Chogin (Silver coins) (丁銀)

Chogin is the name of the silver coins which were in circulation, mainly for business transaction, from the late Muromachi period to the Meiji Restoration in Japan. According to "Kinginzuroku" (Gold & Silver catalog), originally Chogin written as 鋌銀 meant silver bars, later the character was changed to 挺銀, then to 丁銀, although all were pronounced as Chogin.


Chogin were various seacucumber-shaped silver ingots; although their rime (weighed value or mass) were not the same, they were approximately 161.25g. They did not have any face value but they were a silver-by-weight standard in which the value was decided by the weight.

Chogin, whose value was determined by its actual weight in ryome (a weighted value) using a balanced scale, was the currency unit for Ginme (silver grain) trade, and it was referred to as "Silver X kan" (1 kan=3.75 kg) or "Silver X monme" (1 monme=3.75 g). For a prize or award, the unit of one silver sheet=43 monme was used. At that time, the mass unit for the fundo (counterweight) was called 'ryo' but it was also the unit for oval gold coins so, to avoid any confusion, the 'ryo' unit was not used in weighing Chogin. In the People's Republic of China at that time, the 'ryo' unit was used to show the face value of silver-by-weight standard coins.

Before the Edo period, refined silver coins and hallmarked silver coins were circulated with the hallmarks of wealthy coiners and money-exchange businessmen. There was also a custom of cutting them into small pieces and using them as another unit. These were called 'Chihogin', the territorial currency of Daimyo. At that time, a silver coin with a hallmark was introduced, and this was made by beating silver that had been refined by cupellation into a leaf shape. From the mid sixth century, the silver production in Japan increased rapidly because of silver mine development and the development of cupellation-refining skills. Ginya (also known as Kanaya, or Kaneya) who dealt with the silver ingot trade and Ginfukiya, silver refiners, appeared and became the predecessor of the later Ginza (silver mint) and money-exchange businesses. In Nanryoza, Sakai City, the silver craftsman Sakube YUASA had been collecting refined silver coins and selling them again after engraving hallmarks, but with other craftsmen, he was asked to make samples to show Ieyasu TOKUGAWA before the shogun opened the Ginza in Fushimi town. The Chogin at that time were called Kochogin (old Chogin). The coins made from cut pieces of Kochogin were called Kirigin (cut silver coins).

The purity of the refined silver coins and Kochogin were mostly higher than 90%, although it varied depending on which mines produced the silver. Among them, Sekishu silver coin (Soma Silver) (from Sama), which was made of silver produced in Iwami silver mine, was in high quality and abundant; however, the quality in general was inconsistent according to mines, causing quite inconvenience in trade.

In 1601, Keicho Chogin (oval silver coins) were made in Fushimi Ginza (silver mint) and since then, Chogin of a consistent standard had been coined by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and after the Genwa era, Mameitagin (small coins) of the same quality were made as a permanent small currency unit. Sampling checks were constantly conducted on Chogin to ascertain the percentage of silver in them by applying the process of cupellation after lead had been added to remove any impurities; those which did not meet the required quality standard were refined again.

In the Edo period, Chogin were circulated widely in western Japan mainly in the Osaka and Hokuriku and Tohoku regions.

Because Chogin did not have a face value and was Hyodo kahei (currency valued by weight) and their Ryome needed to be weighed every time they were used, they were inconvenient, so they were used in the form of Hogin. A Hogin was a sealed paper bag that contained both Chogin and Mameitagin of the same quality that had been combined to attain a certain ryome (e.g. one silver sheet of 43 monme for a prize or present and 500 ryome for business transactions). Chogin, which had a value that was several dozens of times higher than that of monme, were too high in value to be used in everyday life, so unlike Mameitagin, they were hardly ever used as they were for payment unless they were sealed in the form of Hogin.

Deciding the ryome of silver-by-weight coins and packing them in bags was one of the important jobs for money-exchangers. The name given to money exchangers who were appointed to calculate the revenue from each domain's annual rice tax and to manage money for the purchasing of goods was "Kakeya"; this name was also used for persons in charge of reapplying the ryome for cupellated silver that had been produced in the Iwami Ginzan and Ikuno Ginzan Silver Mines (which were located in lands owned by the bakufu) and paid to the authorities.

