Japan’s crypto market matured in 2020, but 2021 may see huge growth

Japan’s crypto market matured in 2020, but 2021 may see huge growth

2021 may be the year of natural selection for the Japanese crypto industry.

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In 2020, the Japanese crypto industry seems to have entered its maturation phase. With new crypto laws established in May, large exchanges have solidified their leading positions, while crypto startups and unregulated businesses have exited the market. However, it seems that a winner has not yet been declared. There are already more than 25 registered exchanges in the small nation with a population of over 100 million, but global crypto giants are just starting to enter the market. Some believe a significant industry reorganization is coming through buyouts of licensed exchanges. And with the current bull market expected to continue, we may see a further expansion of crypto companies in Japan in 2021.

One question that must be asked, though, is: Does the industry actually have to show maturity now? With just 12 years having passed since Bitcoin was created, the entire crypto and blockchain industry is still in a nascent stage. Can we, therefore, foresee future development and regulate the industry at all? Regulatory clarity may be an advantage, but leaving it vague for now — whether done intentionally or not — as can be seen in the United States and China may be the right move for innovation.

Revised crypto laws

Japanese legislators amended the nation’s crypto regulations, the Payment Services Act and the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act, on May 1. The new rules seek to address the vulnerabilities exposed by the hacking of exchanges Coincheck and Zaif in 2018 and BITPoint in 2019. Money laundering is another concern for regulators.

While the new regulations are supposed to show the industry’s maturity in Japan and attract institutional players, to some custodians and wallet service providers they appear to be regulatory overkill due to high compliance costs.

For example, on March 31, a blockchain-based social networking service called Valu announced that it would end its service due to strict regulations for digital-asset custodians. Valu enabled users to trade their “value as individuals” by using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC). Therefore, it was managing users’ funds on their behalf. Valu commented: “As the crypto custody service is the core part of VALU, if we can’t maintain it, we have to change the management plan drastically.”

Unregulated exchanges

The new regulations affect crypto exchanges based outside of Japan. In April, BitMex, one of the world’s biggest crypto derivatives exchanges, announced that it would close services for Japanese residents starting May 1. BitMex — at the time headed by Arthur Hayes, its charismatic former CEO — was one of the most popular exchanges for Japanese traders. Now, traders are turning to other derivatives exchanges such as FTX and Bybit.

In October, Binance, another exchange not registered with the Financial Services Agency, ended its strategic partnership with TaoTao, a registered exchange in Japan.

Industry reorganization in 2021?

Meanwhile, industry reorganization is becoming one of the crypto hot topics in Japan. There are more than 25 exchanges registered with the FSA. For some companies, struggling businesses are attractive takeover targets. Tsuneyasu Takeda, CEO of Exchangers — which aims to become the Amazon of the crypto industry — told Cointelegraph Japan that he was negotiating with some of the licensed crypto exchanges for potential partnerships or mergers and acquisitions.

Moreover, global crypto exchanges are entering the Japanese market. Kraken reentered Japan in September for the first time since 2018, and Coinbase is actively recruiting locals. With global crypto exchange giants coming into an already competitive market, the selection process may be further intensified in 2021.

Is Ripple coming to Japan?

Despite their strictness, the clarity of Japan’s crypto laws appears to be an attractive element for some companies outside of the nation. Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, mentioned Japan as one of the candidates for relocating Ripple’s headquarters.

Garlinghouse criticized the lack of regulatory clarity in the U.S., saying there are too many definitions of cryptocurrency:

“Crypto is property, crypto is a commodity, crypto is a virtual currency, crypto is a security, etc. Regulation shouldn’t be a guessing game.”

He further summarized the reason that the company is considering moving outside the United States:

“The lack of a single national regulatory framework is putting US innovation and US companies at a significant disadvantage. All we’re asking for is a level playing field — if we need to move to another country to get that, then that’s the path we will have to take.”

Lack of new service

When the crypto industry saw the decentralized finance boom in the summer, Japan was left behind. There were no crypto exchanges in Japan that launched DeFi-related services nor that listed DeFi tokens in 2020.

It is not just DeFi — Japanese crypto exchanges struggled with expanding their services in general, with just Coincheck launching a staking service with Lisk in January. Many exchanges started listing new coins in 2020, such as Basic Attention Token (BAT), but the choices are still limited. “I feel like the Japanese crypto exchanges have done nothing for the past few years,” a Japanese crypto lawyer told Cointelegraph Japan.

Retail investors

As Bitcoin broke through its previous all-time high in November, Japanese retail investors gradually started returning to the market. Japanese retail investors are known for being the driving force behind the crypto bubble in 2017. Around the time, Japanese crypto exchanges aggressively advertised themselves on national television commercials.

For example, Coincheck collaborated with Tetsuro Degawa, a popular Japanese comedian, on a commercial to reach those who were unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies. The commercial went viral, and those who started trading Bitcoin after watching it were called Degawa-gumi, or “the Degawa group.” Moreover, Kasoutsuka Shojo, a crypto-themed idol group whose name translates to “Virtual Currency Girsl,” was formed in January 2018. The level of enthusiasm was at its peak.

The bull market of 2020 hasn’t seen as much enthusiasm from the Japanese as in the previous one, yet crypto exchanges revealed to Cointelegraph Japan that they were surely coming back to the market to some extent.

For example, crypto exchange Zaif said its customer service department had received many inquiries since October from users saying: “I tried to log in for the first time for a while but don’t remember my password.” According to Bitbank, the number of customers who opened new accounts quadrupled from the beginning of November to the end of the month. BitFlyer saw its weekly number of newly opened accounts increase threefold in the third week of November compared with the average of September to the middle of October.

Unlike the United States, the Japanese crypto market isn’t yet seeing the inflow of institutional players. It will eventually be seen in 2021 if the maturity of the crypto industry will start finally attracting them.


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2021 may be the year of natural selection for the Japanese crypto industry.

Japan’s Top HR Firm Is Working on a Blockchain-Based Recruitment App

Japan’s Top HR Firm Is Working on a Blockchain-Based Recruitment App

Your next job might hire you using the Blockchain.

