Progressing in the Digital Age: All About Bitcoins and Japan’s Take on It

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  • In this fast-paced digital world that we live in where people grow impatient at the ticking of seconds between stoplights or the time lag from website to website, people are also growing frustrated with how rough banking systems are. You pay online for an item, but you can’t do it with a simple click. You must not only type in all your personal information and double- or triple-check that you have it right, but you also have to be careful of any potential fraudulent hackers or second-party websites that might attempt to obtain your personal information.

    Fortunately, the Japanese government has decided to tackle this issue. You may have noticed in recent times that convenience stores such as FamilyMart now offer cryptocurrency or bitcoins for sale in little cards that look like this:

    A post shared by Satoshi Okawachi (@bmd_info) on

    What are they, what are they for, and how do they work? Let’s find out!

    What are bitcoins?

    Bitcoins are essentially a decentralized cryptocurrency, which can be traded in exchange for goods and services. As of April 1, 2017, Japan has passed a law to recognize bitcoins as a method of payment. Over 200,000 stores now offer their services in bitcoins alongside cash or credit; some of these stores include several BIC CAMERA branches, popular restaurant chains, hair salons, capsule hotels, and more. The Japanese government also announced that bitcoins no longer have to undergo the consumption tax, meaning that they can be used in making payments and be transferred digitally without the 8% consumption tax, as of March 2017.

    Yuzo Kano, CEO of bitFlyer (a Japanese bitcoin exchange website), partnered with BIC CAMERA in April 2017. This caused the word of bitcoins to go viral and become more trustworthy. “We are expecting that some large retail shops and e-commerce sites will introduce bitcoin payment within this year [2017],” Kano of bitFlyer said to Bitcoin.com.

    In some restaurants and shops, you can also find bitcoin ATMs where you can purchase bitcoins.

    Why choose bitcoin over banks?

    While bitcoins could possibly be banks’ new enemies, the Japanese government saw the potential of bitcoins, and instead decided to offer their new take on it. There are plans being talked of to create a new cryptocurrency under the name “J-Coin,” which will be government-supported and also offered by banks such as Japan Post Bank, while not imposing the hassle of middleman transactions and risk. According to Mizuho Financial Group, “the project is still in its early stages.”

    Bitcoins can be used to buy goods and services. You can also withdraw your bitcoins and convert them to cash, although many experts advise against it, as the BTC worth is ever increasing. From January to November 2017, the BTC value has gone up by 500%, starting from a little below 2,000 USD per BTC to over 6,000 USD per BTC. The value increases as more people begin to buy and mine, and Japan’s move in April 2017 made a huge contribution to the bitcoin value worldwide.

    Japan already houses some electronic payment methods that do not directly involve the bank as a mediator, such as the Suica, Manaca, and Rakuten Edy cards. You recharge them at the respective ATM, and then you can shop at certain designated stores with a swipe of your card – no signatures nor personal information necessary.

    So what does that mean?

    By 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics, the government hopes that J-Coins will have a dominant role in Japan’s economy, alongside bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. This will save foreigners from having to exchange their local currency to the Japanese Yen, thus not losing the percentage of money that goes with the exchange. It will also help people in Japan know exactly where their spendings are going to, without having to worry about consumption taxes.

    What do you think of cryptocurrencies and the planned J-Coin? Do you think it will make living and purchasing in Japan easier for locals and expats alike? Could this be the end to all economic and poverty crises?