In May 1868, the Meiji Restoration government officially announced the abolition of Ginme (silver grain) and Chogin circulation ceased.

Types of Kochogin

Well-known Kochogin are as follows, but they are now all very rare:

Hagiko Chogin: Chogin without a hallmark, also called as Sekishu Chogin, are thought to be made in Hagi City.

Yuzuriha Chogin: These are Chogin in a longer Yuzuriha leaf shape than Hagiko Chogin.

Otoriosame Chogin: Yuzuriha Chogin with '御取納' (Otoriosame) hallmarked and were presented by the Mori clan at the Emperor Ogimachi's enthronement ceremony in 1560.

Bunrokusekishu Chogin: These Chogin were ordered by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in 1593 as a present for each territorial Daimyo at the Bunroku War.

Gokuyo Chogin: Chogin with '御公用' (Gokuyo) hallmarked and were presented by the Mori clan to the Chotei (Imperial Court).

Hakatagokuyo Chogin: Chogin with '御公用' (Gokuyo) and '文禄二中山与左衛門' (Second year of the Buroku era, Yozaemon NAKAYAMA) hallmarked and were said to be ordered by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI at the Bunroku War.

Tenmataichi Chogin: These Chogin are thought to be made in 1593 by Yamabugyo (manager of a mountain) Mataemon AMANO and from 'Ichinosaka Silver Mine' in the Suo Province.

Shogin: These are Yuzuriha Chogin with '小銀' (Shogin) hallmark.

Hachifuku Chogin: These are Chogin with 'Fukuhachi' hallmarked horizontally.

Daiyodai Chogin: These are Chogin with '大与大' (Daiyodai Kao [a written seal mark])'.

Kikuichimonji Ingin: These Chogin were presented to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA by a craftsman of Nanryoza, Sakai City in 1598 when Ieyasu was planning to produce Keicho Chogin coins.

Ebisuichimonji Ingin: These are sample Chogin and were presented to Ieyasu by a craftsman of Nanryoza, Sakai City when Ieyasu was planning to produce Keicho Chogin coins.

Kukurihakama Chogin: These Chogin, with an image of Daikokuten (Great Black God) with the hems of his Hakama pants bound, were made by Sakube YUASA of Nanryoza and presented to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA when Ieyasu was planning to produce Keicho Chogin coins and this was the one that was selected.

Omodaka Chogin: These Chogin were thought to be sample made by Sakube YUASA before the circulation of Keicho Chogin and had hallmarks with characters for '常是' (Joze [Sakube's heredity name]) and '寳' (Ho [valuable]) and an 'image of Daikoku' as well as the Kamon (family crest) of Omodaka.

Chogin coined in the Edo period

The figures in brackets give the date of the mintage, the total amount of the mintage and silver content percentage (standards). The total amount of the mintage includes that of Mameitagin.

To be used all over Japan

Keicho Cogin (July 1601, approximately 4500 t, 80%)

Genroku Chogin (October 1695, approximately 1522 t, 64%)

Hoei Futatsuho (or Futatsutakara) Chogin (August 1706, approximately 1043 t, 50%)

Hoei Eiji Chogin (March 1710, approximately 22 t, 40%)

Hoei Mitsuho (or Mitsutakara) Chogin (April 1710, approximately 1389 t, 32%)

Hoei Yotsuho (or Yotsutakara) Chogin (September 1711, approximately 1505 t, 20%)

Kyoho Chogin (Shotoku Chogin) (September 1714, approximately 1243 t, 80%)

Genbun Chogin (July 1736, 1970 t, 46%)

Bunsei Chogin (June 1820, 844 t, 36%)

Tenpo Chogin (November 1837, 683 t, 26%)

Ansei Chogin (December 1859, 386 t, 13%)

For Trade (Ikokukudasaregin [Chogin used for trade with Korea and as present for Joseon Missions and Missions from Ryukyu, current Okinawa Prefecture])

Ninjindaioko Chogin (September 1710, 20 t, 80%)

Hoei Seiji Chogin (1710, 0.15 t, 80%)