JAPAN plans to become the Bitcoin capital of the world as the Asian country continues to welcome cryptocurrency investment despite several high profile hacking attacks, according to investment experts.
Last month Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck announced it would have to pay back more than £300m to customers after their system was hacked, affecting 260,000 customers.
The attack, described as the biggest digital currency theft in history, was the most high profile case in several hacks to affect Japanese cryptocurrency firms.
However, unlike their neighbours China and South Korea who are clamping down on the use of online money, the risks have not deterred Japan from their mission to be the first country to widely use cryptocurrencies as legal tender.
Takashi Shiono, an economist at Credit Suisse in Tokyo, said: “There are estimates that tax revenue from the cryptocurrency business, including capital gains taxes from individual investors and from corporations, could amount to 1 trillion yen (US$9.2 billion), though that is very speculative at this stage.”
The Japanese economy has suffered from decades of stagnation since the start of the 1990s, dealt with a massive national debt and with the problems of a shrinking population and tax base.
The Tokyo Government is hoping the capitalise on the growth in interest for cryptocurrencies as their opportunity to improve the Japanese economy.
Ken Kawai, partner at law firm Anderson Mori & Tomotsune and adviser to finance-tech start-ups, said: “Regulators in Japan are usually conservative and not first movers.
“The Government wants to facilitate fintech through cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.”
Cryptocurrencies are particularly popular among young Japanese investors lured by the prospect of strong profits in an economy that has seen ultra-low interest rates for many years and low returns from traditional assets.
The hope from Japan is that the crack downs on the use of online money from other countries around the world will attract more investors to Tokyo.
South Korea introduced a raft of measures last month aimed at regulating Bitcoin and similar currencies such as Ripple and Ethereum.
A ban on anonymous trading was implemented by the Asian power in a bid to crack down on all possible criminal activities the secret nature of trading Bitcoin allowed.
Following the Coincheck hack, some analysts expect to see an increase in Japanese regulation for cryptocurrencies but less than other countries in order to remain competitive.
Mr Shiono said: “We’ll likely see stronger regulations, but not a ban.”
Meanwhile, Scott Gentry, founder of blockchain and cryptocurrency firm FreeAbound, said: “There has to be more oversight and I think it may lead to more regular audits of exchanges.
“The FSA needs to create a level of assurance … but I can’t see it putting so much of a fence around cryptocurrency that it can’t grow.”
It’s estimated that cryptocurrencies may contribute 0.3 per cent to Japan’s gross domestic product, 20 per cent of total growth expected in 2018.