Japan commemorates the tsunami

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by Björn Schöpe

March 8, 2012 – In 2015 two new coins will be struck by the Japan Mint to commemorate an incisive event in the recent history of Japan: Higashi-Nihon daishinsai, the “Great East Japan Earthquake”.

One year ago, on March 11, 2011, a gigantic seaquake off the coast of Japan caused a chain of natural catastrophes that shook particularly Nippon. The quake devastated especially East Japan. Anyway, immediately after this two consequent events occurred. A tsunami, a sea wave that reached heights up to 40 metres, moved inland for kilometres leaving destroyed lands. At the same time the notice spread that there was a meltdown in the nuclear power plant of Fukushima.

Aerial photograph of Sendai on March 12, 2011. Photo: U.S. Navy / Wikipedia.

Images were seen all over the world demonstrating the power of nature: ships in the middle of nowhere, Sendai airport destroyed, the public transport completely collapsed, millions of households without electricity and water, hundreds of thousands of people had to be evacuated. Japan mourned more than 15,000 dead persons not to speak of potential radiation victims and thousands of missing persons.
Only once before in Japan’s history the head of state, Tenno, had expressed himself on a current event: In 1945 Tenno Hirohito proclaimed Japan’s capitulation in World War II. On March 16, 2011 Tenno Akihito spoke in TV trying to reassure his people.

Devastations in the town of Ofunato on March 15, 2011. Photo: U.S. Navy / Wikipedia.

The power of this natural disaster was so enormous that it moved the island Honshu more than 2 metres east and shifted the Earth on its axis. But even the financial markets were shaken. The economy is still struggling with the consequences of the earthquake. According to estimations of the World Bank the economic cost is of around 165 billion euros – making it thus the most expensive natural catastrophe in world history.

To commemorate the terrible catastrophe while at the same time supporting the national economy the Japan Mint has decided to issue four series of commemorative coins. Comprising two coins the first series will be struck in 2015.

Japan – 10,000 Yen – gold – 1/2 oz. – 26.00 mm.

A 10,000 Yen gold coin and a 1,000 Yen silver coin share a common image on the reverse that gives hope: a pine tree grows in the middle of barren lands, doves are flying around. The birds of peace are shown on all sides of both coins:

Japan – 1,000 Yen – silver – 1 oz. – 40.00 mm.

On the obverse of the gold coin doves fly over the outline of the provinces that were shaken the most being thus now at the fond’s aim. On the silver coin the birds are circuiting a fishing boat embellished with flags; ears of rice frame the partially coloured field.

The coins are intended primarily as gift to the subscribers of government bonds of the “Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction Fond”. Those who keep their shares until 2015 – when the coins will be issued – will receive a gold coin for shares corresponding to 10 million Yen, and a silver coin for shares of 1 million Yen. Mintage and prices have not been decided yet. However, a strong demand for the remaining coins is expected in Japan. Hence it will be a real challenge for European and Western collectors to get some of the new coins.

You will find many information on the Great Earthquake at Wikipedia.

More details on the contest of the commemorative coin series and the reconstruction fond are available here.