Go-en: The Five Yen coin and why it's lucky

The 5-yen coin in Japan is famous for being a good luck charm. It's often used as an offering at temples and shrines and it's also said to bring you good luck if you put one in a new wallet before anything else.

Photo by grape Japan

There are several reasons for the 5-yen coin's auspiciousness. To begin with, the Japanese word for five yen, 五円 go en, is a homonym for 御縁, meaning "good relations," "fate" or "good fortune." Actually, the core meaning is conveyed by 縁 en, which can be used independently but the honorific prefix 御 go often precedes it.

The other reason it is considered lucky is the hole in the middle, which symbolizes being able to see through to the future, in other words, having a clear outlook. This is why lotus root, which has many holes in it, is traditionally eaten at New Year's time when Japanese people wish for good fortune in the year to come. Originally, the hole was designed in the five-yen coin to distinguish it from other currency, make it easy for visually impaired people to recognize, prevent counterfeiting, and, as a necessity in the postwar Japan of 1948 when the coin was minted, to save money.

Year of the Tiger Lucky Coin chocolates from Tirol

With confirmed infections from the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus in Japan on the rise (32 are confirmed as of December 15th), some may prefer to avoid crowds once again for New Year's 2022.

But even if you don't visit a shrine or temple and throw in a five-yen coin in the donation box, as throngs of people traditionally do every new year in Japan, you can still celebrate the Year of the Tiger with a new kind of chocolate inspired by the coin only available at 7-Eleven convenience stores.

Taking the form of a five-yen coin and colored brown and yellow like the stripes of a tiger, these fun chocolates, called 寅年にごえんがあるよ toradoshi ni go-en ga aru yo ("You'll have good luck in the Year of the Tiger") are made by the Japanese chocolate company Tirol.

Tirol chocolates are known for their infinite variations, inexpensive price, and ubiquitous presence, available almost everywhere in Japan. They're also famous for being individually wrapped and uniformly square in shape, so these New Year chocolates are unusual for their coin-like form factor as well as the fact that they come in bags.

This year's Lucky Coin Chocolate is a blend of milk chocolate and banana-flavored chocolate in a tiger stripe pattern in honor of the Chinese zodiac sign of 2022, the tiger. As in the previous year, Tirol has included trivia about historical events that took place in the Year of the Tiger (40 kinds in total) and printed them on the individual wrappers.

(English text added by grape Japan.)

Product Information

  • Weight: 44.8g (including packaging paper)
  • Release date: December 19th, 2021
  • Price: 189 JPY (reference price - including tax)
  • Note: Some 7-Eleven stores may not carry this product. Available while supplies last.

By - Ben K.