a gift be granted, it would be esteemed as the greatest happening of our lives. lhis memorial is reverently presented for imperial consideration with an earnest hope that an imperial grant will be made. 29

Yoshimasa received the traditional gift of 300 ryo of silver, 200 for him- self and 100 for his wife, and since the 37,000 swords sent were valued at 3 kan each it is assumed that sorne 101,000 kan of copper coins

Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


were also received.30

aroused in the capital when it was heard that the envoys had decided that the southern route was too dangerous and that the ships should return

through Ouchi waters.

On the return trip considerable anxiety was

But as ÓUchi was promised a part in later mis-

sions. the ships were not molested. 31

A request for another Kango mission was made in 1485 by a Kyo- to temple which wanted funds for sorne construction work, and after the lapse of two years Yoshimasa decided definitely to approve the request.

Negotiations with Hosokawa and Ouchi were initiated, and finally it was agreed that six vessels should be included, three to be sponsored by Hosokawa ( or probably more accurately, the merchants of Sakai), two by Ouchi ( or the merchants of Hakata) and one by the Bakufu itself. The vessels sailed from Sakai with the official letters and patents in

1493. Again sorne 7,000 Japanese swords were sent as "tribute," but"

there was no longer the same demand for these weapons. The price had fallen from the early figure of 1O kan to 1.8 kan.32 Complete data as to the total amount of coins brought back by this mission is lacking but the swords alone must have accounted for 12,600 kan.

In 1498 several temples in Kyoto made a concerted effor.t to obtain approval for another Kango ( the eighth) mission, but dueto constant civil war and intense commercial rivalries betweep the two major ports of Hakata and Sakai. arrangements were not completed until

1506. The official envoys departed from Sumiyoshi in that year, but

the mission was held up tbree years at Yamaguchi and actually did not

reach Ningpo until 1511. This time Ouchi, and his Hakata merchants, sponsored two of the vessels, whereas Hosokawa backed one. Again 7,000 Japanese swords were presented to the Ming Court, and again they were valued at only 1.8 kan each.33 It is presumed, therefore, that 12,600 kan of copper coins were obtained by the Japanese. On the return trip the vessels were waylaid by 6uchi fo1·ces and the patents seized.

_ Because of the seizure of the patents by Ouchi. the rivalry between

Ouchi and Hosokawa reached the breaking point. Hosokawa insisted upon sending a mission ( the ninth) even without patents, and Ouchi sent ships to take advantage of the patents he had seized. The ships of both parties arrived at Ningpo in 1523, only about ten days apart. Al- most immediately fighting broke out between the two groups, resulting in considerable loss of life. The Ming Court was so disturbed by these developments that the Ningpo harbor was closed, resulting in the col- lapse of the official trade which had become so important to the Japa- nese. The Shogun sent a message to the Ming Emperor, requesting that the port be reopened and also asking that new patents anda new seal be granted to the Bakufu, explaining that the previously granted patents had


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

been seized on the return trip of the last mission and that the seal had been lost in a civil war. ÓUchi also tried to reestablish the legitimacy of his claims in a letter to the Ming Court.34

The Bakufu and Hosokawa eventually ceased preparations for send-

ing another mission ( the

The envoys succeeded in gaining admittance to the capital, obtaining new patents and getting Ningpo reopened. As "tribute" far more swords than usual ( 24,152) were presented, but the price was even lower. Now each

sword was valued at only 1 kan each. copper was presented to the Court.35

was received for this "tribute," more than

obtained, since the value of copper was about 1 kan for one kin.

tenth) but ÓUchi, in 1539, dispatched three ships.

In addition, over 300,000 kin of If an equivalent in copper coins

300,000 kan. must have been

The last Kang0

mission ( the eleventh) contained four vessels, all

sent by 6uchi. The Ming Court had become greatly concerned over the increase in Wako activities and did not permit the ÓUchi ships to land. After one whole year of waiting permission was finally granted. The mission returned to Japan in 1550, and one year later the "Kang0 trade" carne to an end. It is highly significant that this official trade was broken off at just the time that the Japanese were beginning to mint their own coins, rather than rely entirely upon coins imported from the continent.

Korean Trade

Even at the height of Japanese piracy along the coasts of Korea at the end of the fourteenth century Japanese officials in Kyüshii were mak- ing efforts to establish an official trade relationship. In 1378 more than 230 Koreans who had been taken ·prisoner by pirate bands were returned, in an attempt to gain the co-operation of the Korean government. When the Yi dynasty was established in 1392 a more liberal attitude toward Japanese trade was adopted by the Koreans, and feudal lords of Western Japan soon began to profit from a more active trade in Korean ports. The attention which Yoshimitsu gave to the suppression of piracy, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, provided a further stimulant to the trade which continued to expand throughout the fifteenth century. Be- tween 1450 and 1466 an average of four ships a year arrived in Korean ports from Japan, but in 1467 the number rose to thirty-three.36

An important feature of the Korean trade was the importation of copper coins into Japan. Korea had long minted copper coins, and with the establisnment of the Yüan dynasty in China, Chinese currency was adopted. Cloth, a traditional medium of exchange, was still widely used, but the government issued numerous laws to force the circulation of coins. Coinage was limited, however, by a lack of copper ore. In the active trade that developed between Japan and Korea during the fifteenth

Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


century, much of Korea •s supply of coins flowed into Japan. The govern- rnent took severa! measures to save her currency. It tried to restrict the exportation of copper coins and, when that failed, to limit the trade itself. In 1445 the monetary problems became so serious that cloth was again adopted as a medium of exchange. The situation did not improve and, shortly afterward, the currency was devaluated and the exportation of coins prohibited.37 However, the government was unable to enforce this prohibition, because a Japanese record shows that the huge number of 10,000,000 Chinese copper coins was received from Korea in 1458.*

There is evidence that during the subsequent period Korean re- strictions on the export of copper coins were more rigidly enforced. The Ashikaga Bakufu and the lords of Kyúshü began to send ships to Korea with the request that- copper money be paid for articles of trade, with the excuse that funds had to be obtained for the building of temples. For example, the Tenryü Temple sent a ship to Korea in 1462 with a letter from the Bakufu which requested that the Korean government per- mit the exportation of copper coins for the benefit of the Tenryü Temple. No coins, however, were obtained. After 1470 Ouchi and other lords of the West began to control the Korean commerce justas they were con- trolling Chinese commerce. They too attempted .to obtain copper coins from Korea by using the plea that the coins were to be used for rebuild- ing a temple. Such an attempt was made by Ouchi Masahiro in· 1473. He requested copper money for the rebuilding of a temple which had be been destroyed by fire. Yamana, Shimazu, Otomo and other lords made similar attempts after about 1477. In 1483 the lord of Tsushima succeed~ ed, in this way, in obtaining a sum of 1O,000,000 coins. There was a defi- nite decline in the number of Chinese coins brought into Japan from Korea during the sixteenth century. The Koreans had resorted, for the most part, to the use of cloth as a medium of exchange.38 But it is clear that during the long period when Japan was not minting her own coins the im- portation of coins from Korea added considerably to the sum total of those which were brought into Japan from the Asiatic continent.