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Persol Group, one of the largest human resource companies in Japan, has partnered with major Japanese IT and electronics company, NEC Corporation, to build a new blockchain-powered recruiting platform. Persol Group is one of the largest staffing companies in the country, with 32,000 employees and a market cap of $5.7 billion as of 2017.

According to the announcement, the two companies have begun working on a Proof-of-Concept to test a direct recruiting service that utilizes blockchain technology to securely manage personal data, prevent falsification of information, and ensure authenticity.

This new platform is expected to target the shortage of IT human resources in Japan. Citing data from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the companies’ reps noted that the skill gap could account for 800,000 people by 2020.

According to the announcement, NEC is acting as a technology provider within the initiative. Teruyuki Nakajima, general manager of corporate business incubation at NEC, said:

“NEC will start a new direct recruiting initiative that utilizes its own blockchain technology. Through these initiatives, we hope that opportunities to find employment online will be provided to everyone fairly, and that a world where diverse work styles and lifestyles will be realized.”

A number of companies around the world have implemented blockchain to improve their recruitment-related processes so far. This has come at a crucial time, given the increased unemployment rate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2020, human resources firm Randstad announced an integration with enterprise blockchain platform Cypherium to automate its workflow using smart contracts. In 2019, Big Four auditing firm Deloitte integrated privacy tech by cryptography startup QEDIT to track, share, and validate the qualifications of staff.


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Your next job might hire you using the Blockchain.

Japan’s Dormant BTC Trading Accounts Wake up as Bitcoin Price Rallies

Japan’s Dormant BTC Trading Accounts Wake up as Bitcoin Price Rallies

“Old-time” Japanese crypto traders are coming back as Bitcoin recovers to $10K.

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Japan’s “dormant” crypto accounts are starting to see activity as Bitcoin breached a critical price resistance level this week. According to the Japanese crypto exchange Coincheck, their trading volume this week has risen by two to three times in comparison to the previous one. 

Speaking to a selected number of the Japanese outlets, Yusuke Otsuka, the co-founder of Coincheck explained that existing users who hadn’t traded for a while became active again this week: “Some of our users already have accounts so the initial velocity is high.”

If users already have accounts, they don’t have to take time to go through Know Your Customer check to open new accounts and can resume buying cryptocurrencies immediately. In contrast, those new to the trading platform had to wait for their account to become approved, so there was a time lag before they could start trading. “This time is different”, Otsuka emphasized. 

According to Coincheck, the volume of the direct sale this week was twice as big as seen during the previous one, while the demand for the exchange service increased threefold. Otsuka also believes this is correlated with the Japanese Coivd-19 stimulus payments. In April, the Japanese government began distributing 100,000 yen payments — about $930 —  to every household. 

Moreover, Oki Matsumoto, CEO of Monex Group, a parent company of Coincheck points out the possibility that those who missed buying gold are now interested in Bitcoin. The gold price has surged recently, breaking previous highs while Bitcoin just started breaking the resistance at the beginning of this week.

Libra on the agenda

Matsumoto also commented on the recent development of central bank digital currencies:

“I think David Marcus made a mistake. He should have said it was Facebook Token. Because they said it was ‘the future currency,’ the U.S. government criticized it heavily”.

Matsumoto added that “the role of Libra might be just to open Pandora’s Box and that was it”. Meanwhile, the United States is behind the competition precisely because “they crushed Libra by themselves and could no longer say they would start developing CBDC”, Matsumoto analyzed. 

Some industry insiders are worried about American reluctance to move forward with CBDC. Takaya Nakamura, an executive from Japanese crypto exchange Fisco recently claimed that Japan’s role should be to urge the United States to take CBDCs more seriously.


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“Old-time” Japanese crypto traders are coming back as Bitcoin recovers to $10K.

Japan’s Covid-19 Stimulus Payments Didn’t Flow Into Crypto

Japan’s Covid-19 Stimulus Payments Didn’t Flow Into Crypto

Covid-19 relief money does not seem to have been spent by many Japanese on cryptocurrencies.

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In April, the Japanese government began distributing 100,000 yen payments — about $930 —  to every household. But did the Japanese follow some in the United States and spend that money in crypto exchanges? The data from the three major crypto exchanges in Japan suggests they probably did not. 

In his latest report, Yuya Hasegawa, a market analyst at Bitbank exchange notes some “irregularities” in the month of June in terms of deposits but overall concludes that the coronavirus relief payments did not result in significant changes to the behavior of Japanese crypto investors. 

There were some changes to normal. The number of 100K yen deposits from investors in their 40s was up more than 36%, surpassing that from investors in their 20s for the first time in two months. The number of 100K yen deposits from investors in their 50s increased by more than 35%. 

But according to Hasegawa, those changes are “too minuscule to alter overall investor behavior in any significant way”. By comparing the number of deposits in June with “previous months that recorded roughly the same amount of monthly BTC volume in the past (ie. Sep 19〜Dec 19”, he observed: 

 “The number of deposits and the degree of increase is a little too small to conclude, with confidence, that a number of Japanese investors are using their stimulus checks to buy crypto (emphasis on ‘a number of’)” 

BitFlyer and Coincheck on the Covid-19 stimulus check

Cointelegraph asked exchanges BitFlyer and Coincheck to check the number of 100K yen deposits since April. By and large the results confirmed the Covid-19 stimulus payment had little impact on crypto purchases

BitFlyer compared the month of February with April, May, and June. The number of 100K yen deposits increased from 1.1 to 1.2 times from April to June. The rate of increase was small and BitFlyer said it couldn’t conclude if the number was buoyed by the coronavirus rescue stimulus. 

According to Coincheck, the number of 100K yen deposits gradually increased between January to April but stopped increasing in May. It decreased in the second quarter compared with the first quarter. 

Why the small impact? 

Why did Japanese investors shy away from using the relief money for crypto investments? Hasegawa suggested it could be related to the “Japanese consumer’s tendential characteristic towards investment”: 

“In Japan, average households allocate only about 15% of their funds to financial products (excluding insurance, pension, and standardized guarantee scheme) and a little over 50% to savings, whereas the average US and EU households allocate more to financial products and less to their savings.”

