Thursday, December 3, 2020

Money Hand Sign

In Japan, there's a money hand gesture that's very similar to the "OK" hand gesture in America: it's done by making a circle with the thumb and index finger.

Hachikuji Mayoi 八九寺真宵, making a money sign.
Character: Hachikuji Mayoi 八九寺真宵
Anime: Nisemonogatari 偽物語 (Episode 1)
  • haa? kono yo ni okane igai nani ka aru-n-desu ka?
    Hah? In this world, is there anything besides money?

This gesture is used not only to talk about hard cash, but also when talking about profits or other economic gains, about costs, things that are expensive, and so on. It just signifies money in general.

Warning: different cultures use the same gesture to signify different things. In Japan it's money, in America it's "OK," in some countries it's something obscene, and so on. Some culture also have different gestures for money, like rubbing the index and thumb together.


The origin of the money gesture seems to be the coin.

The Japanese sign for money starts from a completely different source. Money means coins and coins are circular. Therefore, making a circular hand-sign comes to signify money.[Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language. Random House. pp. 49–52 via]

In the past, the most common currency used in Japan was a circular coin. Not paper money like we have today. Metal coins that were circular, and definitely not rectangular. Perhaps from this fact the gesture became a thing.

Logically, if it does come from the coin, the gesture couldn't have been used before people started using coins, or in an alternate universe in which coins don't exist.

Since coins are circular, and they're currency, in Japan, and China as well, a kanji that means "circle" started being used to refer to the currency: en 圓. That's the traditional one, after an orthography reform, the modern variant is now this: en 円.

  • marui
  • enshuu
  • enshuu-ritsu
    Ratio of circumference. Pi. π.
  • entaku
    Round table. (e.g. King Arthur's.)
Anime: Kochira Katsushikaku Kameari Kouenmae Hashutsujo こちら葛飾区亀有公園前派出所 (Episode 268)
  • Context: Ryoutsu Kankichi 両津勘吉 hears how much a company is willing to pay for the last piece of land they need in order to build a whole edifice.
  • juu oku en
    Ten hundred-million yen.
    One billion yen.
    • A note about numbers in Japanese:
    • ichi-man 1万 is 10000, ten thousand.
    • ichi-oku 1億 is 10000×10000, or one hundred million.

Fun fact: "money" in Japanese is okane お金, which shares a kanji with "gold," kin 金. The word referred to "gold coins," kinka 金貨. Coins minted out of silver, i.e. "silver coins," ginka 銀貨, were sometimes called ogin お銀 instead of okane.

The Chinese silver coin, which is also circular, is called, in Chinese, yínyuán 銀圓, "silver circles."


For reference, some examples of this money gesture in anime:

Matsuno Todomatsu 松野トド松, example of money gesture.
Character: Matsuno Todomatsu 松野トド松
Anime: Osomatsu-san おそ松さん (Episode 6)
  • Context: Osomatsu, one of Todomatsu's brothers, shamelessly asks their childhood friend who suddenly became rich for a share of their money.
  • demo Osomatsu-niisan, shoujiki mimi wo utagatta yo
    [That said], brother Osomatsu, honestly [I] doubted [my] ears. (I thought I had misheard it.)
  • doushite sonna tensai-teki na hassou ga dekiru no?
    How can [you] have such genius ideas?
  • *gestures monetarily*
Shibisu シビス, 십이수 makes a money gesture.
Left: Yoru 夜, 밤
Right: Shibisu シビス, 십이수
Anime: "Tower of God," Kami no Tou 神之塔 (Episode 3)
  • Shibisu makes a money gesture to pay for a drink in some sort of sci-fi palm-reading vending machine. It's uncertain whether he needed to make this gesture to activate the machine at all.
Hanako 花子 makes a money gesture toward Yashiro Nene 八尋寧々.
Left: Yashiro Nene 八尋寧々
Right: Hanako 花子
Anime: Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun 地縛少年花子くん (Episode 1)
  • Context: Nene is asks Hanako to remove a curse from her, then Hanako tells her what he wants in exchange.
  • odai wa karada de haratte morau yo
    [I] will have [you] pay the price with [your] body. (common sexual double-entendre.)
  • higan to shigan no sakai wo koete
    ore-tachi no en wa musubareta
    Crossing the boundary between this world and the next,
    our fates were linked.
  • {kimi ga ukeru} noroi wa ore ga saiteigen ni osaete ageru
    The curse [that] {you receive} [I] will suppress to the minimum.
  • kawari ni morau yo
    In exchange [I] will take [it].
  • kimi no...
  • roudouryoku
    Labor. (as in physical labor, manpower.)
  • *gestures monetarily*
  • Afterwards: Hanako, who is a spirit and can't touch physical objects, began using Nene, who has a physical "body," to interact with the physical world.
Shigure シグレ, example of money gesture.
Left: Shigure シグレ
Right: "Village Girl," Mura-musume 村娘
Manga: Kemono Michi けものみち (Episode 8)
  • Context: Shigure has opened a business selling pro-wrestling souvenirs. She tells one client about one of her products: photos of muscular guys.
  • kochira gentei-hin desu node kazu ni kagiri ga
    These are limited-supply, so [there is] a limit in number.
    • Note: kagiri ga aru ある means "there is a limit." The term gentei-hin means the product that deliberately produced in limited quantity, like a limited edition of a publication.
  • *gestures monetarily*
  • The customer falls for it totally:
  • kawanakattara koukai suru~!!
    If [I] don't buy [it] [I'll] regret [it]~!!
Mei Mei 冥冥, example of money gesture.
Character: Mei Mei 冥冥
Anime: Jujutsu Kaisen 呪術廻戦 (Episode 17)
  • Context: Mei Mei is asked which side she's on.
  • *gestures monetarily*
  • docchi? watashi wa kane no mikata da yo
    Which? I'm on the side of money.
  • {kane ni kaerarenai} mono ni kachi wa nai kara ne
    Because something [that] {[you] can't exchange for money} has no value, [you see].
  • nani se, kane ni kaerarenai-n-dakara
    [After all], [you] can't exchange [it] for money.
Koda Minare 鼓田ミナレ, example of money gesture.
Character: Koda Minare 鼓田ミナレ
Anime: Nami yo Kiite Kure 波よ聞いてくれ (Episode 3, Stitch)
  • Context: Minare is offered a job by Matou Kanetsugu 麻藤兼嗣.
  • Matou-san, {watashi ga sono hanashi de ichiban kanshin ga aru} bubun wa... kore
    Matou-san, the part [that] {I'm most interested in that story} [is]... this.
  • *gestures monetarily*

See Also

Midorikawa Mana 緑川末那, example of money eyes in the shape of a single-stroke dollar sign.
Anime: Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, アクションヒロイン チアフルーツ (Episode 9)
  • Money Eyes: money signs drawn on eyes of characters in manga and anime. For the record, while real Japanese people may do the money gesture with their real hands in real life, their eyes do not turn into money signs. At least as far as I know.
Poses & Gestures


Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

All comments are moderated and won't show up until approved. Spam, links to illegal websites, and inappropriate content won't be published.

  1. On Osomatsu-san's example, the kanji for "hassou" is written as 発送 (sending), where it should be 発想