Wako Trade and Piracy

Wako activities undoubtedly accounted for a large percent of the flow

of copper coins into Japan, even after the establishment of "official"


official trade relations with China in 1432, he had to promise to adopt

When Yoshimitsu's grandson, Yoshinori, undertook to reestablish

Zenrin KokuhO Ki,

quoted in Kobata, Ryütsü Shi,



1455 a

system was set

up in Korea w~ereby Japan was permitted to send only 50 ships to Korea each year. 1he Koreans also attempted to limit the ships to those sent by the Governor-


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

certain measures designed to suppress Japanese piracy. He promised to prohibit Japanese subjects from engaging in piracy, to maintain vessels along the coast to search out pirate ships, and to repatriate Chinese subjects captured by pirates. And yet there is little evidence that any positive effort was made to carry out these promises or that any appreciable results were achieved. Chinese records show that only a few ~ears later a pirate band with 40 vessels attacked villages on the coast. 9 There is no indication that the Ming Emperor held Yoshinori responsible for such outbreaks; he may well have realized the weakness of the Ashikaga Shoguns and possibly feared that any further pressure might CC;lUSe a disruption in the new trade relations and might there- fore result in a further increase of such piratical expeditions.

Although Korea was gradually freeing herself from Japanese piracy during the fifteenth century, there was no decline in such activities along the coasts of China. Chinese villages apparently provided more lucrative pickings and, of course, Chinese officials were not inclined to permit peaceful trade with any but those who carried the official patents. Also the central government of Japan was far too weak to carry out positive measures against the pirates, especially since they were organized into large bands under strong leaders who had the backing of powerful feudal lords in Western Japan.

Toward the middle of the sixteenth century Japanese piracy reached its highest point. Probably the most powerful and spectacular pirate leader was a Chinese by the name of Wang Chih ( Japanese pronunciation:

Ochoku)J. t! . About the year 1532 he became entrenched on the Goto Islands and by 1541 had gained such strength as a Wako leader that Matsuura Takanobu, one of the strongest feudal lordsof KyÜshÜ, invited him to live at the port of Hirado. It is said that Wang dominated most of the outlying islands of KyÜshÜ and that the pirates operating in the

China Sea were under his control. the middle of the century.40

He reached the peak of his power at

A clearer picture of what these bands were like and what they were doing may be obtained from the following account wM ch is believed to have been written sometime in the sixteenth century by a man who was a pirate himself:

C:Uring the Eisho and Taiei eras (1504-1527)

severa! warriors .

crossed the ocean to foreign lands, where they operated as pirates

and became wealthy. ed as their leader.

all kinds of things,• making themselves rich. lhey operated along

lhe pirates pillaged coastal towns and seized

• from islands


• off the coast of Iyo banded together and

Murakami 1.usho,

the lord of Noshima, was select-

·~ .11) &-~·

The phrase gi ves no clue as to the nature of the Kako loot.

Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


the coasts of Oiina

as far as the Philippines, Borneo, and Bah. Far severa! years they continued these forays • • . • In time rónin, • fisherrnen, scoundrels and others from the Kyüshü-Shikoku area joined the pirate bands, and gradually their size increased from eight or nine hundred to over a thousand men. Consequently, all the people on islands of the south- western seas were harassed by pirates. Even Ming 01ina feared them, andas a result sent out her huge armies [to drive them away]. Cliina also strengthened her coastal defenses. lt was at this tin1e that the piratea came to be known as W~o


, and among the islands of ti.e soutl1east,

Iida Koichiro of Oshima in the province of lyo and Kitaura Kan- juro of Momojima in the province of Bingo were the first [pirate leaders] to sail to foreign landa, pillage the coastal villages, steal property and ·enrich their families. lt is said tl1at at first the two leaders had only fifty or aixty men under them, but with each raid their profits mounted considerably and, as a result, the bands became larger and more powerful.

In foreign countries soldiers were drawn up to guard the coast against ourt raids. Consequently we increased our military atrength. lf we could not destroy the armies guarding the coast, we could gain no profit. lherefore, before setting sail we made complete prepara- tions for engaging such armies in battle. In regard to these prepara- tions, Wu and Sungtt had a large nud>er of guns and it became neces- sary to take proper counter measures. Toward the end of the lembun era (1554) we adopted the use of guns, which increased our military strength and enlarged the size of the pirate bands. In 1555 the nuni>er of men in the seven groups reached a total of more titan 1,000. Each ship was load- ed with 700 koku of rice. There were eight or nine main vesaels, the best of which were called Hagaibune • • . • . In 1563 our seven banda, totalling l,~O men, attacked Ping-hai in Ming Cliina ••.•• \le had one hundred and thirty-seven veasels of varioua sizes • • • • 1he total number of piratea of all classea reached the figure of 1,352 men, plua (i()O fishermen and the like who made up the crew. Of the above there were two or three hundred Oiinese piratea who had joined our r:mks •


This account is in error in indicating that Japanese piracy began as

late as the sixteenth century.

However, the contents suggest that the author was a member of a pirate band of Bingo and that his description of Wako activities was based on

The term Wako was also used much earlier.

Riinin -~

is the tel'lll applied to unattached aoldiers. lliring the laat hal! of

the fi~enth,and the entire aixteenth century, there were so llSJly interna! wars in Japan that the nudler of ránin increaaed tremendoualy. Many soldiera of a defeated army becmae r0nin, and muy others cho.e to becmie ránin in order to

aeek more adnntageoua emplO)Wellt.

t 1lle use of the word •reA, here auggiesu that the author wu one of the Wakó.

t+ lu

~ and Sung

~ were

probably usecl broadly


refer to <hins.


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

first-hand knowledge.

Chinese sources contain a fund of information relative to the upsurge

A tabulation of references in the Ming Shih

shows the follQwing number of Wako attacks on the Chinese coast fro-i:n-

1552 to 1563:4 2

of pirá.te activity after 1550.



Number of Raids


























The increase in the number of attacks during the 1550's is usually attributed to the weakness of the Ming government and to the inability of the Japanese to curb the pirates. A more plausible explanation, how- ever, was indicated in that part of the Wako source, translated above, which reads: "Toward the end of the Tembun era ( 1554) we adopted the use of guns, which increased our military strength and enlarged the size of the pirate bands." Firearms were first introduced by the Portuguese

in 1543.

1556, he was told that in the capital of the ·province of Bungo there were about 30,000 guns and that there were probably more than 300,000 in Japan.43 These figures may not be exact, but other evidence supports the conclusion that the Japanese were already manufacturing large numbers of matchlocks. Guns were first introduced in KyÜshü, and that island soon became a center for the manufacture of guns.44 It is not surprising, there- fore, to find that the feudal lords of that area were supplying firearms to the Wako at an early date.

When Pinto, a Portuguese adventurer, returned to Japan in about

Regarding the decline in the number of Wako attacks after 1560, Chinese accounts emphasize the importance of the strengthened military forces of the Ming government. In 1555 a large fort was built at Shanghai to protect the area around the mouth of the Whangpoo River from Wako incursions, and at least a dozen other forts were built at about the same time. 45 A more convincing explanation of the increased military strength of Ming China, however, has been presented by Akiyama who points out

Influx of Coins from the Continent ( 1300 - 1550)


that the Chinese began to rely upon military weapons introduced by the


Other important factors contributing to the decline of Wako raids in China were: ( 1) the competition, and opposition, of the lar ge Portuguese and Spanish ships, ( 2) the more frequent participation of Wako forces in the interna! wars of Japan, and ( 3) the extension of Wako operations to the islands of the South Pacific.

As late as 1582 a report was sent to the Spanish Governor General of the Philippines, Don Gonzalo Ronquillo, that a body of Japanese had ar- rived with twenty-six vessels under a man called Taifusa. An expedition was or.M'nized and the Japanese were finally"repulsed by means of artil- lery." The number of raids thereafter apparently increased, for in 1585 a '' strong memorial was forwarded to the Council of the Indies in Madrid recommending the establishment of a fleet in arder to protect the northern shores of Luzon ( i.e. Cagayan) from the raids of the Japa- nese."*

The death blow to the Wako was dealt by Hideyoshi after he con-

quered Kyüshü in 1588.

