A Financial Revolution
Many contend that Bitcoin has long since passed its shadowy reputation for being the transaction standard for the internet's darker corners. Bitcoin trading, for one, has reached record-breaking values. Now, major bitcoin exchanges in Japan are teaming up with retailers to start a transaction revolution that would allow stores to accept Bitcoin payments.
Bitcoin is an example of a cryptocurrency, i.e., a digital currency that's based on a data structure called Blockchain. A blockchain is a digital ledger that allows for recording and keeping transactions in a decentralized and cryptographically secured manner.
Each block in a blockchain is maintain by so-called "miners" through servers spread all over the world. These miners then receive cryptocurrencies in exchange. While most markets have been slow to accept cryptocurrencies, some retailers are beginning to test the new form of payment.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Japanese consumer electronics retail chain Bic Camera is going to try out a payment system using Bitcoin in two of its stores in Tokyo. To do this, it will partner with Bitflyer, which is the largest bitcoin exchange by volume in Japan.
Bic Camera is not the only Japanese company to adopt cryptocurrency. At the same time, Recruit Holdings' retail support arm Recruit Lifestyle plans to work with Coincheck bitcoin exchange to implement a similar system. This partnership with Recruit Lifestyle will add more stores that accept Bitcoins, according to Coincheck. "Bitcoin will be accepted at 260,000 shops by this summer," the company stated.
Digital Currency and the Future
Cryptocurrency and its blockchain foundation have a growing number of users. Naturally, the first to gravitate to this technology were banks and other financial service firms. The nature of blockchain, however, has opened up this technology to applications beyond that of digital currency. Blockchain companies, such as Ethereum, have been working towards finding other ways to put this technology into use. There's IBM's Hyperledger, as well as a blockchain application for a universal basic income (UBI) setup.
Currently, about 4,500 stores in Japan accept Bitcoin as payments, according to Nikkei. Furthermore, in a Bitcoin.com interview this January, said Kagayaki Kawabata, Coincheck’s Business Development Lead, disclosed that there are already more than 5,000 merchants and websites in Japan that accept Bitcoin payments using the company's system.
The move to adapt Bitcoin isn't an arbitrary one, of course. Aside from security, another reason for opting for cryptocurrency is the relative ease with which transactions can be conducted. Bitcoin allows tourists to make purchases in Japan without having to go through currency exchange rates. Additionally, if more outlets accepted Bitcoin, more individual consumers would likely be persuaded to get Bitcoin accounts.
The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin may be ushering in a new way of conducting financial transactions. To date, over 20 million people worldwide now use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is no longer seen as something to be hoarded — it's used for shopping. As Japanese stores adapt Bitcoin, this cryptocurrency is steadily making its way into mainstream financial transactions.