Bitcoin is becoming big in Japan. After Japan’s lawmakers have officially turned bitcoin into a legal payment method and have made the digital currency sales tax exempt, the price of bitcoin has rallied, and the demand for the cryptocurrency has surged in Asia’s second-largest economy. That, of course, has not gone unnoticed by Japanese retailers who are now rushing to implement bitcoin merchant payment systems to allow their customers to use the new officially recognized electronic payment method.
According to Nikkei Asia Review, two large Japanese retailing groups will soon accept bitcoin payments in their stores.
Consumer electronics retailer Bic Camera is partnering up with Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange bitFlyer to run a trial to test bitFlyer’s bitcoin payment system at Bic Camera’s flagship store in Tokyo’s popular Yurakucho district as well as at Bicqlo Bic Camera, the hybrid store with Uniqlo in Shinjuku.
Bic Camera customers will be able to use bitcoin to make payments up to 100,000 yen (around $900) and will receive reward points just as they would if they were paying in fiat currency. Depend on the outcome of the trial run, Bic Camera may introduce bitcoin as a payment method at more of its stores.
The second retail company implemented bitcoin as a payment method is Recruit Lifestyle, which is partnering up with Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Coincheck to offer the cryptocurrency as a payment method in all stores that have adopted the point-of-sale app AirRegi. Customers wishing to pay with bitcoin will be able to do so by sending a payment from their smartphone to in-store tablets or other electronic devices. Coincheck will then convert the bitcoin payment into yen and send the funds to the retailer.
The PoS app AirRegi is currently being used at 260,000 retail locations in Japan, which will potentially give bitcoin users the chance to use bitcoin as a transaction currency on a day-to-day basis. Individual stores, however, will choose themselves whether they want to accept bitcoin as a payment method or not.
Currently, there are around 4,500 stores accepting bitcoin as a payment method. With the new regulation in place and two of Japan's largest retail companies implementing bitcoin payments in their stores, bitcoin users could be able to spend their coins at over 260,000 locations in Japan by the end of the year.
Accounting standards for digital currencies are still under development according to the Accounting Standards Board of Japan and are expected to be announced later this year. However, as the vast majority of merchants who accept bitcoin immediately turn them into fiat currency, there is no urgent business need for new accounting standards to accommodate bitcoin payments in Japan at this point.
It is truly a milestone for bitcoin to be recognized as a legal payment method in one of the largest economies in the world. Japan has always been at the forefront of technological change and is demonstrating this once again by allowing bitcoin to become part of its economy. It will be interesting to see how many countries will follow suit once they see how Japanese commerce and its economy are benefitting from accepting bitcoin as a payment method.