At that time he issued this arder against piracy:

Article 1: To maintain ships for the purpose of piracy and

to engage in piracy has been strictly prohibited.

lherefore, no-

where in the waters round ahout our nation should there be found

However, our government has recently been in-

any pirate ships.

formed that certain pírate ships are still operating in the waters

near the provinces of Bingo and lyo,

on other small islands.

as well

as on Izu (sic}


lhese offenders are hereby declared to

be outlaws.

Prompt and severe punishment is to be infl.icted upon


Article 2:

Officials of local governments and their deputies

shall SUlllllOll inmediately all the seafaring men who are engaged in


quire into their daily life and work.

satisfactory, they may be permitted to continue their work.

they should be required to make sworn statements before the gods


fishing, or other work in ships.

1hey shall carefully in-

If their explanations prove

All these sworn state-

ments should be forwarded to the governments of the respective feudal lords.

that they will never engage in piracy.

• M. T. Paske-Smith, 'lhe Japanese Trade and Residence in the Philippines, Before and during the Spanish Occupstion,' 1'ransactioos of the Asiatic Society, XLII, 2 (November, 1914), 692. As late as 1590 the strained relations that existed be- tween Japan and the Philippines was attributed to "the piratical expeditions to

Cagayan," which 0 had "by no means ceased with the repulse in 1&!2 of

the north of

Taifusa" and such expeditions "had often come down and interferred with the nati ves and veaaels trading to Manila. " Ibid., 695.


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

Article 3:

Henceforth, when, owing to the negligence or

wronsdoing oí Kyuj in or oí Ryoshu Llocal magistrates or owners oí

eststes along the coast], piratea shall be discovered operating

in the waters under their control,

Their estates

as well as their personal property will be coníiscated.48

be held responsible and will be severely punished.

the Kyujin or the Hyoahu will

It is difficult to determine just how many Chinese coins were im- ported into Japan by the Wako. Takekoshi has written that most of the

accounts dealing with their forays merely state that they brought back

4 9 However, tbere are sorne specific references,

"precious articles

such as the one in a Loochoo source which contains a description of an engagement with a Wako ship off the shore of Okinawa. As a result of the battle the Wako forces were defeated and ''the entire treasure of

coins which they had aboard was thrown into the ocean

koshi writes as follows regarding the importance of coins in Wako ---


"50 Take-

While the Government of Japan was doing ita utmost to make money by foreign trade, the Japanese piratea tried the more di- rect means of phmder, and as their loot was gold and silver, cop)'.l'.er coins, and other treasures, the wealth brought by them into' J(yushu, Shikoku, and the inland sea districts of the middle provinces of Japan is beyond estimation, and in due course this looted treasure brought a new life into the whole country •• • How much wealth those Japanese brought over to their country is not known. We only knaw that Üichi, who possessed only a part of Suwo and Nagato Provinces and was a supporter oí ltako and a trad- er, was far richer than any other feudal lord.51


Japanese Copper and Copper Coins

The rise in the productive capacity of Japanese mines after 1540, and the subsequent resumption of coinage, were basic factors in Japan's economic prosperity of the last half of the sixteenth century. Copper had already become prominent as an export in the fifteenth-century trade with both China and Korea, but after about 1540 copper and silver pro- duction soared and silver suddenly became the most important ítem of export. From the sale of copper abroad the Japanese obtained Chinese copper coins, and from the subsequent sale of silver they received arti- cles that found a ready market in Japan and that, therefore, contributed greatly to the further expansion of money economy. After 1575 there was also a vast new output of gold, and although, unlike copper and silver, it did not figure in Japan's exports, it played a major role in the monetary developments of the period. Toward the end of the sixteenth century large quantities of all three of these precious metals were used in making coins to fill the growing demand for a more adequate supply of acceptable money.

Copper Mining

The location and productive capacity of the fifteenth-century copper mines are not definitely known, but records show that the metal which was shipped to China in 1434 originated in the provinces of Tajima, Mi- masaka, Bitchü and Bizen.1 The most productive mine was apparently

province of Iwami. 2

the amounts sent to China and Korea suggests a definite increase in the total copper output. The official mission to China of 1451, consist-

ing of ten ships, carried 154,500 kin of copper, whereas the mission of 1539, which was made up of only three ships, carried 298,500 kin. 3

A similar increase is noted in the trade with Korea. 4

the major item of export at a time when the total volume of trade was increasing by leaps and bounds.

at Dógamaru~~lftL

in the

The sharp rise in

Copper became

It should be pointed out, however, that the export of larger amounts

of copper was probably not due entirely to improved mining and metal-

lurgical techniques and to the discovery of new mines.

the Japanese copper ore had a high silver content and sometime during the sixteenth century, if not earlier, the Chinese and Koreans developed

For one thing,


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

a method of extracting the silver, thereby creating a greater demand for Japanese copper. Furthermore, it is to be remembered that toward the close of the fifteenth century the trade with China, as well as that with Korea, had fallen largely into the hands of western lords, such as Ouchi, who were in control of areas where copper was·mined. Possibly copper ore was not so readily available for missions sent from Hyogo and Sakai. One other factor, too, may have had sorne bearing upon the shift toward copper: the decline in the Chinese demand for Japanese swords. So many swords had been sent to China that the value had dropped sharply, indicating that they were something of a glut on the market. These factors undoubtedly had considerable effect on the sale of copper abroad, and yet there was certainly an increase in the pro- duction of copper, even before the turn of the sixteenth century.

A new era in copper mining dates from the digging of a mine shaft



.lj ~

in 1526.*

Prior to

this time all mining

by Kamiya Jutei

seems to have been limited to the use of pits and trenches. It is not

clear whether Kamiya introduced the use of diagonal slopes or hori- zontal shafts, but it is comparatively certain that he made great ad- vances beyond surface mining. 5 At about the same time a new method of smelting, known as the yamashitabuki ¿J.¡ ~ .,_x process,t

was introduced.

been described by Nishio as follows:

It superseded the mabuki ¡


oX technique which has

lhe ore was first crushed to separate the waste; the prepared rich ore was then roasted with fuel to drive off the sulphur (roast-

ing stage); next the roasted ore was melted by a strong blast,

duced by a bellows, so as to separate part of the iron which combines with the flux to form slag. 1hus a matte was produced .••• 6


With the adoption of the yamashitabuki process the smelting operation was divided into two stages. The first stage ended with the making of the matte, as described above. The second stage consisted of re- smelting the matte in an open hearth with a strong draft. By following this improved method of smelting, a better grade of copper was ob- tained. 7

A few years later a method of separating silver from copper ore was used by Kamiya at his mines in the province' of Iwami. The exact nature of the process, called rensuiyo it "X f:S or "chain-smelting," is not definitely known. It was probably a liquation process involving the

• The ahaft was called a 11abu flj., , Gin.ian Kyü Ki




(Old Account of

Silver Mines), quoted in Kobata, 'Cliüsei SandO Shi Ko,' 172.

t lhe name originated with the village oí Yamashita, where the procesa -•

introduced; Takimoto, Nihon Sangya,

IV, 450.


Japanese Copper and Copper Coins


use of a crude furnace to melt the ore and thus to separate the metal

from impurities.

The lead and silver were

then heated in cups in a low furnace with a bottom of ashes to obtain

the less fusible metals as a porous mass.

