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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


Japan’s recovery after the Asia-Pacific War and its subsequent surge as an economic powerhouse has often been seen as an “economic miracle.” Recent scholarship has argued that the success of the Japanese economy was more by design than by some miracle, but it is remarkable that a similar surge happened some 800 years earlier, during the early medieval age, when Chinese copper coins were suddenly imported. What had been a rice and silk-based economy of exchange in the early twelfth century, was within just over a century monetized. While such developments are common among medieval economies, Japan is a are, if not unique, case where the coins used were not minted in Japan, thus depriving the government of the ability to manipulate or profit from the money economy. Indeed, Chinese coins remained the only accepted cash for over four centuries until Tokugawa shoguns took control of mins and coinage. This project aims to explain why these Chinese copper coins were imported in the first place and explores the agents behind this dramatic change, thus putting Japan into the context of the East Asian world.

Faculty Researchers