As Cointelegraph reported, on July 13th, the Bank of Japan revealed that the supply of M3 in the country — essentially the volume of deposits by individuals, corporations, and local governments excluding financial institutions— increased 5.9% in June to $13.5 trillion.


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Covid-19 relief money does not seem to have been spent by many Japanese on cryptocurrencies.

Japan’s Top Idol Just Became the New Face of BitFlyer Crypto Exchange

Japan’s Top Idol Just Became the New Face of BitFlyer Crypto Exchange

Japan’s top idol is now part of bitFlyer cryptocurrency exchange’s aggressive new advertising campaign.

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Japan’s most famous idol just became the face of bitFlyer, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

Asuka Saito is one of the most popular members of Nogizaka 46, a leading idol group in Japan consisting of 46 girls. Debuted in 2011, it started as a sister group of AKB 48, the then-most popular idol unit.

They have attracted many fans since then, and in 2017 and 2018 they won the Japan Record Award, the most prestigious award for musicians in the country.

Idols are a type of performer unique to Japan, who are marketed and cultivated for their image and personality. Idols are often musicians, models or dancers.

Asuka Saito started her work with bitFlyer on Wednesday in the exchange’s new television commercial that aims to attract crypto-novices to the platform. 

Speaking to Cointelegraph Japan, bitFlyer said of the collaboration:

“Nogizaka 46 is the No.1 girl unit in terms of popularity. We are the No.1 exchange in terms of trading volumes.” 

The exchange also suggested that “it may be the first time any exchange has collaborated with the country’s top idol.“ 

In recent months, bitFlyer has been ramping up an aggressive PR campaign. Last month, it resumed broadcasting television advertisements in part of Japan for the first time in two years. 

Also last month, Bitcoin (BTC) spot trading volumes at bitFlyer hit 243,887 BTC, up more than 40% from April and even beating out the Black Thursday highs from March.


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Japan’s top idol is now part of bitFlyer cryptocurrency exchange’s aggressive new advertising campaign.

Japan’s Top Credit Card Issuer Building Blockchain Payment System

Japan’s Top Credit Card Issuer Building Blockchain Payment System

JCB’s partner in the venture, TECHFUND, offers services to accelerate the adoption of blockchain technologies for startups

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The biggest credit card issuer in Japan, JCB, has partnered with technology accelerator TECHFUND to build a sustainable transaction system on the blockchain.

According to a May 15 statement released by JCB, the partnership will utilize TECHFUND’s expertise on security token offerings (STOs) and staking to create a new platform for transactions. Also based in Tokyo, TECHFUND has a program called ACCEL BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) which aims to accelerate the adoption of blockchain technologies for startups and enterprises.

JCB moves towards blockchain

The financial firm has made some steps towards innovative solutions to online payments. Cointelegraph reported in December that JCB was planning to adopt a new business-to-business (B2B) payment solution based on blockchain technology.

Hisashi Oki at Cointelegraph Japan contributed to this article.


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JCB’s partner in the venture, TECHFUND, offers services to accelerate the adoption of blockchain technologies for startups

Japan STO Association Releases New Regulatory Guidelines

Japan STO Association Releases New Regulatory Guidelines

At the center of the new guidelines issued by Japan’s STO Association is electronic record transfer rights and separating customer assets

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The Japan Security Token Offering Association (JSTOA) has just released self-regulatory guidelines on how to separate customer assets and electronic record transfer rights.

Available on the JSTOA website on April 20, the association attributes the guidelines to the revisions of the country’s Financial Instruments and Exchange Act (FIEA), passed by the Japanese House of Representatives and set to be enforced starting May 1.

At a meeting including employees and the Board of Directors, the association laid out the rules for electronic record transfer rights and management of customer assets, among others. The JSTOA will check the management of separately held customer assets once a month with certified public accountants and audits. 

Moreover, as part of their prevention against investment solicitation, the association is calling for a clearer definition of selling digital assets to elderly customers — those at risk for fraud — and to make the efforts to establish guidelines for solicitation.

Crypto regulatory enforcement coming soon

New laws for regulating cryptocurrencies in Japan are beginning to be enforced. The FIEA and Payment Services Act, both revisions to existing financial legislation, will come into effect starting in May.

Headquartered in Tokyo, the JSTOA was launched in October 2019 to support the development of security token offering fundraising by consolidating expertise from within the industry, ensuring compliance with laws and protecting investors. The association is backed by major financial corporations in the country such as Nomura Securities, Rakuten Securities, SBI Securities, Monex, and others.

Hisashi Oki and Yoshihisa Takahashi at Cointelegraph Japan contributed to this article.


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At the center of the new guidelines issued by Japan’s STO Association is electronic record transfer rights and separating customer assets

Japan’s Financial Regulator Launches Global Blockchain Governance Initiate

Japan’s Financial Regulator Launches Global Blockchain Governance Initiate

The Blockchain Governance Initiate seeks to provide an open platform for dialogue between regulators and cryptocurrency stakeholders in Japan

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Japan’s financial regulator announced the launch of its global Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN) on March 10. The BGIN intends to foster the “sustainable development of the blockchain community.“

The Financial Services Agency Japan (JFSA) announced the new initiative during the “BG2C – Special Online Broadcasting Panel Discussion,” which the JFSA hosted in partnership with Nikkei Inc.

BGIN to develop “common language” for blockchain sector

The BGIN will encourage sustainable development of the distributed ledger technology (DLT) sector by establishing “an open and neutral sphere for all blockchain stakeholders to deepen common understanding” between DLT stakeholders.

The initiative also hopes to develop a “common language among stakeholders with diverse perspectives” and build a network of open-source information sharing. The JFSA will participate in the BGIN as a stakeholder.

JFSA adds that the BGIN is in line with its G20 Osaka declaration.

BGIN comprises JFSA’s third blockchain initiative

The BGIN is the JFSA’s third blockchain initiative, following its 2019 Blockchain Roundtable and its “Multilateral Joint Research Projects‘ looking at DLT.

The Blockchain Roundtable hosted domestic and international regulators, financial institutions and universities.