The melted lead and silver were carried off, leaving

the silver.

the introduction of the liquation process made the mining of copper a

far more profitable enterprise.*

Sinee the Japanese copper ore had a high silver content,

The output of copper was further increased by the discovery of severa! new deposits. After 1570 mines were opened: ( 1) at Kawa-

kami >•I .J:: in the province of Harima, ( 2) at Akazawa Jk, 5f in Hitachi

( 3)

Copper was also discovered in the province of Iwashiro in 159510

at Ashio JI: JL in Shimotsuke in 161 O. 11 The mine at Ashio is still the most important copper mine in Japan.

at Ani fóJ 1;:

in Ugo. 8

and ( 4)

at Gendo Jt f~

in Mutsu. 9


The utilization of more advanced mining and metallurgical methods together with the discovery and exploitation of new deposits, contributed much to the increased production of copper in the sixteenth century. However, the activity was due, in part, to an increased demand in Japan for copper. Three developments of the period operated to stimulate such a demand: the introduction of firearms; the growing popularity of the tea ceremony which created a greater demand for copper utensils; and the increasing inadequacy, both in quantity and quality, of the Chinese coins which intensified the need for copper coins struck in Japan.

The actual amount of copper mined after 1570 is not known, but by the close of the century the principal mines of Japan were being worked. After 1610 the Dutch merchants alone shipped out approximately 25,000 piculs of copper each year, and it is estimated that the Chinese also were taking out an equal amount.12

• H. H. Manchester,

'Mining in Old Japan, lhe Bronze and lron Ages--Methods of Re-

covering Gold and Silver--lhe Reduction of Lead Ores,' Engineering and Mining Jouma.l-Press, C::XV, 20 (May 19, 1923), 889-93. lhe same subject is covered in Nishio Keijiro, 'Transmission of Liquation Process,' Jouma.l of Mining ~ssocia.tion

of Ja.pan, 452 (October, 1922), 682-85. Kobata is of the opinion that Kamiya learned the process fran Cliinese at Hakata; 'lwami Linzan no Kenkyü,' 62. A

J:orean source, however,

jong Si llOk ~ .f~f *f •i (Reign of Cliungjong Ll506-1545] in the Yi Annals),

of separatin!, silver fran copper ore by contact with Korean minera.

Yijo C1wng-

discloses the view that the Japanese learned the method

quoted in Kobata,

garding Kamiya' s process: "lhe

learnt mining and metallurgy, and on returning brought about a remarkable change

in Japanese mining, is not so famous as that of sorne rowdy among Hideyoshi's followers who became a lord• ; Econ011ic History, I, 370.

'lwami Ginzan no Kenkyü,' 62.

Takekoshi wrote as follows re-

name of Kamiya, who went to Cliina; where he

Japanese Copper and Copper Coins


in Japan generally were placed in that category. The types of coins which were classified as "bad coins" varied with the time and locality, but for the most part, they were those pieces which people refused to accept. For many years all coins cast in Japan were so classified, but

there were others, such as those counterfeited in China,• obsolete coins, and defaced coins. 14 Most Japanese scholars writing on the subject agree, however, that it was the privately minted copper coins of Japan that made up the largest portion of the pieces which were rejected as

"bad coins


A study of the monetary laws after 1485 shows that there was a sharp increase in the number of "bad coins" and that a larger number of coins was removed from the category of "bad coins." In other words, since Japanese copper pieces constituted such a sizeable portion of the money which was being rejected, the above trends sug- gest that more coins were being made in Japan and that gradually more of them were being circulated as money.

In 1485 Ouchi, who was in control of most of the copper producing districts of 4"apan, ordered that ''In the payment of special assessments

( tansen};



a sum of 100 mon shall contain 20 ~

of Eiraku

ttt coins:"l"6"

enforcing the circulation of two different Chinese coins, and it seems,

therefore, that Japanese coins were not yet a serious problem. But by


tf or Sentoku 'i 1t•

The law aimed primarily at

1512 the situation had changed.

The Ashikaga Bakufu promulgated a

law in that year which contained the following clauses: "Ofthe Japanese coinstttt the better grade Eiraku, KateiJ; ;t ttttf and other coins

fñigaku Zauhi,


12, p.


In mny of the disagreements between

Japanese and Cllinese merchanta,

the counterfeit Cllineae coins were frequently

a source of friction,

as in

the case of the riots of 1523.

Shi, 202-3. t Tansen refera to money aaseaaed on each tan of rice bnd.

Kobata, Ryütaü


such an

aaaessment waa generally for meeting a apecific expense of a lord, temple

or shrine,

such u

a trip to the capital or the

building of a new hall.

Nihon Keiiai Shi Jiten,



tt Eiraku (Cllinese pronunciation Yung~lo)is the n1111e for the Cllinese era ( 1403-24) during which these particular coina were minted. 1hey were first coined in 1411 and were probahly the moat popular of all the Cllinese coins imported into Japan. In some parta of Japan the firat part of the word waa uaed to

form the word Eidau.fe-,\

which ceme to mean• mnount of l!Qley."

For des-

cription of these coins see Polder, loe. cit., pp. 419-500.

ttt Sentoku (Cllineae pronunciation H•iian-te)

is the name of the Oiineae era of


1426-35. 1he coins called by this name were lllinted in 1434. Shiba, loe. cii., XLII, 12, 1395.

OtilenHt 4\, , li terall y

lmcl maaey." Shib& is of

the opinion, however,


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

which have inscriptions on their backs shall be considered good coins All coins with slight defects, except for /defective7 Japanese and



shall be

considered good coins-:" 17

In the period after

1485, Japanese coins had not only become a subject of monetary laws but certain types were apparently accepted as good coins. It is con- cluded, therefore, that many Japanese pieces were already in circulation.

The trend toward the inclusion of more types within the category of good coins is further exemplified by the following clause in the Asai law of 1566: "All coins, except Ware and Uchihirame .:1-J-f- f coins without inscriptions, shall be accepted in all payments, including the payment "

of taxes .•

a law promulgated by Oda Nobunaga in 1569. It reads, in part, as fol-



The culmination of the trend, however, is found in

Koro, Sentoa&, Yake and all other old coins shall circulate aa [good coins].

Eaiyo, Okake, Ware, and Suri coins all shall circulate at one-íifth [the value of good coins]. Uchihiraae and N~kinttcoins shall circulate at one-tenth

[the value of good coins]. be rejected:

Other "bad coins"

shall not

Special assessments, land taxes, money paid in lieu of public <1ervices, the selling of gold and silver, trade in Cltinese goods and silk, the pawning of goods, the sale of grain etc.--all shall be handled at the [above] fixed rate of exchange, which is in acco~d­ ance with the current market price. 1here shall be no raising of prices under the excuse that the coins are good or bad. In all trade tranaactions one·half of the amount shall be paid in good copper coins and the other half with inferior copper coins.ttt In other respecta the transactions shall be in accordance with the desires of the parties concerned. Buying and selling of bad copper money is strictly forbidden.

that it means •Japaneae coins."

Loe. cit., XLIII,

2, 267.

ttttt•Shiba believes that Eiraa& and Katei (Cltinese pronunciation <Jiia-ting) coins were counterfeit coins bearing those n~s. rather than official Cltinese era


Loe. cit.,


1he only Cltinese era having the latter name was that

dated 1208-25. • 1 have not been able to identify Ware coins, ·

t 1he uchihiraae coins have been the subject of considerable disagreement, but

but the word suggests that they

were defaced pieces.

Shiba holds that they were counterfeit coins made in Cltina.

Loe. cit.,

p. 246.

tt 1he Nankin coins are believed by Shiba to have been counterfeit coins,

loe. cit.,

ttt 1.0.sen ,, a


Kobata is of the opinion that they were made in Japan, op. cit., 83.

Japanese Copper and Copper Coins


Any person forcing his way into a market or causing any distur-

bance at a time when the value of a copper coin may not yet have been

established, shall be detained and reported.

report such an offense shall likewise be considered an offender.

