From their castle town of Edo modern (Tokyo), the Tokugawa ruled Japan as Shoguns until 1867. The Tokugawa period saw the flowering of urban culture and a monetized commodity economy. The Samurai stood at the top of a legally-established four-class system. From illiterate warriors they were transformed into military bureaucrats who served both the Shogunal and Daimyo governments.
The first contact Japan had with the western world was when a Portuguese ship was blown off course and landed on the island in 1542. The “discovery” of Japan opened the door for trade , which became highly lucrative during the 1600’s as Japan forged trade alliances with Portugal, Holland and South China. The Shognate, however, believed that open trade was a threat to japan’s security and enforced restrictions on outside contact with Japan. Shortly following the visit of admiral Perry and his Flotilla in 1854, Japan’s 265 year period of Shogunate rule ended and an Imperial form of government was established.
During the Meiji Period, corresponding to the reign (1868-1912) of Emperor Meiji, centralized bureaucracy replaced the balance of power between the Tokugawa and the autonomous domains. A conscript army replaced the military authority of the Samurai. These interesting rectangular coins were used during the time of Japan’s Shogun rulers. Each coin is marked with an inscription bearing its’ value in either gold or silver.