A few days ago, GMO Internet announced plans to allow GMO’s 48,532 Japanese merchants to accept Bitcoin by November of this year. GMO Internet’s payment solution, the GMO Payment Gateway, will soon have Bitcoin functionality alongside credit card and bank transfer options. BitFlyer was created by former Goldman Sachs trader Yuzo Kano in December of 2013, when he left his job to work with Bitcoin full-time.
Since its launch in January of 2014, BitFlyer has taken on the challenge of reintroducing Bitcoin to the Japanese populace and repairing the damage caused by the Mt. Gox implosion. When asked about Mt. Gox’s bloody demise in an interview, Kano had this to say:
That’s one less competitor for us, but it also left many Japanese with a very negative impression of bitcoin. We already had a company then and felt it was up to us to rebuild the trust.
BitFlyer: Japan’s Largest Bitcoin Company
BitFlyer has filled the large space in the Japanese Bitcoin industry left by Mt. Gox spectacularly. Since bursting onto the scene, BitFlyer has come to lead the Japan Authority of Digital Assets (JADA), a Bitcoin business group that establishes standards of conduct to avoid bad actors and their far-reaching negative effects. Other members of the JADA include Kraken and CoinPass.
Among BitFlyer’s many features is a new crowdfunding platform called fundFlyer. The first project listed on fundFlyer was posted by a Japanese politician. Mineyuki Fukuda, the head of Japan’s Information Technology Strategy Committee, raised 5.455 BTC to meet with Bitcoin enthusiasts in San Francisco and Washington DC.
GMO Internet: Japan’s Gentle Giant
GMO Internet is the largest credit card processing company in Japan. They have over 48,000 merchants around the island country that use GMO for payment processing. However, like the Bitcoin adoption of other companies such as PayPal, things are moving one step at a time. Some industry spectators have commented on the unlikely partnership between BitFlyer, a company that is just nine months old, and GMO, a company that is over twenty years old. In fact, GMO’s founder and CEO, Masatoshi Kumagai, is notorious for staying out of the English media and has even previously stated that GMO does not really have plans for expansion into the English-speaking market, instead preferring to move into the SouthEast Asian market. Kumagai is a high school drop out and has, for decades, made unconventional moves to position his company as Japan’s largest internet company. Among other lucrative and strategic deals, GMO is partnered with ICANN and has the right to operate all .tokyo and .yokohama domains. Given GMO’s history, Bitcoin is actually a reasonable next step.
Japan Still Likes Bitcoin
Earlier this year, in June, Japan’s Information Technology Strategy Committee voiced their support of Bitcoin. They even went so far as to say that “Bitcoin is something that creates new innovation in business.” “New innovation” in business is difficult to quantify; however, most agree that innovation can bring about unforeseen advancements in technology. Just like Henry Ford ignored the populace’s preference for “faster horses” over an unknown technology (automobiles), Bitcoin will create a new industry that will replace the archaic financial system. Though BitLicense style regulation is unlikely to be proposed in Japan, the government has previously refused to categorize Bitcoin as a currency, a move that other countries have not made as well. The world has always looked to Japan for innovation. This may be why Bitcoin’s founder(s) chose a Japanese pseudonym to release the revolutionary software under. Japan will continue to lead innovation in the realms of robots and infrastructure, and it seems that Bitcoin can be added to that list as well.
BitFlyer image from BitFlyer.jp; other images from Shutterstock.