Don’t Overlook Tokyo and Hong Kong as Crypto Hot Spots

The two Far East financial hubs take a comprehensive approach to overseeing crypto, and are likely to attract businesses from around the world. They don’t appear on CoinDesk’s Crypto Hubs 2023 ranking of the 15 best places to live and work for crypto professionals, but they should not be ignored.

AccessTimeIconJun 27, 2023 at 2:51 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 27, 2023 at 10:12 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconJun 27, 2023 at 2:51 p.m. UTCUpdated Jun 27, 2023 at 10:12 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconJun 27, 2023 at 2:51 p.m. UTCUpdated Jun 27, 2023 at 10:12 p.m. UTC

As CoinDesk publishes its list of global crypto hubs, there are two striking omissions. Tokyo and Hong Kong are very publicly welcoming crypto at a time when other jurisdictions, notably the United States, are sending a far less friendly message. So why didn’t they make the list? One possible reason is that even though neither are new to crypto, both retreated from the spotlight for some period of time. But now, Japan and Hong Kong are poised to become increasingly important players in the crypto world.

Emily Parker is CoinDesk's executive director of global content.

Let’s start with Japan, which is actively trying to position itself as a Web3 powerhouse. To be clear, Japan is hardly a newcomer. But after the cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck was hacked in early 2018, the country went into something like hibernation. Regulators tightened the reins, and the mood in the crypto community was not particularly upbeat.

Now, Japan is clearly back. Regulators learned lessons from the Coincheck hack and that of Mt. Gox before it, and put in place safeguards to protect users. So when much of the crypto world was reeling from the collapse of FTX, FTX Japan users were relatively protected. Some politicians in Tokyo are actively seeking to lay out clear rules of the road for crypto.

Hong Kong is another hub that is hardly new to Web3, but in recent years its appeal may have been tempered by COVID-19 restrictions and headlines about mainland China’s crackdown on the crypto industry. But now, Hong Kong is making a clear effort to position itself as a global crypto destination. Hong Kong began accepting licenses for crypto exchanges in June, and has reportedly pressured banks to take on crypto exchanges as clients.

Where the United States sees risk, Hong Kong sees opportunity. In the midst of Coinbase’s battles with the SEC, a Hong Kong lawmaker invited the U.S.’ largest crypto exchange to apply to operate in the region. Hong Kong’s position is striking given the history of crypto crackdowns in mainland China, which appears to at least tacitly support Hong Kong’s welcoming stance. For now, at least.

This is not to say that it will be easy to operate crypto exchanges in Hong Kong or Tokyo. Operating in these jurisdictions comes with significant rules and restrictions, and some global companies may find it difficult to survive there. Both Kraken and Coinbase recently left Japan, for example.

Nonetheless, these two jurisdictions have made it clear that they are open for crypto business, and are thus likely to attract crypto businesses from around the world.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is CoinDesk's executive director of global content. She was member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, a writer/editor at The Wall Street Journal and editor at New York Times. She is author of "Now I Know Who my Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground" (FSG). She speaks Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish.