Little Bits of History

August 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 29, 2017

708: Wadōkaichin becomes legal tender. It is the oldest official Japanese coinage and came into being during the reign of Empress Genmei. Wadōkaichin is the transliteration of the four symbols found on the face of the round coin. They are placed around a square cut into the center of the coin. Genmei was only one of eight ruling empresses of Japan. There were three prior to her ascending to the Chrysanthemum throne and four following her, including her daughter who ruled immediately after Genmei abdicated in her daughter’s favor.

Genmei was the consort of Crown Prince Kusakabe no Miko, son of Emperor Tenmu. Her husband died when their son, Monmu, was only six years old. When Tenmu died, Monmu became emperor, a post he held for ten years until he died in 707. He had ruled from the age of 15 to the age of 25. Although he left behind two young children, Genmei felt the pressures of ruling Japan would be too much for her six-year-old grandson. So she took over the Chrysanthemum Throne in his place. Very shortly after taking over the rule of the land, a copper mine was found in Chichibu in Musashi Province, an area today which includes Tokyo.

The nengō, or calendar designation for eras of reigning monarchs, had to change with the new monarch’s rule and the copper became the identifying mark of the times. The ““ part of the coin is the Japanese word for copper and the “wa” part refers to the ancient Chinese name for Japan. So “wadō” means “Japanese copper”. In May of 708 the copper was examined at Genmei’s Court and a mint was established in Omi Province. Wadōkaichin went into circulation on this day and remained currency for 250 years. It was made in the same way older Chinese coins had been made with a diameter of slightly less than an inch and weighing just over an ounce. China had been minting coins for over a millennium by this time so their system was copied in Japan.

Genmai ruled for eight years. During that time, she also moved the official residence to Nara. This move had been planned by her son but he was unable to complete the move before he died. Moving residences was also a customary part of each new reign, but Mommu had not moved at the beginning of his tenure. The new Empress was set up in her new house and had the Kojiki, a three volume history of Japan, published. This was also started by her own father and not finished in his lifetime. Genmei was the only Empress to abdicate, not in favor of a male heir, but instead, retired to allow her daughter to reign. Empress Gensho held the Throne until her nephew could take control in 724.

Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Success comes to those who dedicate everything to their passion in life. To be successful, it is also very important to be humble and never let fame or money travel to your head. – A. R. Rahman

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. – Nelson Mandela

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money. – W. C. Fields



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