Any person not confonning to the above articles shall be ap- prehended inmediately and punished.19

Any person failing to

The Nobunaga law mentioned no coins that were to be rejected, and a

rate of exchange, based on market prices, was established.

Thus, coins

struck in Japan were to be accepted as money, although at a fixed rate.

Additional evidence of a larger number of coins made in Japan is to be found in the increased use of ''bad coins'' in various types of transactions. After 1538 numerous deeds, bills of sale and mortgages showed that "bad coins" were used. Such documents appeared more frequently in western provinees, and after Nobunaga's order of 1569 they became quite common. Thereafter "bad coins" were given as offerings to temples, and to pay freight charges, harbor dues and the like. 20 As late as 1591 Hideyoshi levied a special tax on his retain- ers amounting to 5 kan of "bad money'' for each 1,000 koku of their fiefs. 21 Of course, after 1572 the larger transactions were gener- ally in gold or silver.

For the period prior to Nobunaga's order, there exist very few direct refei-ences to private coining. However, an account of the Eiroku era ( 1558-1570) states that Yamana entered the city of Kyoto and had sorne bronze Buddhist statues rnelted down for the purpose of casting coins. 22 Takekoshi also writes that copper coins were rnade in the province of Kai as early as 1512 and that in those years rnany copper coins were produced in the Kyoto area.*

There is sorne evidence that Nobunaga, irnrnediately after he enter-

ed Kyoto, had sorne silver and gold coins rninted.

cation that official copper coins were struck until the Tensho Tsiiho ~

But there is no indi-

This issue con-

JE i! f

coins were rnade in 1587 by Hideyoshi.23

tained silver and gold, as well as copper, pieces. Five years later there was another issue, with coins rnade of all three rnetals, called the Bun-

and in 1601

systern was established in which copper coins were an integral part.25 The shift away frorn the use of Chinese money was clearly indicated by a law of 1608 which prohibited the circulation of old Chinese copper Eiraku coins. 26

roku Tsüho

il 1f. 24

a cornparatively unified Cü"rrency



• Takekoshi, Econoaic tfi1tory,

1, 262.

Contemporary chroniclea show that coina

were cast in several localities, and books on numismatics contain illustrations

of nmierous coins from various provinces. coins cannot be definitely dated.

Unfortunately, however, moat of the


Use of Copper Coins

The influx of Chinese coins from the continent, together with the minting of coins in Japan, added much to the sum total of metallic money available to the Japanese. Unfortunately for the monetary historian, however, no statistical annuals or reports were made in Japan in those days, and we therefore have to rely upon rather indi- rect evidence not only to determine the approximate number of coins in circulation, but also to establish the velocity of the circulation and the effect of this circulation upon the economic life of the period. In order to arrive at a more definite understanding of the importance of copper coins as a catalytic agent in the development of a more com- plex exchange economy, it is necessary to examine contemporary diaries, chronicles and records which may supply information con- cerning the nature and importance of the various exchange operations in which copper coins were used as money.

Temple Donations and Gifts

The Buddhist temples were among the last to give up the use of coins and to turn to rice and silk as money d\lring the tenth and eleventh centuries, and they were among the first to accumulate stores of wealth in terms of copper coins once largé quantities of Chinese coins began to pour into the country after the middle of the twelfth century. It is significant, therefore, that it was in the transfer of large sums of copper coins between temples in Kyoto and Kamakura in the thirteenth century that bills of exchange were first used. With the out- break of civil wars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the large temples, in many areas, retained control over their extensive landed estates and, in sorne cases, even enlarged them - - frequently with the help of armed men. Therefore, donations of copper coins to the temples increased in number and size. One temple in Nara received a total of 100,000 ~in offerings during the year 1484.1

In addition to gifts from worshippers, large donations were re- ceived from local lords who were attempting apparently to gain the backing of these rich and powerful institutions. The same Nara temple mentioned above received a gift of 25,000 mon in 1507 from a local military lord by the name of Akazawa, 2 and under similar circum-


Use of Copper Coins


stances a feudal lord, Matsunaga, made a donation of 36,000 mon to the same temple.3 When Nobunaga was making his bid for political su- premacy, he made even more liberal gifts. At the time of his entrance into KyOto in 1568 he presented 2,000,000 monto temples and shrines

in the provinee Settsu "to help them repair damages." At about the

same time he gave 20,000,000 monto religious institutions in the city

of Sakai.4 The extensive use of copper coins to gain the support of

strong Buddhist temples suggests that the remarkable political centrál - ization of the last half of the sixteenth century might not have been possible without a large supply of copper coins to facilitate the hand- . ling of such deals.

As certain military leaders attained greater authority over larger

areas of Japan, the Buddhist institutions found that their positions had greatly changed. Instead of receiving large gifts in return for politi- cal, and in sorne cases military, support, it was now often necessary

to pay the military lords large sums of money for •'protection.'' When

an army entered a town, or temple compound, the soldiers considered the place as fair game for looting until a "prohibition order" ( kinsei jórei ~ $'J-~f;Uj ) was posted. Such an order was signed bythe military lord and prohibited all soldiers from creating disturbances or from damaging property. When Nobunaga's forces entered Nara in 1558, the city obtained a "prohibition order" but a high price had to be paid for it, as we can see from an entry in a Nara temple diary: '' Recently Nara received a 'prohibition order'* ( signed) by Kazusa. t An exces- sive amount of money was demanded as compensation (for the order) tt

and, consequently, the city officials are being severely criticized. More

than 1,000 kan may have been demanded


Six days later the follow-

ing entry was made in the same diary: "In regard to the money demand- ed by the Owari forces ttt as payment for a 'prohibition order, •tttt fourteen or fifteen different types of assessments have been levied. They range from 3 kan 200 mon down to 50 mon. Thc peasants at Ta-

monzan are complaining. It is unfortunate. The Buddhist halls as well as the temple dwellings have been subjected to assessments." 6

A similar demand of 5,000,000 mon was made by Nobunaga on the Hon-

ganji Temple, and 20,000,000 mO'ñWas the amount demanded from lshi- yama Temple and the city of Sakai.7 A cursory glance through the best collection of historical materials for the period reveals that a

In this case: bOgyo •eisatsu

P~ 'I! ~J IL



a retaine~ oí Nobwiaga who had the title oí Kuuaa no Kami • .

tt flanzeni


ftt Probably referring to Nobwiaga's forces, from the province of Owari.

tfff Seisatsuzeni

fr'J l{. t1:.

becaume Nobunaga ceme originally


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

large proportion of tbe documents are "prohibition orders•• signed by military barons.8 If we assume tbat eacb was tbe occasion for a gift of copper coins, it can be seen tbat tbe practice accounted for a large monetary income.

Political Güts and Assessments


The military leaders who succeeded in establishing political unity in Japan toward tbe end of the sixteenth century by no means relied

solely upon military conquest.

greater power were facilitated by alliances and agreements tbat were based upon judicious and liberal güts of money, not merely to Buddhist temples, but to otber military leaders and to officials of the Imperial


was bis alliance with Ashikaga Yoshiaki, a pretender to the office of


1,000,000 monto Yosbiaki,9 and when Yoshiaki was finally installed as Sbogun, Nobunaga furtber strengtbened bis position in the capital by

presenting the Imperial Court with 100,000 mon. lO

gold and silver money became more widely used, copper ceins did not

often figure in such high-level political arrangements.

