The History, Population, and Value of the Japanese Yen

The yen has been the official currency of Japan for almost one and a half centuries. It has a history that can be surprising to many who aren’t familiar with the currency’s origins. Today, the yen is one of the highest trading currencies on the foreign exchange market.

1800s: the currency most commonly used in Southeast Asia, China, and Japan is Spanish silver dollar coins. The Spanish typically minted these coins in Mexico City. Japan also used Tokugawa coinage, which was a separate and complex currency.

1840s: Spanish silver dollar coins began to be produced in Latin American republics, and some were made to resemble the Mexican peso. These were still used in Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.

1860s: the Hong Kong government began to mint their own coins that resembled the peso, but the Chinese were slow to accept the new and unfamiliar currency. Hong Kong ceased minting these coins, and decided to sell their mint machinery to Japan. Japan used the equipment to create original coins, and decided to adopt their own silver coins, called the “yen,” which means, simply, “round object,” as their own currency.

1871: the Japanese government officially adopted the yen as their country’s currency, which replaced both the Spanish silver coin and the Tokugawa coins.


Japan is the only country to use the yen; as such, its 127 million citizens use the currency. The yen is the third most widely traded currency in the foreign exchange market, after the American dollar and the euro.

Exchange Rate

One US dollar is worth almost 102 Japanese yen; one euro is worth approximately 141 yen.

Coin and Banknote Values

The yen has seven coins in circulation, ranging in value from 1 yen to 500 yen (or from less than a US currency penny’s value to slightly under five US dollars). The bills have values of 1000 yen, 2000 yen, 5000 yen, and 10,000 yen (or from under ten US dollars to under 100 US dollars).

The yen is a common currency with a rich history used in Japan and has a high market value around the world.