The government-supported Yokohama Specie Bank, founded in Japan in 1880, was international in origin. It developed an extensive network of branches. The bank was named after the ‘specie’ (Latin for “in kind,”) a silver coin (as distinguished from bullion or paper money) used as an international currency for settling payments among traders. Japanese banking came to Hawaiʻi on August 8, 1892, with the opening of the Honolulu branch of the Yokohama Shokin Giriko, the Yokohama Specie Bank, Ltd.
Although the Yokohama Specie Bank conducted a merchant bank business in Hawaiʻi, its principal function remained that of transacting foreign exchange business. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941,) the building was confiscated by the Alien Custodian Agency. During the war, the first floor was used for storing confiscated possessions, while the basement was converted into a 250-man drunk tank.