Leading Asian Bitcoin exchange, Coincheck launched in 2014 just as drama in the industry was at an all-time high. Mt. Gox, led by Mark Karpeles, was in the midst of a drawn out and damaging bankruptcy. Media attention was at an all-time high, especially in Japan, where Mt. Gox had been headquartered. Media reports were oft misleading about the true relationship between Mt. Gox and the digital currency, Bitcoin.
“Every media outlet in Japan broadcasted Mt. Gox as Bitcoin implanting misleading impressions to the Japanese people,” said Coincheck’s Lead of Business development, Kagayaki Kawabata, speaking to CCN.
Many Japanese people thought Bitcoin is a digital currency for criminals. It’s surprising that Bitcoin, once acknowledged as dark money, is now considered as a legal money.
As elsewhere in the financial world, Japanese financial institutions take blockchain technology seriously and experiment with its usage.This might have led to improved perception about Bitcoin, downplaying its association with the criminal underworld.
“Back in the day, most of these banks didn’t even allow us to open our bank account since we are in ‘bitcoin business,’ Mr. Kawabata says. “The situation has changed where some banks are admitting the potential. We’re surprised how the Japanese perception of bitcoin has changed dramatically in these few years.”
Coin Check, which is neutral on the block size debate, believes many corporations and fintech minded individuals view Bitcoin “as the next big thing.”
“However, even though how Japanese perceive Bitcoin become better than before handful of people still don’t trust Bitcoin 100%,” he says. “Even people who somewhat know about bitcoin think it’s just an another form of digital money (Suica, prepaid card). However, recently major Japanese media started to feature about bitcoin educating ordinary people about bitcoin.”
Coincheck’s focus was to create an easy-to-use platform for Japanese customers to buy and sell bitcoins. It requires a Japanese ID. The exchange was designed not for high-frequency Bitcoin traders or professional use, but smaller scale, individual users.
“Japan’s bitcoin market is a unique market because of the competitive market environment, bitcoin regulation and user characteristics,” says Mr. Kawabata. Japan was one of the first countries in the world that regulate Bitcoin as money, he notes. “The Japanese government is supporting bitcoin and cryptocurrency,” he claims.
Mr. Kawabata claims Japan is the second-largest Bitcoin market in the world. “The competitive market environment where a majority of Japanese exchanges’ trading fees is 0% has contributed Japan to be in this position,” he says. “Japan is known as one of the largest FX markets.”
He says a percentage of FX traders has migrated to bitcoin trading, which has, in turn, helped to improve Japan bitcoin prices. “As a leading cryptocurrency country, it’s interesting how Japan will develop the usage of bitcoin overall.”
Coincheck claims to have implemented bitcoin payment to more than 3,300 merchants just in Japan and has announced a partnership with electricity company allowing Japanese to pay electricity bills with bitcoin.
“We believe in few years bitcoin will be acknowledged as revolutionary technology by ordinary people as well,” Mr. Kawabata notes.
Images from Shutterstock.