Despite the government’s friendly regulations towards both Bitcoin startups and services the Japanese Bitcoin infrastructure remains imperfect in comparison to other East Asian countries, including South Korea and Taiwan.
In early 2015, Bitcoin investors and startups were confident that the Japanese Bitcoin industry would establish a solid infrastructure for digital currency users to cash in and out through low-cost and efficient applications.
How is it in other Asian countries?
Countries in Asia such as the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan have Bitcoin payment service providers, exchanges, and applications which enable simplified low-cost trading of Bitcoin.
The Philippines for instance, has Coins.ph, which allows users to cash in and out through any of the region’s bank ATMs. South Korea has Coinplug which enables users to purchase and sell Bitcoin through tens of thousands of convenience stores. Taiwan’s Maicon and BitoEX offers a similar service to Coinplug, which allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin at 10,000 FamilyMart, OK mart, and Hi-Life stores.
Japan, however, has a very limited range of services and products which can be used to purchase and sell Bitcoin. As of now, there are four major Bitcoin exchanges which operate in the country including Kraken, QuoinExchange, Coincheck, and bitFlyer. All of these Bitcoin exchanges support the local transfer of Japanese yen and bank deposits to process Bitcoin trade orders.
The struggles of regular Bitcoin users in Japan
Although professional traders or high profile investors can easily open an account, verify themselves, and begin trading on these exchanges, it is relatively difficult for regular Bitcoin users to purchase small amounts of Bitcoin quickly, with low-costs. Thus, it is almost impossible for users to purchase Bitcoin in the country without operating a bank account. Because of this, tourists like myself struggled to find ways to cash out in Japan, even in busy cities like Osaka. Apart from bank deposit-based Bitcoin trading methods, users can purchase or sell the digital currency through Bitcoin ATMs.
As the number of restaurants and bars accepting Bitcoin in Japan decreased, the ATMs closed. Based on popular resource platforms like Coin ATM radar, Japan supposedly has 13 Bitcoin ATMs in the country. There are 7 in Tokyo, 1 in Kyoto, and a few more in bigger cities including Osaka. Most of these Bitcoin ATMs are placed in the cafes and restaurants which accept Bitcoin. Over half of the locations which are shown in sites like Coin ATM Radar have already terminated the Bitcoin ATMs and stopped accepting Bitcoin payments.
The emergence of Bitcoin payment and trading-focused apps and platforms in Japan could significantly improve its existing Bitcoin infrastructure and overturn Japanese people’s take on digital currencies.