Circulating Coin Designs

1 yen Aluminum Coin

The 1-yen coin, which was first issued in 1955, is the oldest coin among presently-manufactured coins and marked its 50th anniversary in 2005.
The design has not changed for more than 50 years.
A young tree on the obverse side symbolizes the healthy growth of Japan.

Image of 1 Yen Aliminum Coin
Design young plant
Material Aluminum
Composition Pure Aluminum
Weight 1.0g
Diameter 20.0mm
Commencement
of Production
1955

5 yen Brass Coin

The 5-yen coin with a center hole was first issued in 1949 just after the war, and its character font was changed to the current font in 1959.
Japan's major industries were used as the basis for the obverse design, as Japan looked forward to postwar reconstruction. A rice plant symbolizes agriculture, a gearwheel around the center hole indicates heavy industry and the horizontal stripes represent the fishery.
Young leaves on the reverse side symbolize Japan, which was reborn as a democratic nation after the war.
The face value of the 5-yen coin is written in Chinese characters, while Arabic numerals are used on other coins.

Image of 5 Yen Brass Coin
Design rice plant and young leaves
Material Brass
Composition Copper 600 to 700
Zinc 400 to 300
Weight 3.75g
Diameter 22.0mm
Commencement
of Production
1959

10 yen Bronze Coin

The 10-yen coin with ridges was fist issued in 1951, with an unmilled version appearing in 1959. The obverse side features the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in Temple in Uji City in Kyoto Prefecture, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994 as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Fujiwara no Yorimichi (992-1074) built the temple to reproduce heaven on earth. The hall houses a statue of Amida Buddha and its walls depict Amida Buddha coming to this world to save people. The reverse side features the leaves of an evergreen tree.

Image of 10 Yen Bronze Coin
Design ever-green tree, Byodo-in Temple
Material Bronze
Composition Copper 950
Zinc 40 to 30
Tin 10 to 20
Weight 4.5g
Diameter 23.5mm
Commencement
of Production
1959

50 yen Cupronickel Coin

The first 50-yen coin with no center hole, was struck nickel and has a diameter of 25 mm. It was first issued in 1955. In 1959, because it resembled the 100-yen coin in size and color, the 50-yen coin was pierced to make it more distinguishable from the 100-yen piece.
The current 50-yen coin was first struck in 1967. Its material was changed from nickel to cupronickel in response to the replacement of the 100-yen coin's metal from silver alloy to cupronickel due to increases in the price of silver.
Each of these three versions of the 50-yen coin has a different design, but they have in common the fact that their subject matter is the chrysanthemum.

Image of 50 Yen Cupronickel Coin
Design chrysanthemum
Material Cupronickel
Composition Copper 750
Nickel 250
Weight 4.0g
Diameter 21.0mm
Commencement
of Production
1967

100 yen Cupronickel Coin

The current 100-yen coin was first issued in 1967. Due to increases in the price of silver, its material was changed from silver alloy to cupronickel. The first obverse design was a "phoenix" (1957-1958), then was changed to "ears of a rice plant" (1959-1966) and later became "cherry blossoms" (1967- present).

Image of 100 Yen Cupronickel Coin
Design cherry blossoms
Material Cupronickel
Composition Copper 750
Nickel 250
Weight 4.8g
Diameter 22.6mm
Commencement
of Production
1967

500 yen Nickel-brass Coin

In response to a need for a higher value coin for use in vending machines a new 500-yen coin replaced the 500-yen banknote in 1982. Before that, the 100-yen coin was the highest denomination coin.
Even though the design has not been changed, various anti-counterfeit and anti-alteration techniques were adopted. As well, the material used was changed from cupronickel to nickel-brass in 2000 to discourage more sophisticated counterfeit techniques.
The obverse side features paulownia, while the reverse side features bamboo and mandarin orange (wild orange).

Image of 500 Yen Nickel-brass Coin
Design paulownia, bamboo and mandarin orange (wild orange)
Material Nickel-brass
Composition Copper 720
Zinc 200
Nickel 80
Weight 7.0g
Diameter 26.5mm
Commencement
of Production
2000