United States-based universities and regulators from Abu Dhabi, Australia, Germany, France, Ireland, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Kingdom participated in the round table — suggesting that they may also engage with the BGIN.

Securitize partners with Lifull to securitize rural real estate in Japan

On March 10, digital asset tokenization platform Securitize announced it had developed a blockchain-based platform to tokenize real estate in the Japanese countryside.

The platform was developed in partnership between its Securitize subsidiary Buidl and Tokyo-based Lifull Social Funding, and will predominantly target abandoned properties.


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The Blockchain Governance Initiate seeks to provide an open platform for dialogue between regulators and cryptocurrency stakeholders in Japan

Securitize Using Digital Securities to Help Japan’s Real Estate

Securitize Using Digital Securities to Help Japan’s Real Estate

To prevent homes in Japan’s countryside from staying vacant and becoming dilapidated, LIFULL and Securitize are looking to digital assets

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Two companies have developed a blockchain-based solution to address the large number of vacant homes in the Japanese countryside.

Securitize, a compliance platform for token issuers, has joined forces with Tokyo-based LIFULL to create a funding platform using digital securities to invest in real estate. According to a March 10 press release, the collaboration has been successful in proving that blockchain technology and digital securities are more effective crowdfunding for the Japanese real estate market than traditional methods. 

LIFULL Social Funding, in collaboration with BUIDL, a subsidiary of Securitize, will be using the new platform to revitalize many homes in Japan that have fallen into disuse or been abandoned entirely. CEO and co-founder of Securitize Carlos Domingo gave his thoughts on the project and what it means for Japan:

“Our collaborative success in creating a comprehensive platform solution for crowdfunded real estate funds is very exciting, and it is a great start for Securitize and LIFULL as we work to modernize the Japanese real estate market together.”

Why the real estate market in Japan needs a boost

The move by Securitize is intended to provide a means for investors to crowdfund real estate in less desirable locations of Japan. LIFULL explained the issues behind this investment in their own statement:

„To address vacant houses nationwide, it is necessary to actively promote renovation and conversion of these homes for other uses to maintain and improve the value of the real estate. That’s a difficult problem. Regional revitalization of real estate crowdfunding is being promoted as a solution to this problem.”

The eight million abandoned, or “ghost” homes in Japan are the result of a massive urbanization trend in the Asian nation intensifying since the bubble burst in the late 80’s. Prior to that, the Japanese real estate market had grown almost exponentially. 

Many jobs are available only in major cities in Japan, and families are being forced out of the countryside as schools close from low attendance. As a result, their properties are seen as so undesirable many are simply given away to any interested party.


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To prevent homes in Japan’s countryside from staying vacant and becoming dilapidated, LIFULL and Securitize are looking to digital assets

Japan’s Top Credit Card Issuer JCB to Apply DLT in Its $10T B2B Market

Japan’s Top Credit Card Issuer JCB to Apply DLT in Its $10T B2B Market

Japan’s top credit card issuer JCB plans to address major challenges in Japanese $10 trillion B2B market with blockchain

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Japan’s top credit card issuer JCB plans to adopt a new business-to-business (B2B) payment solution based on blockchain technology.

JCB has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with blockchain-based commercial payments platform Paystand to develop a digital payment platform for enterprises and customers in Japan, Cointelegraph Japan reports Dec. 20.

Initiative to cut costs and delays associated with “pre-internet technology” in Japan’s $10 trillion B2B market

The new joint development aims to cut costs and delays associated with “pre-internet technology” that is still practiced in Japan’s $10 trillion B2B market that is still dominated by cash transactions, Paystand CEO Jeremy Almond said in an official announcement. According to the exec, only 1% of commercial payments in Japan are now made via credit cards.

Paystand’s partnership with JCB demonstrates that growing demand for digital technology-powered business payments by enterprises, Almond noted.

The new tool will purportedly be implemented to also address some complications in the B2B payment market associated with Japan’s consumption tax hike adopted in early October 2019, the original announcement notes.

Paystand expands its blockchain-based project to Asia

Paystand’s blockchain-based payment platform is now adopted by more than 150,000 companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. By partnering with JCB, the company apparently expects a strong push into Asian market as Paystand estimated JCB’s 130 million customers to account for an 80% market share, a Paystand spokesperson said in an email to Cointelegraph.

Meanwhile, JCB has made some steps towards blockchain technology. In 2018, the credit card firm was reported on developing a technology that connects separate blockchain networks in order to share their excess capacity, resolving issues that arise from heavy traffic on a single ledger.


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Japan’s top credit card issuer JCB plans to address major challenges in Japanese $10 trillion B2B market with blockchain

Japan’s 2nd-Largest Utility Trials Blockchain for Renewable Energy Credits

Japan’s 2nd-Largest Utility Trials Blockchain for Renewable Energy Credits

Japan’s second-largest power utility is extending its trial of a blockchain system for trading renewable energy certificates

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The second-largest power utility in Japan is extending its trial of a blockchain-powered system for transacting renewable energy credits.

According to a press release shared with Cointelegraph on Dec. 9, the Kansai Electric Power Co Inc (KEPCO) is extending its trial of a blockchain-enabled renewable energy trading platform developed by Australian tech firm Power Ledger.

Decentralizing, decarbonizing

In 2018, Japan was the world’s fifth-largest consumer of electricity, yet produced only 17.5% of its energy from renewable sources.

In May of this year, the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry decided to continue its sale of non-fossil fuel value certificates (NFVs). These provide energy retailers with proof that the portion of energy under the certificate is generated from renewable energy sources.

They can also be used to assess which power plants are contributing the most environmental value in order to encourage investment in green industries and can be traded, similarly to other forms of renewable energy certificates (RECs).

A local report from EKOenergy in March claimed that existing energy certificates and carbon credit systems in Japan remained “complicated and fragmented at best.”

Under the terms of the new agreement, KEPCO will use Power Ledger to create, track, trade and settle NVAs that are generated by rooftop solar systems.

