Archaeologists Unearth Samurai’s Jar Filled With Over 200,000 Bronze Coins

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Archaeologists find a samurai’s jar full of more than 200,000 bronze coins.

Archaeologists in the Saitama Prefecture, which is close to Tokyo, made an amazing find in August 2018: the wealth of a Japanese warrior. It has been said that the gold trove of medieval coins found in a two-foot-wide ceramic jar from the 1400s is the biggest haul of its kind ever found in Japan.

Credit: Saitama Cultural Deposits Research Corporation

The amazing jar held an amazing collection of bronze coins. The copper on the coins’ sides had turned a bright green colour naturally, a process called verdigris. Archaeologists think that there were more than 100,000 coins and a wooden tablet that hints at something interesting inside the jar. The tablet has the Japanese words “nihyaku rokuju,” which means “260.” This could mean 260 kan, which are units of 1,000, which means that there could be an amazing 260,000 coins inside.

The coins are one-of-a-kind because they have a hole in the middle that lets you string them on lines. Some unique coins from China’s Ming and Tang dynasties were found in the hoard. These coins show the ancient connections between these two nearby cultures.

Credit: Shoichi Tanaka

Finding the coins is an interesting look into Japan’s troubled past during the Muromachi Period (1333–1573), when the Ashikaga Shogunate was in charge. Power battles happened during this time, including a war between Ashikaga Takauji and his brother Tadayoshi, which Ashikaga Takauji won in the end. During this time, the rules for how samurai should act were made clear. These rules emphasized traits like bravery, honour, and loyalty to one’s own people.

Sailors called samurai were highly respected. They swore allegiance to daimyo, who were military leaders who owned land, and followed a strict code of honour. They were easy to spot because they carried two swords, and they were paid well and given special rights for their service.

Kamei Koremi, a daimyō during the bakumatsu period

Japan was at war with itself from 1467 to 1568 AD, when the Warring States period happened. Rival daimyo leaders and samurai fought for power and control. There was civil unrest, feuds, and power struggles all over the country, and the prized title of Shogun became a prize that was fought over. Regular people were the ones who had to deal with the worst of this fighting, having to deal with lawlessness, violence, and problems.

Even though there was a lot of chaos, this was also a time when many culture and artistic achievements were made. Warlords built beautiful castles to keep themselves safe, and the Japanese tea service, which was made popular by Buddhist monks, became very popular. Zen faith helped artists grow, and the famous Zen priest Sesshu/Toyo was one of them.

Kamei Koremi was a daimyō during the Bakumatsu times.
The discovery of these old coins gives us a unique look into a time in Japan’s past when there were a lot of power struggles and changes. The coins are now on display at the cultural treasury of Saitama Prefecture in Kumagaya. People can marvel at these physical reminders of a bygone era and enjoy Japan’s rich cultural heritage that lives on.

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