Japan's fast-growing digital currency sector has another new player, a multi-service bitcoin company called Bitbank that aims to capitalize on the country's existing love of both online shopping and electronic payments in physical stores.
The company says it is the first online bitcoin payments system in Japan and its motto is 'Bitcoin for Everyone'. Bitbank's feature list now includes a wallet service, the 'Bitbank Register' service for local payments at local restaurants, and 'Bitbank Pay' specifically for online businesses.
Fees and accounts
Bitbank Pay is available to merchants for payments as low as ¥10 (approx. $0.10), with no monthly fees and transaction fees from 0–1.5%. There are more premium services available on its 'business' and 'premium' plans. Additionally, many fees for those plans are waived or heavily reduced during Bitbank Pay's introductory period.
There is a quick sign-up without need for documentation, and easy implementation into an e-commerce system even for non-coders.
Funding and development
Bitbank has also just completed a second round of funding, having secured over $1.4m in total. Another round is planned in the near future.
A spokesperson from the firm, Emily Liu, said it is important for Japan to "be more international" and that bitcoin acceptance is a path to the future.
"Bitbank Inc is built with very experienced people, [who] are definitely bitcoin fanatics. The fact that we are all devoted to bitcoin and each of us experienced in different fields, gives us the confidence that we will accomplish our goal of promoting bitcoin to Japan."
The company's co-founder and CEO is one of Japan's leading bitcoin evangelists Hiroki Minematsu, a programmer with a long involvement with bitcoin and who has appeared regularly in the Japanese media to discuss digital currency issues.
The need to inform
Liu said there is still a need to educate people in the country about bitcoin, but that Japanese people had a head start with a range of well-developed electronic cash systems used for transit fares and throughout the retail sector, which include Suica, Pasmo and Edy.
"After the Mt Gox incident, a part of Japan has been doubtful when it comes to cryptocurrency, another part still doesn't know about bitcoin. People are more accepting when something is used daily or in a more common way. It is the same with bitcoin, which is why we started with these services."
Japanese people have also embraced e-commerce as both buyers and merchants, whether independently or at vast shopping online shopping malls like Rakuten and Amazon.jp.
For those without credit cards, convenience stores sell a range of debit card solutions. Customers can also use the stores as payment/delivery points.
Images via Bitbank