The first use of copper in Japan is thought to be around 300 B.C. (Yayoi era) Copper was first brought to Japan from mainland China during the bronze age, and at that time bronze goods, such as copper swords, copper pikes and copper glass, flourished mainly in North Kyushu, after which they spread to East Japan. The very first production of copper ore was in 698 (Bunbu 2), and the local government of Inaba (Tottori prefecture) is said to have inscribed copper-bearing ores to the imperial court. Also in 708 (Keiwun 5), currencies (Wadokaiho) were produced using copper inscribed by Chichibu, Musashi and the name of the era was also changed to Wado.
Fuhonsen in almost perfect shape
Recently, the fact that “Fuhonsen” ancient coins, which was discovered at the Asukaike site built in the latter half of seventh century, was discovered to have been cast over 700 years before. In addition to coins, excavation of a large quantity of melted copper from the site shows that copper production volume of the latter half of seventh century had already reached a significant level.
Since then, various ores were successively discovered throughout the country. From the Nara era to the Heian era, a lot of bronze Buddhist statue, Buddhist articles and handicrafts were made, and in 749 (Tenpyo 21), through the construction of the Todaiji Buddha statue, which was made at the request of the emperor of Shomu, the technology for copper refining and casting was greatly improved.
After Japan entered the Muromachi era, import and export trade with China, Spain, Portugal and Holland began and demand for weapons, coins and household goods flourished in Japan and abroad. Especially in Kanbun, Genroku, during the Edo era, copper replaced gold and silver as the main trade commodity in Nagasaki.