The system uses blockchain technology’s immutable and decentralized properties to track certificates throughout their lifecycle, thereby reducing the potential for duplicate use. Power Ledger generates REC tokens, which are stored in a centralized KEPCO wallet.

An initial successful trial between KEPCO and power Ledger had reportedly demonstrated that allowing energy producers to trade their surplus energy via the platform was an efficient way for them to monetize their renewable energy investments. This ostensibly helps to provide consumers with lower-cost green energy sources.

The new trial will enable KEPCO clients to use their NFVs against claims by the RE100 — a global initiative led by The Climate Group non-profit organization in cooperation with the global carbon disclosure network CDP. The initiative accepts NFV certificates provided they have tracking information from governments.

The trial is scheduled to commence in December, with results expected in March 2020.

Previous REC blockchain initiatives

In June of this year, South Korea’s largest power provider, Korea Electric Power Corporation, signed a contract with two domestic power suppliers to establish a blockchain-powered system for transacting RECs.

The corporation had also announced in fall 2018 that it would be using blockchain and other innovative energy solutions to develop its next-generation microgrid.


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Japan’s second-largest power utility is extending its trial of a blockchain system for trading renewable energy certificates

Japan’s Kanto Region to Track Surplus Solar Energy with Power Ledger

Japan’s Kanto Region to Track Surplus Solar Energy with Power Ledger

Australian energy tech firm Power Ledger to run blockchain-enabled energy trading trial in Japan’s Kanto region by December 2019

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Australian tech firm Power Ledger will run another blockchain-enabled energy trading trial in Japan’s Kanto region by December 2019.

In order to launch its second trial in Japan, Power Ledger teamed up with Japanese solar provider Sharing Energy and electricity retailer eRex, the firm stated in a press release shared with Cointelegraph on Oct. 3.

Main region of Japan’s economy

The new Power Ledger’s trial will track surplus solar energy levels and electricity trading, integrating blockchain-enabled P2P platform with household smart meter systems in the Kanto region. 

With Japan’s capital Tokyo located in Kanto, the region is considered to be the main engine of Japan’s economy and is the second largest sub-national economy in the world after the United States’ California.

Access to cheaper energy systems

Specifically, the trial intends to demonstrate the benefits of distributed energy systems in countering the significant feed-in-tariff (FIT) reduction, which is scheduled for October 2019 and expected to affect over 500,000 solar energy consumers, the report notes. 

The platform will reportedly allow trial participants to set prices and track energy trading in real time to demonstrate settlement of surplus solar transactions.

By trialing Power Ledger’s technology, Kanto can potentially learn how to monetize renewable energy investments and gain access to cheaper energy systems. The test with Sharing Energy and eRex is scheduled to run until December 2019.

As Cointelegraph reported, in August Power Ledger has announced the completion of a joint trial of a blockchain-based system for post-FIT surplus power in Osaka in partnership with Japanese Kansai Electric Power.


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Australian energy tech firm Power Ledger to run blockchain-enabled energy trading trial in Japan’s Kanto region by December 2019

Japan’s Coincheck Crypto Exchange Reduces Leverage by 20%

Japan’s Coincheck Crypto Exchange Reduces Leverage by 20%

Coincheck goes risk-averse on leveraged trades

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Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck has announced it is reducing the scope of its leveraged trading options to comply with local rules.

In a blog post on Aug. 30, officials said they were reducing the size of leverage available for margin traders from five times to four times.

Coincheck plans Oct. 31 changes

The move has come in direct response to best practices put forward by the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association — or JVCEA — the dedicated self-regulatory body for the Japanese exchange industry.

The changes should take effect from Oct. 31, the blog post says, Coincheck urging traders to cancel any scheduled margin calls and take certain precautions. 

Exchange metamorphosis continues

Margin trading, as Cointelegraph has reported, involves a considerable amount of risk, and it has even been suggested the practice can move entire Bitcoin (BTC) market rates.

Nonetheless, the option continues to gain popularity, with new offerings hitting the market from players such as fellow exchange Binance this year. 

Coincheck, which recovered from a giant $530 million hack in Jan. 2018, revealed last week it was considering launching a further spin-off for initial exchange offerings (IEOs).

Similar in essence to initial coin offerings —or ICOs — an IEO facilitates sales of crowdsale tokens directly by an exchange without the need for a middleman. 

On Thursday, meanwhile, Japan’s financial regulator said it was considering expanding on existing exchange monitoring policies. The plans were reported by local cryptocurrency news outlet, Crypto Watch.


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Coincheck goes risk-averse on leveraged trades

Japan’s Largest Gift Card Marketplace Launching Blockchain Gift Cards

Japan’s Largest Gift Card Marketplace Launching Blockchain Gift Cards

Japan’s largest gift card platform Amaten will issue tokenized gift cards in partnership with blockchain network provider Aelf

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Japan’s largest gift card platform Amaten will issue tokenized gift cards in partnership with blockchain network provider Aelf.

United Kingdom news outlet Verdict reported on Aug. 20 that Amaten partnered with Aelf — one of the 30 blockchain providers certified by the China Electronics Technology Standardization Institute — to issue gift cards on the blockchain. Amaten plans to build its framework on top of Aelf’s platform to tokenize its gift cards, enabling them to be exchanged and managed on the blockchain.

Gift cards and blockchain: “a completely natural fit”

This initiative will reportedly enable tracking gift cards from their issuers to the customer, which is expected to decrease fraud.

The current gift card system has never evolved to match today’s digital world, says Amaten chairman Tom Kanazawa. “It still suffers from basic fundamental shortcomings and is very inconvenient. I believe that the gift card industry can be a perfect use case for blockchain. The two are a completely natural fit.”

Verdict claims that the gift card industry is currently worth $340 billion globally, and $21 billion in Japan. While Amaten intends to initially launch the platform in Japan, the company also plans to expand overseas, first in Korea and China, but ultimately even further.

Crunchbase claims that Amaten “is currently the largest marketplace for gift cards in Japan with 70% of the market share Japan’s first gift card marketplace of Japan More than 70,000 registered users.” Furthermore, Verdict also claims that the firm has an annual revenue of $110 million.

