It may be commonly accepted that Bitcoin is an American invention, penned in English by Satoshi Nakamoto, refined by himself and the late Hal Finney, and mined and sold for the first three years almost exclusively for U.S. Dollars. Oh, how times have changed. The global decentralized digital currency concept has become real, with more and more countries worldwide not fighting but accepting Bitcoin as a new technology to be valued.
If any place on Earth should turn its back on Bitcoin, it should be Japan, where the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox collapsed in early 2014, defrauding many Japanese, in addition to the greater Bitcoin community.
The negative publicity, the media misinformation, and the indictments naturally sullied Bitcoin’s name in Japan. Any brand would be damaged under these circumstances, but not every brand would bounce back so quickly. “The Honey Badger of Money” is not just any catchy brand slogan.
Bitcoin news out of Japan has been stellar and frankly amazingly groundbreaking, as we have reported. Japan’s executive branch of government, known as the Cabinet, has approved a set of bills aimed at modernizing the Japanese payments industry and giving recognition to virtual currencies like bitcoin for having a “function similar to real money.”
This step is truly unprecedented, and even more unlikely from a country where Bitcoin has endured such a checkered past. The Yen is now the third largest fiat market for Bitcoin, trailing behind China and The US. BtcBox and bitFlyer appear to have the lion's share of that volume, collectively accounting for 67% of Yen trades. Not Far behind are Quoine, with 15%, and Coincheck, with 11%.
Coincheck was started less than two years ago, in August of 2014, by a small group of coders and engineers. The exchange launched Just six months after the dust had settled on Mt. Gox.
Brave New Coin spoke with Coincheck’s Business Development Lead, Kagayaki (Kaga) Kawabata, about the new legislation, the journey from ruins to riches, and where this is all headed.
“The Japanese bitcoin market is changing rapidly and is now moving in a positive direction. After the announcement, many companies started to trust bitcoins and contacted us about our payment service.”
- Kagayaki Kawabata, Coincheck Business Development Lead
Few cultures value education and technology like Japan does, making Bitcoin a natural fit. Kawabata happily reports that Bitcoin is beginning to be seen as superior technology to be supported, not feared.
Bitcoin is an economic force of nature that can create new financial industries and will be a foundation for new online applications and technologies. Bitcoin is so revolutionary, Russia has seen fit to work on banning Bitcoin.
“The Japanese people had a terrible image toward bitcoin, thinking that Mt. Gox WAS Bitcoin! However, the situation has changed in the past few years. Today, the amount of Japanese citizens who think of bitcoin as superior technology is increasing.”
The downside of a decentralized digital currency is your brand may not have a proper public relations department or cohesive message, when times get tough. Sans election years, government does not have public debates over governance policy or overall direction.
They can put out one unified message, and leave all of the back-and-forth behind closed doors. When Bitcoin has a problem, there is no real leadership or unified message available to protect the brand, which is global, not national, making PR spin even more difficult to manage effectively.
Bitcoin has suffered from the effects of this in many countries, most particularly in Japan. Noted Bitcoin investor and enthusiast Roger Ver, who lives in Tokyo, Japan, confirmed the generally negative impressions the Japanese culture has of Bitcoin, thanks to poor mainstream media reporting, and a general lack of support from the Bitcoin community in the region.
Coincheck, Kawabata claims, has more than 3 billion yen in Bitcoin transactions per month, just over US$27m. That’s a lot of Bitcoin acceptance in just over eighteen months, a testament to the work and value the Coincheck team bring to the market. Kaga says they were actually the last exchange, not the first, to market in Japan.
They have made such gains based on an easy-to-use interface and bringing the newest features to market. Leveraged trading, credit card payments, and iPhone/Android apps are some of the benefits of using Coincheck, and FOREX trading like features such as future trading, stop-loss order and the ability to buy Ethereum are coming soon.
Coincheck is not just another Bitcoin exchange. They provide merchant payment services, comparable to BitPay, having introduced over 1000 new merchants nationwide to the digital currency. They have made some major conquests and see plenty of opportunities for growth in the coming years.
Recently, DMM.com, an entertainment giant with more than 19 million users in Japan, started to accept bitcoin payment by using Coincheck. The company also launched the first donation-based bitcoin crowdfunding platform in Japan.
“Most bitcoin users buy bitcoin for investment purpose. However, this situation may change if more businesses accepting bitcoin. Coincheck is also the leading bitcoin payment service in Japan. We have a monopoly in bitcoin payment service where more than 1,000 merchants are using our payment solution.”
That so much within the Bitcoin space has been accomplished in Japan since Mt. Gox, not just by Coincheck, but by the Japanese government, is truly remarkable.
Not long after Mt. Gox folded and Coincheck was created, the Japanese government helped form JADA (The Japan Authority of Digital Asset) with the local Bitcoin community, which sets Bitcoin standards in Japan to this day.
Regulators did not tell the Bitcoin community how Bitcoin would work, they let the community create codes of conduct. As JADA heads into its third year, Kaga says that Coincheck is a proud member, and is actively helping to build the Japanese Bitcoin community’s usage standards.
While Bitcoin itself, along with countries around the world, quibble and bicker over what a Bitcoin is and how it should grow, the Japanese culture has not overanalyzed it. Japan has just gotten to work on supporting it to the best of their abilities. The current economic turmoil the Japanese Yen is under right now hasn’t hurt the general interest in building a new economic avenue for the future.