Many of tbeir steps in the acquisition of

One of tbe key moves made by Nobunaga in bis rise to power

In the arrangements we know that Nobunaga made a gift of

In later years, as

Copper coins were also frequently given by a feudal lord to bis men, not as salaries but as rewards for meritorious service. Because of tbe large number of unattached warriors, wbo were constantly on tbe alert for more advantageous employment, a successful baron tried to gain a reputation for being a liberal donor of coins. Festivals, victorious campaigns, the opening of a new castle or mansion, a tea ceremony - - all were proper occasions for gifts of money. Hideyoshi even initiated tbe practice of distributing coins during a military engagement, in order to stir bis men to greater endeavor-.

Tbe retainers also made presents of money to their feudal lord.


seems that tbe practice arase from a desire to enhance their standing

and to obtain promotions.

customary, and the following ítem in a contemporary chronicle of Kaga shows that, in that province at least, they were almost compulsory:·

Gradually, however, such gifts became

"ben Maeda Toahiie returned to K.nazan.

after the Korean


offer their New Year greetings.

and Toahiie's leading retainera were to presenta gift of 1,000 llOI, and thoae retainers holding a fief of leas than two or three thouaand kolw were to give 500 llOR. The others were to give 300 Each man was ordered to present his gift personally .•. [Later) Toshiie sumnoned eleven retainers and pointed out that


the retainera were ordered to appear in fonnal dreaa to

1he meai>era of the Maeda fmly

Use of Copper Coins


they had not come to pay their respects at New Year's and that

they had not made a present of 2,000 (sic)

lord had been absent for a long time.

satisfaction with these retainers and had their names recorded

lfor future referenceJ • • • .11


even though their

Toshiie expressed his dis-

Sales and Purchases

References in sixteenth century accounts disclose that coins had come to be widely used as money for ordinary purchase and sale of commodities. In the hundreds of such items entered in the Tamon In Temple Diary, which covers most of the sixteenth century, few in- dicated barter transactions. Tamaizumi, in bis statistical analysis of land deeds, found that an increasingly large proportion of the deeds quoted prices in copper money. For the entire Ashikaga era he found that more than 90 per cent of all deeds examined showed that prices were in coins, and less than 10 per cent in rice. His results for the Ashikaga era have been tabulated as follows: 12

















































































Unfortunately Tamaizumi did not carry his research bcyond the Ashikaga


undoubtedly have shown an even more complete shift to the use of metal- lic currency, because of the resumption of coinage by the Japanese and because of the efforts of certain military leaders to prohibit the use of other types of money.

A similar analysis for the last years of the sixteenth century would

In 1569 Nobunaga issued an arder which marks a milestone in

monetary history.

It reads as follows:


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

Buying and selling with rice [as a medium of exchange] is prohibited. •

Sales in vol ving more



k in

of thread, 10 kin of drugs,

10 rolls of damask or 100 teacups,

or silver.

authorized good copper coins shall be used.

6hall be made with either gold


if neither gold or silver is available,

Large quantities of

Chinese goods shall also be handled with gold and silver.

small sales shall be made with any authorized medium of exchange.


heavily fined.


if anyone trades secretly in gold or silver,

he shall be

Ten ryo of gold shall be equal to 15 kan [of copper coins];

ten ryo of silver shall be equal

All purchases shall be made, and all loans from temples and pawnshops shall be repaid, with legal media of exchange. How- ever, debts in gold and silver shall be repaid in gold or silver. If gold or silver is not available, the debt shall be repaid with authorized good money.


2 kan.

Any person who gains profits from [arbitrarily]

fixing the

value of copper coins [offered in exchange for] articles of sale,

shall be sent from the province and shall be prohibited from carrying on business in that province thereafter.

The exchan8e of gold and silver in connectibn with any trans-

action is strictly forbidden,

such a dealer shall not be honored • . • •

and gold and silver received from

Fines for offenses in [the use of] money:

In offenses in-

volving swns ranging from one to one hundred copper coins,

fine shall be 1,000 111on;

Offenses involving

other sums of money shall be dealt with in accordance with this scale.

hundred coins the fine shall be 10,000 mon.


for sums amounting to more than one

Any person who violates these monetary regulations shall be

punished by his village;


vidually responsible.

be reported.

shall be rewarded with a gift of 500 copper coins.13

if the village fails to perform that

and indi-

any troublesome person should

acts of a person

all persons therein shall be held collectively


Any report regarding the illegal

This order not only made it illegal to use rice as a medium of exchange but it established a fixed rate of exchange between copper, gold and silver coins and designated the type of transactions in which the various types of coins were to serve as legal tender. Such measures were proof that copper coins were b 0 eing widely circulated as money in trade trans- actions. They also tended to increase circulation for they provided

•In Takekoshi's Economic History, l, 375, the following conment was made concern-

ing Nobunll{;;a' s monetary law. "In the first article trade in rice

This is an erroneous interpretation of the original text: V'Á 1\.;f


was prohibited."

J 1.J. ~



Use of Copper Coins


standards which added to the acceptability of coins.

Bills of Exchange

The increased use of bills of exchange in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was not merely another manifestation of a greater circulation of copper coins but also served to increase the velocity of circulation. When payments were made with bills of exchange, the available supply of coins served the functions of money in a greater volume of trade.

After the establishment of the Ashikaga Bakufu in 1338, the local feudal lords began to rely upon bills of exchange as a means of sending their taxes to the capital. Large temples, which had fiefs and branch temples in outlying areas, used bills in preference to sending coins. The advantage of this method was outlined in 1380 by one of the officials of a Toji Temple fief in the province of Suo: ''When we send a sum of 20 kan to the Toji Temple, we face the danger of having the money lost on the way in rough seas, etc. Furthermore, there frequently is no available vessel. A bill will arrive within the year, and the temple can

have it cashed immediately in Hyoho of Sakai


With greater circulation of coins during the fifteenth century, the use of bills of exchange was extended to all types of commercial trans- actions. Gradually the temples lost their monopoly as dealers in bills as commercial institutions called the toimaru r~ ~ ' frequently translated "monopoly merchants," expanded their operations into the field. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the toimaru became commercial agents for the heads of manors. They marketed the rice, operated inns and warehouses and, in general, managed all the commercial operations of a manar, or severa! manors. During the fifteenth and sixteenth cen- turies the toimaru expanded their búsiness to include trading in many types of commodities. They bought and sold agricultu.ral, marine and industrial products. With such expansion of business, toimaru were operating not only in the large ports but in trading centers in the in- terior. Many of the toimaru, particularly in such commercial c:enters as Sakai. Nara, Kyoto, Hyógo and Hirose, accumulated such stores of capital and had such extensive commercial connections that they could handle bills of exchange more easily and efficiently than the temples.15

Along with this development certain changes in the form of bills

were made.

The following is an example of one drawn in the fifteenth



10 kan.


The above amowit of money i'!s to be paid to Jiro of Sakai. Honor this bill without question.


2nd day,


12th 111>0n,

~in 1

( 1467)



Money Economy in Medieval Japan

[Written on the reverse side:] In locating Hiko~r0, ask for Hirosetsu at the Bitchü shop. in KitanoshO, Saka1.l

The above bill was sent from a Toji Temple fief in Bitchu, and the drawer was probably a dealer in the province. In comparison with earlier bills this had the added features of an affixed seal, the name of the receiver, the omission of any reference to a period of payment ( apparently making it payable at sight), and the payment of the bill by a commercial dealer, not a temple.

There are many indirect indications of a more extensive reliance upan bills of exchange during the sixteenth century, such as the plea

made to the Ashikaga Bakufu in 1526 by merchants of Kyoto that the im-

pending tokusei ( debt

There are also references to unusually large amounts of money being remitted by bills. 17 For example, in a record of 1569 it is stated that 200,000 mon was drawn by Goroemon of Temba on an exchange house, named the "Daimonjiya."* Financia! arrangements of this type obvious- ly increased the velocity of the circulation of copper coins, and after about 1580 they also increased the velocity of the circulation of gold and silver coins.

cancellation) arder exclude bills of exchange.

