Japan has officially unveiled the last coins in the Japanese 47 Prefectures coin program. The final coin in the series is dedicated to Japan's most famous prefecture, Tokyo.
For the past eight years Japan has been issuing two new coins that pay homage to each of Japan's 47 prefectural districts in an effort to mark the 60th Anniversary of the enactment of the Local Autonomy Law”, that's a pace of nearly two new coin designs every two months. The first coin is a crown sized 1oz pure silver collectors coin with a denomination of 1000 Yen. This proof quality coin is selectively colourized to highlight a unique aspect or feature of the prefecture in question.
The second coin in these tandem releases is a bi-metallic 500 Yen coin meant for general circulation. The two coins each have different designs but bot honour the same prefecture. In this manner the 47 Prefecture program has resulted in a total of 94 coin issues since it's inception in 2008. 47 silver collectors coins and 47 circulating commemorative coins.
The Japanese Mint has reserved the privilege of bringing this landmark series to a close to the nation's(and indeed the world's) most populous metropolitan area and Japan's capital of Tokyo.
Tokyo is often referred to as a city, but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of both a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo. The metropolitan prefecture of Tokyo in reality consists of 23 special wards.
The reverse design of the 40mm silver 1000 Yen coin prominently features the Tokyo Tower, slightly offset to the right, as viewed from below. The Tokyo Tower is one of Tokyo's most recognizable landmarks, and the second tallest structure in Tokyo. The 333meter(1092 ft) tower acts an a functioning communications and observation tower and popular tourist attraction. In the background is the Tokyo skyline as seen from Odaiba with the Rainbow Bridge spanning across Tokyo Bay, positioned to the lower left of the coin. Officially named the “Shuto Expressway No. 11 Daiba Route - Port of Tokyo Connector Bridge”, it is a double deck suspension bridge spanning 918meters(3011 ft) with a main span of 580 meters (1,903 ft) connecting the northern Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier to the Odaiba waterfront.
The Tokyo Tower, sky and Tokyo bay are selectively coloured with red and blue. The picturesque scene is rounded off by three seagulls flying overhead. Known locally as “Yurikamome”, the black-headed seagull has been adopted as the official prefectural bird of Tokyo.
The 1oz pure silver coin shares the same obverse design as all of the coins in the same series. The sculpted depiction of cherry blossoms, falling snow crystals and a crescent moon. The numbers “47” and “60” are applied to the largest snow crystal with latent imaging technology, viewable only from differing angles. 47 representing the 47 Japanese prefectures and 60 the 60th Anniversary of the Enforcement of the Local Autonomy Law.
For the circulating 500 Yen commemorative coin the Japanese Mint chose Tokyo Station's Marunouchi Building to represent the Tokyo prefecture. The station building, which was originally completed in 1914, suffered significant damage during the second world war. The building was designated as a “national important cultural property” in 2003 and restoration efforts to restore the building to it's original appearance concluded in 2012. In the foreground Gyoko Street can be seen leading away from the station building and towards the Imperial Palace.
The obverse of the 26.5mm bi-metallic 500 Yen coin depicts at it's center an old Japanese Cash coin with Kanji lettering that translates as “Local Autonomy”. The same latent imaging technology is applied to the center of this coin as to the 1000 Yen coin. The 500yen is available in proof, uncirculated and brilliant uncirculated strikes as well as being issued for general circulation.
The Japan 47 Prefecture coin program has been a remarkable journey through the Japanese landscape and culture over the past eight years and some superbly designed coins along the way. I for one can't wait to see what the Japanese mint will produce in future, hopefully now having acquired a taste for commemorative and collectors coins.