Japan’s largest Forex market opens Bitcoin exchanges to overwhelming demand

The much-anticipated Z.com Coin bitcoin exchange, a new division of Japan’s leading provider of both Internet services and Forex exchange, GMO, recently opened to staggering traffic volumes.

Having been temporarily delayed due to high levels of Bitcoin trading traffic last week, the exchange re-scheduled their launch for Wednesday, at which time high levels of traffic took the site offline, resulting in a maintenance message to visitors on the first day of service.

“Due to the concentration of access after the site was launched today at 20 o'clock, some customers are unavailable, so we are currently in urgent maintenance. We are sorry for the inconvenience, but please wait for a while until the end of maintenance.”

- Z.com Coin (translated)

Parent company GMO and their venture capital arm, GMO Ventures, both were long-time investors of leading Japanese exchange BitFlyer. The plans for GMO-Z.com Coin Co. Ltd were first announced in October 2016, as the Japanese government first started talking positively about Bitcoin regulation.

The company started testing their digital currency trading service the following month, and has been preparing for a full-scale bitcoin exchange with margin trading ever since. Pre-registration for the trading platforms opened on May 9, with a full launch originally slated May 24th.

However, as the deadline neared and Bitcoin’s price and volumes were at all-time highs, the company delayed their launch for one week, due to the excessive growth in the number of bitcoin transactions since their May 9 announcement.

“We will provide customers with a stable trading environment and judge whether it is necessary to conduct additional service verification and system adjustment for the platform to be used with confidence. The start date of the service has been postponed to May 31, 2017.”

- Z.com Coin

In May, GMO officially announced the exchange, about a month after the Japanese law allowing Bitcoin to be regulated as a type of money took effect. The initial demand for the service was most likely due to GMO’s existing customer base.

GMO Click Securities is the world’s largest FX brokerage by volume, a position it has held since 2012. With $900 billion in Forex traded during 2016 on their exchange alone. The company estimates that the market size in Japan for cryptocurrencies will grow to 1 trillion yen daily volume, or US$8.7 billion daily within a few years.

One demographic of Japanese retail investor in particular, a large female-dominated group known as “Mrs. Watanabe,” has been known to prefer Forex margin trading, and is said to control the $40 trillion Forex market at times. Watanabe’s preferred platform for day trading is GMO’s Click FX platform, after which Z.com Coin was modeled. With this launch, the high-profile investors now have easy access to trading their currencies against bitcoin for the first time, in a regulated environment.

The Financial Times recently noted that the race was on among several Bitcoin companies to capture Mrs. Watanabe’s bitcoin business. “The process is expensive, demanding, laced with invisible tripwires and not all applicants, by any means, will be successful,” the publication said. However, “the prize, though, could be spectacular.”

- Z.com Coin

Z.com Coin is offering two types of account plans for users, referred to as “Simple” and “Full Access.” With Simple, the website doesn’t ask for much identifying information, so customers can get set up quickly. However, they can only treat the exchange as a cryptocurrency wallet where they can buy coins, make deposits, and withdraw them again.

The Full Access accounts require Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) documentation, but permits users to deposit and withdraw Japanese yen, and trade on both of Z.com Coin’s trading services.

The company is initially offering a Bitcoin wallet and two markets for their customer to trade. The first is a Foreign Exchange market that allows Bitcoin to be traded for various fiat currencies, called the “virtual currency FX” market. Traders also have access to margin trading, an already-very popular market type for Z.com, according to the announcement.

The other market is a more traditional Bitcoin exchange, which they simply call their “virtual currency” market. The service allows anyone to buy bitcoins for Yen, and potentially other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum in the future, and send them to their Z.com coin wallet. As with the now competing exchange BitFlyer, trading fees on the Virtual Currency market are zero.

The company has also announced the upcoming launch of mobile apps with advanced trading features, planned for both iOS and Android. Called “a tool for virtual currency FX trading,” The iOS version doesn’t have a launch date, although the Android app is scheduled to be released on June 30, 2017.