The Dosó

Credit institutions, like bills of exchange, not only provide ad- ditional evidence of a wider circulation of coins but also served to in-

crease the velocity of circulation.

In other words, accumulated capital,

instead of being removed from circulation through saving and hoarding, was made available through credit institutions to individuals who had use for the funds. The various credit organs, as far as we know, had not yet

introduced the practice of making loans from funds placed with them on deposit, but nevertheless their operations are a highly significant fact in Japan's medieval expansion of money economy

The institution which was most active in the credit business during the medieval period was the doso. The term is frequently translated as "pawnshop," but during most of the period it accepted immovable, as

well as movable,

period the doso also made loans on shiki-"t or feudal rights, so it was more than a pawnshop. We have already seen that by 1336 it had become sufficiently important to warrant a separate article in the new legal

property as security for loans. Toward the end .of the

• Yamashina, /(otots~ /(ya f(i, IV, 364. The Dai110t1j iya A.-* appears to have been a trade name for one of the specialized dealers in bills of exchange.

Use of Copper Coins


"code" of that year,* and in spite of the constant military strife and general political chaos which prevailed thereafter, it is certain that the doso not only was making loans on more kinds of security but that it wasdoing a much larger business.

An outstanding feature of the expansion of the doso during the fifteenth century was the part it played in the numerous peasant up-


or •'uprisings /Of people demanding7 a debt cancellation order.' 't The debts which they wished to be cancelled were principally those owed to the doso. To show the relationship between the peasant up- risings and the business of making loans let us look at the uprising

of 1428.

These uprisings were generally called tokusei ikkUf,~--.t-1.:­


The disturbance first arose among men working in the horse- express business in the province of Omi. These discontented men be- gan to gather in various places to discuss their common grievances. Their numbers were increased by other dissatisfied peasants until the gathering reached the proportions of an unruly mob. They then headed for the nearest pawnshop, wine shop or temple -- where there were warehouses filled with pledges that had been given as security for loans at high rates of interest. On their way the people shouted that a debt cancellation order had been granted, or was going to be granted, and consequently others joined their ranks. Upon arriving at the pawnshops, wine shops or temples, they forced their way into the warehouses, seized the pledges and destroyed the loan contracts. Word of these activities spread and other mobs gathered in other areas. After several days, and after it had become clear that the situation was getting worse, the central military governmem issued an order forbidding such disturbances, and finally dispatched troops. Even with the use of military force, the mobs could not be quieted and the government finally granted a partial tokusei. All cebtors were allowed to reclaim their pledges upon the payment·of one-third of the



f 111e tokusei of the Ashikaga era have been studied by Miura Hiroyuki ffóseiShi no Kenk)'U (Continuation to: Studies in the History of Law)

in Zoku


lwanami Shoten,

closely associated, have been the subject of three studies by Nakamura·Yoshi-


the Early Period) Shakai Keizai Shigaku 11, 10 (January, 1933), 1009-64;

( 2). •()iin Izen no Tsuchi


1925), 1203-49.

lhe uprisings, with which the tokusei were




(Peasant Uprisings of

-*- - ~fi:: ( Peasant Uprisings


'Shoki no Tsuchi

lkki' ;f(.!} I~'

lkki' ~. ~.:. "~ °fj '

1467)~ ~óhoku 1eikoku lJaigaku_Hobungakubu Kinen RaashU ~ ;t, ·J 1

~.t.f.Jpte. ~ táJ.,, and (3)

~f 'CAtin Bwnnei Nenkan no Tsuchi lkki to Toku-

sei' (Orders of Debt Cancellaticn and Peasant Uprisings IAlring the Period

1467 - 1486), Shigaku Zasshi XLV, 6 (June, 1934), 671-707; 7 (July, 1934), 830-60; and 8 (August, 1934), 964-93.


Money Economy in Medieval Japan


rect action to places engaged in making loans and that the uprisings re- sulted in a tokusei, it would appear that the credit operations consti-

tuted the main source of discontent.

In vie}V of the fact that the mobs seem to have limited their di-

That the business of loaning money continued to be a source of trouble is obvious from an order, issued ten years later, to the effect that: ''Any person who borrows an excessive amount of money and who, after spending the money, demands a cancellation of debts because he

finds himself in difficulties actions are strictly forbidden

further uprisings, since in 1441 there was another one, and in this case

an even broader cancellation of debts had to be granted. The articles of the tokusei order pertaining to loans made by doso read as follows:

has committed a serious offense. Such 1a But the order did not prevent

Certificates of loan,t including those with tokusei clauses, tt shall be returned to the debtors. Pawn ticketsftf shall be returned to the debtors. In case the term [oí the loan] has expired, the pledge shall be forfeited to the pledgee in accordance with law.19

By this order the certificates of loan had to be returned to the debtor wíthout even a partial payment of the loan.

During the latter half of the fifteenth century the peasant uprisings, and tokuseí orders, became more numerous. While Yoshimasa was Shogun ( 1449-1490). thirteen such orders were issued by the central military government, 20 but many more were issued locally, by local officials, by associations of merchants or by the operators of doso themselves. tttt The constant threat of a tokusei caused money

.• ~liura Hiroyuki, Zoku Hosei Shi no Kenkyü,


The uprising of 1428 was

variously called: (1) toluisei ikki,t.¡t-~tokusei uprising), (2) ullalrashi

(uprising of persona renting horses), (3) (peasant uprising).

ikki .11,11--#f-

doikki) .:L - 41';:

tsuchi iltki (or


Kar isho

tt MonshO





. In some documenta the word amgm :)( t was used. Such a

clause stipulated that the certificate of loan was not to be affected by aiy future proclamations of tokusei. 1hese clauses continued to appear in loan contracta as late as the seventeenth century; Miura, ~ku llOsei Shi no Kenltyü,

p. 1248.

ttt Shichilten '){ $


ffff Nakanura,

'()iin Bunmei Nenkan no Tsuchiiki to Tokusei,' 964-93 and 1077-94.

Borton found that fran 1426 to 1526 there were 36 peasant uprisings. Hugh Borton, 'Peasant Uprisings in Japan of the TokU8awa Period, • Transaction•

Use of Copper Coins


lenders to charge higher interest rates and to resort to various schemes to avoid the loss of capital through tokusei ord~rs. The central govern- ment was afraid, however, that such efforts, although providing sorne protection to individual business men, would increase popular discontent and would lead to other, more serious, forms of mob action. Conse- quently in 1466 the following order was issued:

lt has been previously ordered that [interest] on loans shall not exceed 100 per cent [of the principal], but in recent years [the law] has become notoriously ineffective. For this reason it was reissued in the Eikyo era (on the 6th day, llth moon, 2nd year).• Nevertheless, creditors are unjustly and willfully revising loan certificates under the pretense of redrafting them, and are thereby increasing the principal of the loan [to conceal additional] interest. l~henever interest reaches an amount equal to the principal, the certificate of loan shall be returned to the debtor, and mortgaged land and the like shall be retumed to the original owners. Hereafter any ••

person acting contrary to this law shall be prosecuted


In spite of an excessive number of tokusei and a lack of adequate protection by the central government, the doso continued to expand. In an attempt to avoid the cancellation of debts by tokusei orders they de- vised effective means of concealing interest charges, and in order to protect their shops from the actions of peasant mobs they undertook to come to terms with local militar?J leaders and in sorne cases fo or- ganize their own military force. 1 In addition, the position of the money lender was improved after the turn of the sixteenth century by better protection, military and otherwise, from the stronger local lords who were beginning to emerge. In general it appears that the stronger leaders of the sixteenth century were becoming more aware of advantages to be derived from obtaining the support and co-oper- ation of the townspeople. They no longer were inclined to rely ex - clusively upon military support and upon income from landed proper- ty. In other words, the growth of money economy was reflected in the political policies of the new leaders.

