Rakuten Super Logistics, an order logistics company owned by Japan-based e-commerce giant Rakuten, has begun accepting bitcoin payments for its shipping services.
The integration comes nearly a month after speculation began that the e-commerce company could soon leverage bitcoin as a payment method. In July, CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said in a speech that he believes Rakuten will adopt bitcoin "sooner or later".
As reported by Tech In Asia, Rakuten Super Logistics cited consumer demand as the reason for the decision.
Company CEO Joseph DiSorbo said that by adopting bitcoin, the company has opened itself up to previously untapped customer bases, noting:
"We are working to apply this new technology to the benefit of market participants, especially those who can't now easily access the global e-commerce marketplace."
Notably, Rakuten Super Logistics chose BitPay as its merchant processing provider. Speaking to CoinDesk, BitPay Executive Chairman Tony Gallippi said that the deal brings bitcoin awareness to a signifcant international market, while also highlighting bitcoin's capabilities for business-to-business (B2B) merchants.
Gallippi told CoinDesk:
'The B2B opportunities for bitcoin are largely untapped today, and companies like Rakuten Super Logistics are at the forefront of B2B bitcoin adoption."
A retail giant stirs
Rakuten is one of the largest companies to demonstrate an interest in bitcoin to date, reporting $5bn in annual revenue and $31bn in assets as of fiscal year 2013.
According to recent data, Rakuten represents the third biggest company to have at least some elements within its corporate structure to integrate digital currency.
Computing giant Dell, which began accepting bitcoin payments last month, remains the world's largest company to take bitcoin, reporting roughly $57 billion in revenue last year.
Rakuten, founded in 1997, is comprised of a diverse group of businesses under one corporate umbrella. The company is involved in financial services, travel and media as well as e-commerce.
When Rakuten first publicly acknowledged its interest in bitcoin, founder and CEO Mikitani remarked that the developmental arc of the Internet made digital currency adoption somewhat of an inevitability.
Bitcoin's footprint grows in Japan
Given Rakuten's outsized role in Japan's e-commerce ecosystem and the growing prevalence of digital currency enthusiasts throughout the country, the pairing is a significant one.
Coming months after the Japanese government declined to pass new regulations regarding bitcoin, the integration by Rakuten is another sign of bitcoin's growing prominence in Japan.
Despite being the former home to the now-infamous bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, the domestic market is home to startups like bitFlyer that are raising funds to create new companies in the emerging space.
The number of bitcoin supporters has grown, resulting in grassroots efforts to promote digital currency and its underlying technology. From business community standards groups like the Japan Authority of Digital Asset to meme-themed altcoins, Rakuten's integration reflects the rising level of the interest in bitcoin among the country's investors and consumers.