As Cointelegraph reported in July, major U.S. cryptocurrency wallet and exchange Coinbase has entered the crypto gift card market, allowing customers in certain countries to exchange coins for brand e-certificates.


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Japan’s largest gift card platform Amaten will issue tokenized gift cards in partnership with blockchain network provider Aelf

Japan’s Retail Giant Rakuten Officially Launches Crypto Exchange

Japan’s Retail Giant Rakuten Officially Launches Crypto Exchange

Japan gets latest crypto exchange in the form of Rakuten Wallet

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Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Rakuten Wallet has launched trading a year after acquiring Everybody’s Bitcoin.

Three trading pairs go live

Confirmed in a press release on Aug. 19, Rakuten Wallet, which is a subsidiary of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, said spot trading of three cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) — was now live. 

In future, developers plan to release an app for iOS and Android, use of which will be mandatory for deposits and withdrawals. 

“Customers who already have a bank account with Rakuten Bank will be able to easily open a Rakuten Wallet account simply by entering the required information on the online application form,” the press release added.

Rakuten acquired Everybody’s Bitcoin in August 2018 for a sum of $2.4 million. Executives had originally announced the impending launch in April this year, but progress appeared to stall. 

Japan’s cryptocurrency ecosystem growing rapidly

The exchange joins a rapidly expanding ecosystem on the Japanese market, with multiple competitors vying for a slice of the domestic cryptocurrency trade.

Last month, Tokyo announced it wished to create a cryptocurrency-based analog to SWIFT, the global payment settlement network, in a move subsequently approved by the G7. 

Monex Group, the online broker which bought out another Japanese exchange, the embattled Coincheck, last year, also recently signalled its desire to join Facebook’s Libra digital currency network.


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Japan gets latest crypto exchange in the form of Rakuten Wallet

G7 Approves Japan’s Cryptocurrency-Based SWIFT Alternative

G7 Approves Japan’s Cryptocurrency-Based SWIFT Alternative

The Japanese government is attempting to spearhead the creation of a new, global cryptocurrency payments network that would be similar to SWIFT

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The Japanese government is attempting to spearhead the creation of a new, global cryptocurrency payments network that would be similar to SWIFT.

Replace SWIFT with a global crypto payments network?

Citing an anonymous source, a Reuters report published on July 18 claimed that the country’s push for the network is motivated by a resolve to combat money laundering more effectively.

While plans are being kept firmly under wraps, the source alleged that Tokyo hopes to have the network established within the next few years. 

Plans for the network were reportedly initially proposed by Japan’s Ministry of Finance and its national regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA).

The prospective network has been approved for oversight by the Financial Action Task Force — a G7-initiated intergovernmental organization that promotes legal, regulatory and operational measures that aim to fight money laundering on a global scale. 

As Reuters notes, anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance has loomed large in regulators’, central banks’ and governments’ scrutiny of Facebook’s plans to launch its own stablecoin, dubbed Libra.  

Ahead of this week’s meeting of G7 finance ministers in France this week, Japan had set up a national liaison conference — involving the Bank of Japan, the Ministry of Finance and the FSA — tasked with investigating the impact of Libra on monetary policy and financial stability. 

The G7, cryptocurrencies and the fight against money laundering

France had pre-empted Japan in creating a G7 taskforce that will examine how central banks can regulate cryptocurrencies like Libra.

In June, the FATF revealed plans to strengthen control over crypto exchanges to preclude digital currencies from being used in money laundering and related financial crimes.

This spring, the Japanese House of Representatives officially approved a new bill to amend national laws that govern crypto regulation. The revised acts — which include specific AML measures focused on privacy coins — are set to come into force in April 2020.


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The Japanese government is attempting to spearhead the creation of a new, global cryptocurrency payments network that would be similar to SWIFT

Japan’s Financial Watchdog Orders Hacked Exchange Zaif to Improve Business

Japan’s Financial Watchdog Orders Hacked Exchange Zaif to Improve Business

Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Service Agency, has issued a business improvement order to Japanese investment firm and Zaif crypto exchange operator Fisco

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Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Service Agency (FSA), has issued a business improvement order to Japanese investment firm and Zaif crypto exchange operator Fisco.

According to Cointelegraph Japan, the FSA has identified shortcomings in Fisco’s internal control systems — such as anti-money laundering measures — and found it to be insufficiently compliant with local laws and regulations.

As previously reported, Fisco assumed ownership of Japanese exchange Zaif in fall 2018, shortly after the platform was hacked to the tune of ~$59.7 million.

The FSA’s action has reportedly been taken under the provisions of the country’s Act on Settlement of Funds.

The regulator said Fisco’s management failed to recognize the importance of legal compliance, and ordered it to improve risk management systems. It must also establish more robust internal management, outsourcing, accounting, and auditing.

Moreover, the FSA has reportedly identified shortcomings in the platform’s customer verification systems, noting that:

“In the section where users can enter identity verification information, they can select „other“ if it is not possible to check their occupation or purpose of the transaction. When „other“ is selected, the account can be opened without entering anything.”

As Cointelegraph Japan reports, twelve of the nineteen crypto exchange businesses registered for on-site FSA inspections have now been completed. Of the remaining seven, up to four have reportedly not yet launched. The remaining await a survey by the regulator.

This April, Cointelegraph cited unconfirmed reports that the FSA had conducted investigations into both Fisco and Huobi Japan — the local off-shoot of China-born exchange Huobi — to check their customer protection and legal compliance.

This May, the Japanese House of Representatives officially approved a new bill to amend the national laws governing crypto regulation — specifically the Act on Settlement of Funds and the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act.

The revised acts aimed to protect users by means of regulating crypto derivatives trading and improving exchange security standards are expected to go into effect April 2020.


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Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Service Agency, has issued a business improvement order to Japanese investment firm and Zaif crypto exchange operator Fisco

Japan’s Line Reportedly Close to Obtaining FSA License for Japanese Crypto Exchange

Japan’s Line Reportedly Close to Obtaining FSA License for Japanese Crypto Exchange

LVC Corporation, the crypto- and blockchain-focused arm of Japanese messaging giant Line, is allegedly close to obtaining an FSA-issued crypto exchange operating license

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LVC Corporation, the digital asset- and blockchain-focused arm of Japanese messaging giant Line, is allegedly close to obtaining a crypto exchange operating license from Japan’s financial regulator. The news was reported by Cointelegraph Japan on June 20.

