The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) have announced an accelerator program named the “Blockchain Business Camp Tokyo”. This accelerator program is the third in a line of other technology accelerator programs announced by the TMG. The program is said to last three months and will accept an estimated five companies outside of Japan “that possess advanced blockchain technology in such areas as transactions, securities, IoT, supply chains and the sharing economy”. The accelerator program will be done through the Japanese think tank Nomura Research Institute (NRI) which is working closely with the TMG.
In order to support these five companies, the TMG stated that
“the technologies and services of the foreign companies participating in the program (about five companies) will be advertised for an extended period using digital signage located around Shinjuku and Tokyo stations in the heart of Tokyo, and support will be extended to foreign companies that decide to establish their business in Tokyo.”
The application deadline is on November 24, with participants notified in December.
The announcement above comes from a stream of positive news coming from the country of Japan. Earlier this year, Bitcoin was accepted as a legal method of payment, meaning merchants in Japan are allowed to accept Bitcoin as payment instead of the national currency, the yen. In addition to this, the Bitcoin consumption tax was eliminated.
Despite Bitcoin’s legal status, Japan’s Financial Service Agency (FSA) has made it clear that any exchanges not following their anti-laundering laws and know your customer rules, the FSA will come down hard on those institutions. The FSA, from the beginning of October, began regulating and monitoring Japanese Bitcoin exchanges, giving a total 11 exchanges so far licenses. A reported total of 12 exchanges have closed their doors due to the new regulations. It is important however to put this in context with Japan hosting the Mt.Gox debacle, which cost customers million dollars worth of losses.
Despite the regulatory environment, this does ensure a safe environment for users trading Bitcoin. While regulations are not ideal, it will make it safer for the average user to invest in decentralized technology.
Japan’s stance on decentralized technology shows a country clearly embracing Bitcoin. In fact, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government accelerator program and legalization of Bitcoin moves show a country moving in the complete opposite direction to other countries in the region, most notably China with its draconian shut down of all fiat-to-Bitcoin pair exchanges and a ban on ICOs.
As it stands, Japan is one of the highest trading countries in the world. According to Bitflyer’s CEO, Japan’s largest trading exchange, “Japan has been exploding with demand for both bitcoin trading as well as virtual currency services”. One of the reasons is due to the Bank of Japan’s commitment to large stimulus packages that impoverishes the Japanese people through a hidden inflation tax. Luckily, the legalization of Bitcoin and the recognition of a clearly emerging market does give the Japanese people a way out of incoming inflation. However, the greatest advantage comes in the capture of capital flight coming from countries around Japan restricting the global currency. If Japan is able to capture the great minds of cryptocurrency industry before Bitcoin moves more mainstream, this will bring a great deal of capital and wealth to the country.
With Shinzo Abe securing his third term in a landslide victory, it is safe to say the progress made on the status of Bitcoin is most likely going to stick for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see where Japan goes from here, but things seem to be moving in the right direction.