When it comes to cash, we all no doubt have our favourites. I, for one, have a huge soft spot for those nice, big 500 yen coins since every time I hold one I feel like I’m either shopping in a medieval market town or about to plonk it down on a bar counter to cover the cost of my beer, bath and bed for the night. Those flimsy little one yen coins, however, have a habit of seeking me out, and I always find myself trying to palm them off on convenience store clerks, devastated when I’m a single coin short of the nine yen they’re asking for.

In a recent poll, 477 My Navi Woman readers were asked which of Japan’s coins and notes boasts the “coolest” design. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number-one spot went to the 10,000 yen note – the largest denomination available and worth roughly US$100 – but there were some surprises in the list too. Join us after the jump for a closer look at some of Japan’s cash.

Since we know how this one ends, let’s begin with the top dog: the 10,000 – or ichi-man – yen note.

1. ALL the moneys!

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.52.54 AMWikipedia – Sekicho

Featuring the portrait of Yukichi Fukuzawa, philosopher and founder of the prestigious Keio University, the 10,000 yen note received a whopping 24.1% of the total vote for Japan’s coolest cash. Respondents cited the bill’s detailed design, “calming hue,” size, and of course the fact that it is the largest denomination available as their reasons for choosing it. Personally, I’m just happy to hold one of these things every now and then…

2. Gold rush

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 11.32.17 AMWikipedia – El Cid 

Not only is the 500 yen coin the largest coin you’ll find in Japan, its value (roughly $4.90 at time of writing) is one of the highest in the world for a coin. It’s big, weighty, and beautifully shiny and gold–exactly what coins ought to be in this writer’s opinion. Unless, of course, you’re carrying a lot of them and happen to be wearing loose-fitting pants…

22.4% of My Navi Woman’s readers rated the 500 yen coin as their favourite. With its bold, chunky design it’s easy to see why.

3. There’s a bit missing…


Due to them both having holes in their centres, five yen coins are often mistaken for 50 yen coins when spotted at the bottom of a bag or coin purse, so it can be a bit of a let-down to discover that the coin you thought was worth 50 cents is actually worth slightly less than five. But the five yen coin is still kind of stylish in its own way, and received 13% of the vote in this survey for Japan’s coolest cash.

The coin features a gear–which represents industry–around its centre, a rice plant on the left and a body of water at the bottom, over which 「五円」(pronounced go-en and meaning five yen) is stamped. If you’ve ever wondered why so many five yen coins are donated at Japanese shrines and temples, it’s because “go-en” is a homophone of 「御縁」, a combination of the kanji form of the honorific prefix “go” used in words like ご主人 (go-shujin, another person’s husband) and ご飯  (gohan, literally “cooked rice, but used to mean meals in general), and 縁 (en), which describes a tie or close connection between two parties. The Japanese love a bit of wordplay, so when making an offering at a shrine, people often give a “go-en” coin in the hope that the god will favour them.

4. “This machine keeps spitting out my money…”

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.11.00 PMWikipedia – Gryffindor

Wait, a two thousand yen note? Yup. This bill was produced in the year 2000 to commemorate the millennium and is rarely seen in general circulation today, though a surprising number of visitors to Japan arrive with the notes in their possession after picking up Japanese currency abroad (perhaps the Bank of Japan palms of the notes off on them?). The 2,000 yen note features an image of Shureimon, one of the large, ornate gates found outside Okinawa’s Shuri Castle, on its front and a scene from Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji on its reverse side.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.15.19 PMWikipedia – Gryffindor

Although very cool to look at, part of the reason 2,000 yen notes are so hard to find in Japan these days is because, besides the fact that some people kept them as keepsakes rather than spending them, they’re actually kind of difficult to use. Few vending machines, of which there are a lot in Japan, and ATMs accept the bills, so while it’s fun to spot one every once in a while, 2,000 yen notes can actually be a bit troublesome to use. Great design, though!

5. Old reliable


Finally, the humble 10 yen coin ranked in at number five with 7.1% of the vote. My Navi Woman didn’t supply the reasons why this coin made it into the top five, but we can only assume it’s because, as well as being a handy coin to have around and a nice round number, it features an image of Byōdō-in’s Phoenix Hall–a Buddhist temple founded all the way back in the year 1052 in Kyoto–in surprising detail.


Do you have a particular fondness for any Japanese coins or notes? Are you one of the many who wishes one-yen coins could be banished into room 101 or are you happy to collect everyone else’s cast-offs? Let us know in the comments!

Source: My Navi Woman
Photos © RocketNews24 unless otherwise stated
Feature image: Wikipedia – Sekicho, childishly graffitied by RocketNews24