Bitcoin Gains Traction among Japanese People
Bitcoin-related payments are picking up its momentum among Japanese customers, a retailer has discovered.
According to retailer Bic Camera, a store that sells electronic, cosmetic, and duty-free items, the number of Japanese bitcoin spenders is ‘slowly and steadily’ increasing although less than 1 percent of payments have been made using the virtual currency.
Bic Camera earned 790 billion Japanese yen ($7.2 billion) in the previous year.
“When Bic Camera first installed the Bitcoin payment system in its stores, we expected that the customers paying in Bitcoin would mostly be foreigners,” Bic Camera’s PR and IR chief Masanari Matsumoto said. However, the official noted things turned different.
“We noticed that Bitcoin was becoming very popular. Then the government announced that Bitcoin was officially legal, so we finally felt more comfortable introducing Bitcoin as a method of payment in our stores. Bic Camera always aims at responding to its customers’ demands, and there was a huge demand at the time,” Matsumoto added.
In November last year, the Japanese government officially declared bitcoin as a legal form of money. After the government released new rules pertaining to virtual currencies and cryptocurrency exchanges, Bic Camera started in April 2017 accepting bitcoin-linked payments at two of its biggest stores in central Tokyo but in a limited capacity.
Since then, the firm has expanded the option in their 40 stores across Japan and conducted an experiment to determine which areas are using bitcoin.
Based on the due diligence it conducted, Bic Camera discovered sales from Japanese customers were higher than those from foreign customers although the latter can purchase items tax-free.
“We also asked our cashier staff to look out when they processed a Bitcoin payment, and we found out that the majority of Bitcoin users were Japanese males in their 30s,” Matsumoto said, adding most of them bought alcohol, computer tablets, digital cameras, and small items.
In 2014, people who hold accounts in crypto exchanges were mostly non-Japanese. Also, less than 1 percent of now-defunct Mt. Gox creditors were Japanese citizens.
“Back then, [when Mt. Gox’s scandal hit the news in February 2014] I think the average Japanese people’s opinion on Bitcoin was that it was something suspicious and shady, because it was associated with the darknet and crime,” Seiji Tashima, a retired computer engineer, shared.
“Bitcoin circulated a bad image in Japan and mostly, people simply didn’t know what it was. But now it’s different, probably because it made bad news at first then the government recognized it as a legal form of currency later,” Tashima said.
Bic Camera is confident of the safety of its transactions because of its partnership with Bitflyer, one of the biggest crypto bourses and bitcoin payment providers in the country.
“Bitflyer stands between our company and our customers. We have faith in Bitflyer and we are confident. Furthermore, they are a cryptocurrency platform approved by the Financial Service Agency,” the Bic Camera official added.
The company, however, will not roll out a virtual currency other than bitcoin anytime soon.
Companies remain interested in the crypto arena despite reported amounts of money lost from bitcoin-related transactions including the Coincheck heist resulted in a loss amounting to 58 billion yen (USD 530 million) in NEM cryptocurrency. Coincheck did not secure a regulatory approval at the time the incident took place.
According to the government, over 100 firms have signified their interest to operate crypto exchanges.