The following portions of the Imagawa legal code of 1526 disclose

• 1430.

t Order, 26th day, 5th moon, &nsho 1 (1466),

in Miura, 1.ob HOui Shi no Kenkyü.,

1230. At the beginning of the fifteenth century aix per cent per month was

charged in the province of Shimosa, and caaes of eight and ten per cent per month were also noted. In 1452 a Baltu/u order att~ted to regulate interest ratea: on metal utensils and the like no more than four per cent per month was to be charged. <ltuno Tekahiro, 'Murmnachi Jidai ni okeru Doso no Kenkyii' (Study of Doao in the Muranachi Era), Shigaleu muhi, >UV, 8 (August, 1933), 995. Another atteq>t was made in an order of 1459. Loana were classified into two categoriea • In ane the intereat was limited to five per cent per month and in the other to aix per cent.


Money Economy in Medieval Japan

a certain concern for the claims of creditors:

A creditor ahall poatpone taking any action against a debtor

until two years after [the term of] the loan has expired.

in six years, an appeal shall be made to

the proper officials and to the holder of the fief; whereupon the

debtor shall be pressed for payment.

money shall be paid in accordance with the tenns of the loan contract.



loan is not paid oH

Intereat on all loans of

Regarding the gi ving of

revenues from fiefs as pled@es on a

loan: there have been cases in which men have spent the funda from a loan and then entered a monastery. In the ~~eio era [ 1492- 1500] lobara Suo no Kami conmitted such an act. lt was difficult

to overlook his loyal service, and thus the matter was dropped. (However, his fief, the village of Yakizu, was handed over to the creditors.) lhis year (1525) Foshü found himself somewhat embar- rassed about this Lloss of fief] and, consequently, another fief had to be granted to him. Such disposition has been permitted once, but hereafter any person or family showing such an inclina- tion shall be stripped of all possessions. 22

Still greater legal protection was provided in the following articles of the the Takeda Code of 1547:

Wien claims are pressed by two persons against the land of a person who has not paid his debts, the holder of the first mortgage• shall take possession. However, if thP first mortgage is not in order, the land shall becane the possession of the second claimant.

lt is a serious crime for a debtor to run away,

or to becorne

a vagabond.

shall pay the debt.

themselves into slavery,

In such cases, the responsible members of his family


in the case of men who have sold

the customary action shall be taken.

In the case of debts contracted by two or more persons joint- ly, if one of the parties runs away, the other party [or parties] shall make full compensation, even though said party [or parties] may not have been cognizant of the escape.


llltter of what constitutes a fair security shall remain

as agreed upon in the contract.


case a man has

received a

small loan for a pled~e of high value,

disposed of by the credi tor, even though the term of the loan may have expired. lbat the creditor might not incur a loss of profit, he shall take possession of the pledge after consulting with the guarantor -- but only after waiting a few months for payment and after considerable pressing oí the debtor for payment.

A person loaning money or rice at interest which has come to equal the principal or putting pressure on a debtor to the point of causing him distress shall be fined. Comnon people who treat the

such pledge shall not be

Use of Copper Coins


borrowing of money lightly, or debtors who fail to pay interest on their loans, shall be reported to the authorities and treated as indicated above. nhen the master ot a dos'ó absconds, his record.s shall be exam-

ined and,

in case there is a shortage ot' funds, his cultivated •


helds and shop shall be confiscated •

Toward the end of the sixteenth century there were numerous codes of local feudal barons, as well as city ordinances, which reflected many legal refinements on the subject of loans. For example, an Asano law of 1595 has one article which reads:

In case pledges become wet or are damaged by mice, reclaimed upon the payment of the principal of the loari.

of fire,

ticket has been lost, even if there is sorne doubt about it,

the loss shall be shared by both parties.

they may be In case

In case the pawn


pledge may be reclaimed if the term ot' the loan has expired and the

interest [and principal] have been paid.

lostA the entire principal of the loan shall be cancelled by the credi-


In case the pledge has been

The Asailo law seems to show more concern for the protection of the pledgee than for the pledger. In case of loss or damage, the debtor would stand to lose more than the creditor, even though the latter might have been negligent in providing the proper safeguards.

The final developments in the legal position of the doso in the

sixteenth century, however, are found in city ordinances.

They reflect

a reaction against what appeared to be undue concern for the interests of the creditor and show an effort to establish a more just basis for the settlement of all claims and disputes arising from credit operations.

An example of such an ordinance is one for the city of Himeji, issued in

1601. A portion of it reads as follows:

In regard to the buying and sellin8 of stolen goods, or to the pawning of same: lf the original owner discovers such goods, the lidentity] oí the aeller shall be revealed [by the buyer or pawnbroker]. However, in case the buyer [or pawnbroker] claims that he has never seen or heard of the man before, the original owner may reclaim the goods by paying to aaid buyer [or pawn- broker] the price [the latter paid for the gooda]. In case a robber entera a dosó, the pawnbroker ahall not be responsible, if it is clearly established that the pledgea have

been stolen.

established, the dosó shall be responsible [for the losa].•

However, if the certainty of the robbery cannot be

• Aaano 1erumasa law for fümeji,

111, 319-21.

Nihon Keizai Shi,

23rd day, 3rd moon, Keicho 6 (1601), in Takekoshi, Hideyoshi iasued an order for the market of Hakata,


Money Economy in Medieval Japan


Toward the end of the fifteenth century many temples and shrines began to use their accumulated capital for loans. Previously the re- ligious institutions were more interested in landed property and landed rights. but with an expanding exchange economy and the growing im- portance of lending operations they found the loaning of money at in- terest to be a profitable business. The temples were in a particularly advantageous position for such financial activities during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, because tokusei orders generally did not apply to loans made by religious institutions .25 The first tokusei to mention such loans was the one of 1441. It contains the clause: "Temple loans shall not be cancelled." 26

But the order granted in 1454 includes an innovation, which was in- serted in most of the subsequent tokusei: f

lemple loans shaU not be cancelled, hut a loan shall not be considered as a temple loan if it bears interest higher than two per cent [per month].


if the temple loan is not recorded in the loan

register,tt its validity shall be open

to question. 'l7

During the last half of the fifteenth century, when tokusei orders were frequently granted, religious institutions carriedon a very flourishing credit business. A diary of Minakawa Chikamoto, a legal officer of the Ashikaga Bakufu, contains valuable information relative to temple loans. during the period from 1470 to 1484. Several entries deal with court actions in which debtors were sued for the payment of

at the time of his Kyüshü campaign in 1587, which contained the following article:

"Even though tokusei orders may be granted elsewhere, they are not to have effect on loans made in this market"; Hideyoshi order for Hakata, Sth day, 6th moon,

Tensho 15 ( 1587), Kusaka Yutaka, comp., Ho Ko Ibun (Documents of Hakubunkan, 1914), 140-1.



• lhe word shidOsen ~~ t t1 is based on shido, the &ddhist hall where prayers were offered for the deceasea. Shidosen at first referred to money which was given to this hall by a &ddhist believer. In fact this meaning is still retained in the modern word shidokin ;fi] '! ~ which is translated as "monetary offering to a shrine or temple." lhe shidosen gradually became an important source of revenue, and fi- nally the tenn was used losely to indicate all the money of a temple or shrine. In the fifteenth century this capital was loaned out at interest and the word