Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gold in Japan

This is likely to be a fairly brief blog with more photos than content. I am currently in Japan and thought I would share some sightings, visits & purchases that may interest other Gold investors.

While in Kyoto I visited several temples and shrines, one of which was called the 'Temple of the Golden Pavilion' (also known by other names, see Wikipedia for more information). The top two floors of this temple are covered in pure Gold leaf. It is a popular spot for tourists and I had to fight crowds to get the below photo.

Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) - Kyoto

While in Tokyo I decided to check out the Japan Mint. It was located a short walk from the Otsuka Station on the JR Yamanote Line (I believe there are other stations within walking distance), right next to the Sunshine City complex (well known shopping/entertainment centre).

From the outside the Mint complex is fairly nondescript, you wouldn't even know what you were looking at unless you can read Japanese or were looking specifically for it. There were several banners such as the below which I assume help identify it to the local population.

Translation: Japan Mint (?)

The entrance was down a small street around the back of the Mint complex. Once through the gate you are required to sign in with name, time and country of origin and are issued with a pass that you clip on to your shirt. The staff at the gate had fairly poor English skills and I don't speak Japanese so communication was a little difficult at first, however they called down one of the museum tour guides who spoke English well and showed us through the museum on a brief tour pointing out interesting pieces and facts. Photos of some objects was allowed, below are a few themed coin sets that have been released by the Japan Mint.

Coins on display in the Japan Mint Museum

Also present at the museum were coins from the Silver Prefecture Coin program. 47 coins are being released (started in 2008, last coin released in 2016) as part of the series.

Silver Prefecture Coins in a display case

There were quite a few interesting coins and displays at the Mint including: 
  • Some coins dating back over 1300 years
  • Old minting equipment & machines
  • Displays showing the coin stamping & die cast creation process
  • A machine which you could put circulating coins into and it would check the weight, diameter, thickness for consistency ensuring the coin was in 'good health' 
  • A couple of nice large pieces of bullion which you were able to touch (15kg Gold bar, 30.5kg Silver)
  • Coins from other Mints in Australia, Canada, Singapore and other Countries
There were other bits an pieces, it will take you around 15 minutes to wander around and see everything.

Following the museum tour our guide took us over to the shop. I was hoping they would have the Silver coins from the Prefecture series available for purchase, but unfortunately this was not the case. They had some commemorative coins acknowledging the series so I picked up the Kyoto version (It cost 1000 Yen, around AUD$13). 

Kyoto Bicolor clad coin, Prefecture commemorative

Also I picked up a 2010 Standard Proof Coin Set for 7,500 Yen, which is around AUD$100. It's housed in an attractive leather and felt holder which folds up into a plastic slip cover for easy storage when not on display.

The most disappointing part of the Mint visit was the inability to purchase Gold or Silver coins in the shop. There were some Silver paper weights, but not having the ability to purchase the Prefecture coins directly from the Mint (at least not the Tokyo branch) seemed very odd.

Following the trip to the Mint I made my way to Shinjuku where I had been informed (by a member of Silver Stackers) that there was a bullion dealer. The Shinjuku train station is huge, busy and can be confusing to navigate, I ended up on a 1 hour walk looking for the store when it was only 5 minutes from the station!

Ginza Tanaka: A short walk from Shinjuku Station

The store mainly has jewellery on display, but did have Gold and Platinum bullion as well, which they sell as individual pieces or in pendants/holders. Below is a picture of their main "bullion" display case.

Ginza Tanaka: Bullion display case

I was a little surprised that they did not seem to stock any Silver bullion products (only Gold and Platinum).

Their service was fantastic, a polite saleswoman assisted with my pricing queries and then sat me down while organising the product I'd purchased, calculating the removal of tax from the price (due to being from O/S) and boxing the item up.

The final presentation of the product was immaculate. I'm used to small paper/plastic bags upon purchase in Adelaide so a small box, cleaning cloth, cleaning guide, etc was a pleasant surprise.

Packaging of purchase from Ginza Tanaka

The piece I purchased was a 1/10oz Maple Gold coin and an 18k pendant/holder. The cost (after tax removal) was 12,821 Yen for the coin and 5,715 Yen for the holder. In AUD at the rate I bought my Yen (around 75 Yen to 1 AUD) the cost was approximately $171 and $76 for a total of $247. Quite reasonable in comparison to the prices I can get in Australia for similar/equivalent.

1/10oz Maple Gold coin with 18k holder

Next week should see the resumption of more regular blogs and content.