Yo-Tsu-Ho-Sen and Mimi-Shiro-Sen (Mimi-Jiro)

One of our readers, David, asks:

In the JNDA and elsewhere, there are various names for the types of New Kanei, such as 四ツ寶 銭. Is there a list anywhere of what all these names mean? I note there is one name 耳白 White Ear???? which is not in some of the other catalogues, although it is in JNDA. Has this coin been renamed?

First, we thank David for his questions. Second, although of some interest, we should not get too concerned about names of coins in general. It is like Coca-Cola. Some call it COKE; others call it SODA or POP. No matter what we call it, it is all the same.

Yo-Tsu-Ho-Sen simply refers to those coins made at Edo Kameido, right after Mt. Fuji erupted in 1707. If David lived in Edo during the first-quarter of 18th century, he may have called this series of crude, small coins %&*^#$@!*&, and his term may have sticked for generations to come. He would have been so used to receiving nicely made, large coins with BUN on the reverse. All of a sudden, he is getting these lousy, small coins. I, too, would have called them %&*^#$@!*&.

After seeing this lousy coinage in circulation for seven years, David sees a new coin. It is a very large coin. In fact, it is larger than those BUN coins. This new coin is wide rimmed. So, instead of calling this coin %&*^#$@!*&, he names it MIMI-HIRO-SEN, but he pronounces it as MIMI-SHIRO. David, being a child of Edo, cannot pronounce some letters correctly. Instead of HIRO, he pronounces it SHIRO.

If one were to use Yahoo translator, this combination of characters 耳白would yield "white ear." Although this character 耳 means "ear," most of the time, in this case it means "flair." We call our ears "ears" because we were told to do so. Before this word existed, our ears were nothing more than a pair of flairs that stuck out from our big heads. When David called it MIMI, he was referring to the rim of the coin. This new coin does have a very wide rim. As for 白, this character does mean"white." But David's original word is HIRO 広, meaning "wide." So, the original term was MIMI-HIRO 耳広, meaning wide rim.

David asks, "Is there a list anywhere of what all these names mean?"Yup! If David is diligent and have an excellent understanding of Japanese language, he can search the web and compile such a list.

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