Rakuten, “the Amazon of Japan”, is opening its own cryptocurrency exchange and crypto payment application. “Rakuten Wallet” (the exchange; see Bitcoin Wallets) and “Rakuten Pay” (the payment platform) will launch in April 2019, representing one of the most significant crypto industry investments by a major business player in the entire world.
Rakuten is an online retailer, playing a similar role in Japan to Amazon in the West. Though it is yet unclear whether or not crypto payments will be accepted on Rakuten’s retail platform in the days to come, a move like that would seem perfectly natural.
This would be a very significant development for cryptocurrency as a global payment solution. Japan may not be as large a consumer economy as the United States, but it’s still one of the world’s largest. Rakuten would join Swiss e-commerce giant Digitec Galaxus in accepting digital currencies like Bitcoin. If other national online retailers were to follow suit, it would seem to be only a matter of time before a giant like Amazon did likewise.
In the months leading up to 2018’s crypto price crash, industry followers rightly complained that Bitcoin BTC was almost useless as money. The network was so clogged with traffic, and transaction fees were so inflated, that people virtually stopped using Bitcoin as money. Instead, they opted to use it as a “store of value” – a virtually meaningless term that could be applied to any asset for which a market existed.
Ecommerce giant Rakuten is providing tools to buy Bitcoin in Japan. Image: Nykonchuk Oleksii/Shutterstock.com
How things have changed. Due to various factors (such as batch orders from Coinbase, the Lightning Network, and a more modest international trading volume) Bitcoin is fast and cheap again. Furthermore, its price has held steady at just over £3,000 for weeks – a far cry from the wild volatility that defined Bitcoin prices for many years prior. Though still well below its all-time high price, Bitcoin is looking more like a functional virtual currency than ever before in its decade-long lifespan.
Bitcoin (and the other cryptocurrencies that will go on to be accepted by Rakuten) also has other benefits for online retailers. For an e-commerce giant like Rakuten that transacts primarily in fiat currencies like the Yen, this national currency is a major limiting factor upon who can buy through their online retail portals.
Bitcoin is an international currency, transactable freely across borders, which is as useful to a citizen of Jamaica as to a one of Japan. Japan’s population is aging, a major challenge for any mature economy. Any new method by which Japan can court foreign integration into its national economy will benefit the island nation, and Bitcoin may be just the ticket.
The Rakuten news is exciting in many ways. Though it has run beneath the radar in the Bitcoin news space, we think this is some of the best news we’ve heard for Bitcoin all year.
Featured image: Casimiro PT/Shutterstock.com