According to the report, Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) could issue the company with an exchange license as early as this month.

The trading service, to be dubbed BitMax, would enable Line’s 80 million users in Japan to buy and sell multiple major cryptocurrencies, as well as Line’s native token Link, CT Japan notes.

Per a press release recently shared with Cointelegraph, Line counts 187 million global users monthly, with an estimated 50 million users registered its mobile payment service, Line Pay.

BitMax will reportedly use the same back-end infrastructure as the Singapore-based, global user-focused crypto exchange BitBox, which was launched by Line in July 2018.

BitBox notably remains inaccessible for Japanese users given the country’s exchange license requirements. The license has been mandatory for all crypto exchanges operating within Japan since the amendment of the country’s Payment Services Act back in April 2017, and the FSA has since then continued to ratchet up requirements for applicants.

A report from local English-language newspaper The Japan Times has today contextualized Line’s accelerating foray into cryptocurrencies and blockchain against a backdrop of sluggish user growth which has ostensibly driven the firm’s shares to their lowest since listing in 2016.

Meanwhile, the firm awaits a banking license that would authorize deeper integration of cryptocurrencies with its other services, including e-commerce, The Japan Times notes, but it is allegedly only likely to be issued in 2020.

As previously reported, Line rolled out its Link cryptocurrency in late summer 2018, and has continued to develop its token ecosystem based on the firm’s in-house service-oriented blockchain, Link Chain. The blockchain network also enables decentralized applications to be directly applied to Line’s messaging platform.

Earlier this month, Line partnered with American payment services firm Visa on new blockchain and digital payments solutions.

American social media behemoth Facebook has meanwhile this week unveiled its white paper for its libra cryptocurrency, which would — according to earlier reports — prospectively be used by the 2.7 billion monthly users of WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.


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LVC Corporation, the crypto- and blockchain-focused arm of Japanese messaging giant Line, is allegedly close to obtaining an FSA-issued crypto exchange operating license

Cashless-Bound: Japan’s Transport, e-Commerce Partnership on the Fast Track

Cashless-Bound: Japan’s Transport, e-Commerce Partnership on the Fast Track

Japan’s transport and e-commerce heavyweights drive cashless payments

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The Japanese transportation industry is leading the country’s long-standing efforts to go cashless. Earlier this month, two major players from the archipelago’s e-commerce and transport industries partnered up to simplify and promote payments that do not require hard cash.

Homegrown e-commerce giant Rakuten plans to incorporate its services into Japan’s premier railway firm, the East Japan Railway Company or JR East to provide electronic support for its “Suica” cards.

The cards are used to access trains as well as to pay for goods and services at certain kiosks in train stations and select stores around the country. If all goes as planned, users will be able to charge their transit cards using the Rakuten Pay mobile app by 2020.

There are some 5,000 train stations and approximately 50,000 buses in Japan, according to the government data. Currently, Rakuten Pay is used in more than 600,000 stores in Japan.

In a country with strong cultural affinity toward bills and coins, the latest move could bring about a huge change to the daily routine of Japanese commuters and possibly contribute to the country’s push towards the use of cashless payment systems.

Cash is king

The latest data from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) shows only 20% of the country’s population make a payment through cashless methods — a behavior Tokyo has actively been trying to change.

Back in March 2017, METI launched the “Cashless Vision” campaign to encourage its citizens to go try digital payments.

Two years after that, the Japanese government also published an updated copy of its Abenomics policy, named after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which reiterates the country’s goal of achieving a cashless payment rate of 40% by 2027. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The main reason for this campaign comes down to the reluctance of the Japanese people to move away from using cash in their day-to-day transactions. Takeshi Tashiro, a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told Cointelegraph a number of socioeconomic factors have perpetuated the Japanese affinity of using cash.

“Japan’s cashless payment ratio is approximately 20%. Some of the reasons are high reliability of cash, low theft and high security; as well as easy access to cash. Deflation might contribute to this trend as that increases the value of cash.”

Another contributing factor is Japan’s aging population. Over the past 40 years, the number of Japanese people over the age of 65 has nearly quadrupled.

„For more than two decades, Japan has had a ‚graying population‘ due to both long-life spans and low birth-rates,” a former United Nations official in Japan who asked to remain anonymous remarked in an interview with Cointelegraph. “Consequently, the elderly population tends to stick to the old habit of using cash; a habit learned from a time before cash cards, ATMs and credit credits were issued in the late 1980s.“

Population Makeup in Japan

The convergence of these factors, namely low crime, deflation, and an older population that are content to continue using cash have left the country lagging behind others that are quickly adopting a variety of digital payment options.

The partnership between Rakuten and JR East could be an important catalyst in the adoption of an intangible payment system and break down the cultural apathy toward it.

Topping up Suica cards with crypto?

In March, a number of publications speculated Rakuten Pay would consider incorporating cryptocurrency support on its mobile app.

Given the newly announced partnership with JR East, this could mean that Japanese commuters might be able to use cryptocurrency to top up their Suica cards from next year.

Rakuten Payment CEO Koichi Nakamura told Cointelegraph Japan last week that it could not elaborate on the incorporation of cryptocurrencies as a payment option but conceded the company had reached a point where a final decision needed to be made.

“At this very moment, there is nothing we can share with you as to crypto payments,” Nakamura replied to an inquiry from Cointelegraph Japan, right after the press conference in which its collaboration with JR East was announced.

“But now we are in a phase where we consider whether or not we can use cryptocurrency as a source of payments,” he continued.

The CEO highlighted two important considerations that would ultimately decide whether the company would include cryptocurrency support for the Rakuten Pay app:

“First and most importantly, the crypto related service has to be safe. It has to comply with proper regulatory frameworks. Second, it shouldn’t be difficult for users to use. We aim for familiarity, convenience and comfort. I don’t want that to be too difficult to handle from the beginning. You know there are still some people who think that smartphone payments are too difficult to use.”

Rakuten is widely considered as the Japanese equivalent of Amazon, and its partnership with JR East would likely affect almost all Japanese commuters and online shoppers. Based on data from Statista, Japan’s railways serviced more than 70% of the country’s total passenger transport volume in 2016.

The e-commerce giant’s position as a leader in its field gives it hefty clout in promoting the use of cryptocurrency as well. It is one of the latest companies to receive a license to operate a cryptocurrency exchange by Japan’s Financial Services Authority.

Late March, the company announced it would launch its exchange, dubbed Rakuten Wallet, this month with account applications having opened in April. Rakuten had acquired the service formerly known as Everybody’s Bitcoin in August last year for just over $2 million.

How does Japan stack up to its cashless promoting neighbors?

The strong cash dependency in Japan is in stark contrast to other countries in the region, especially its closest neighbors.

Cashless Payment Usage in Northeast Asia

In recent years, South Korea has become a major hub for cryptocurrency trading, despite its government taking a tough stance toward the sector. The country has become famous for the “Kimchi Premium,” referring to the fact that traders pay a much higher price for bitcoin compared to the price of the cryptocurrency on exchanges in other countries.

Even in the midst of a bleak cryptocurrency market over the past 18 months, a report suggested South Koreans were buying more digital currency in April 2019 than in previous years. The country’s central bank survey revealed cash payments only accounted for 20% of payments made in the peninsula last year.

In his correspondence with Cointelegraph, Tashiro argued South Korea’s advantage in this regard is mainly down to government policies that have promoted the use of alternative payment methods, in addition to the more widespread opinion of South Koreans’ appetite for the fast adoption of new technology.

“Korea has one of the world’s most widely used cashless payment systems, with its cashless payment ratio exceeding 90%. This is because, as a national policy, credit card settlement was promoted under the guidance of the national government, including deductions of 20% of the amount of income used by credit cards and obliging stores to use credit cards.”

China is also on track to becoming a cashless society. This is largely due to the presence of two of the world’s biggest companies, Tencent and Alibaba. The two tech giants enjoy a near monopoly on the country’s messaging and payment applications, respectively dubbed WeChat Pay and Alipay.

By 2017, there were media reports that nearly three quarters of Chinese people were using digital payment methods over cash. Just to indicate how popular WeChat Pay had become, data from an Ipsos survey in the same year showed it had become the leading smartphone application for Chinese consumers to make payments with over 1 billion active monthly users.

China’s mobile transactions were far higher than that of the United States in 2017, thanks to its 1.4 billion citizens. Last year, the U.S. population was recorded at 327.2 million.

By virtue of the sheer number of users in China, WeChat Pay and Alipay have expedited the country’s transition from cash to digital payments, bypassing checks and credit cards.

Private sector as the key to Japan’s move away from cash

Tokyo is making concerted efforts to encourage the development of new cashless payment services and their adoption by general consumers.

Ahead of the new sales tax increase this October, the Japanese government is taking steps to stimulate consumer spending. One of these steps is the provision of reward points of up to five percent on purchases made with cashless payments at small and medium-sized businesses. The incentive will be in effect for nine months to encourage Japanese consumers to try out the various cashless payment options available.

The partnership between two household names in Japan could give a major boost to the government’s continued efforts to encourage its aging population to try new payment methods. Combined with the Japanese regulatory body’s active involvement in cryptocurrency trade, 2019 might be the year when old habits finally give way to the change of times.


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Japan’s transport and e-commerce heavyweights drive cashless payments

Japan’s LINE Pay and Visa Partner on New Blockchain, Digital Payments Solutions

Japan’s LINE Pay and Visa Partner on New Blockchain, Digital Payments Solutions

LINE Pay Corp., the operator of fintech services on major Japanese messaging app LINE, is partnering with Visa on new blockchain and digital payments solutions

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LINE Pay Corporation, the operator of fintech services on major Japanese messaging app LINE, is partnering with American payment services firm Visa on new blockchain and digital payments solutions. The news was revealed in a press release shared with Cointelegraph on June 6.

As of Q4 2018, there were an estimated 1.66 billion Visa debit cards and 781 million credit cards in circulation worldwide. According to today’s press release, LINE counts 187 million global users monthly, with an estimated 50 million users registered its mobile payment service, Line Pay.

The two firms’ strategic partnership will reportedly herald cooperation on a wide range of services, notably including the development of new fintech solutions powered by blockchain technology that support business-to-business and cross-border payments, as well as alternative currency transactions.

In addition, LINE users will be able to apply for a digital Visa card from within the app, and be able to integrate existing Visa cards to make mobile-based payments in the future.

The firms have further announced plans to roll out new merchant-focused solutions, with support for various LINE Pay services to be rolled out at Visa’s 54 million merchant locations globally. Even where LINE Pay is not directly accepted, the press release notes that users will be able to track their merchant transactions using their LINE Pay digital wallet.

The LINE Pay digital wallet will see heightened interaction with Visa-based services in a bid to foster the growth of globally interoperable payments, the press release outlines.

As reported, David Chaum — a trailblazing American cryptographer who invented a secure, privacy-preserving digital currency back in 1982 — has recently said that he believes the real killer app for blockchain and crypto will be messaging systems integrated with payments.

Japan’s LINE — which rolled out its own cryptocurrency in late summer 2018 — has continued to develop its token ecosystem, based on the firm’s in-house service-oriented blockchain, LINK Chain. The blockchain network also enables decentralized applications to be directly applied to LINE’s messaging platform.

Visa — which has officially downplayed the competition posed to its market dominance by crypto innovators — has nonetheless begun to pursue various crypto-related strategies.

This spring, Visa partnered with major American crypto exchange Coinbase on a debit card powered by United Kingdom-based customers’ Coinbase account crypto balances. The firm has also recently published a crypto and blockchain-related job opening, seeking a Technical Product Manager at Visa Fintech in Paolo Alto.


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LINE Pay Corp., the operator of fintech services on major Japanese messaging app LINE, is partnering with Visa on new blockchain and digital payments solutions