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Crypto-currency on Main Street ....

Japan has a very high percentage of cash transactions - 62% by value, compared with 34% in the USA and 50% in China (source The Economist). Businesses also provide an unusually wide range of payment options, from pre-paid cards to Apple Pay to Alipay - and now Bitcoin! Yes, a country where Visa and Mastercard cards are not yet accepted in a Tokyo McDonald's is now seeing "Bitcoin Accepted" signs appearing in retail stores like BIC Camera (since April in select stores).

The maintenance and upkeep of multiple hardware solutions to support this diverse set of payment options is a drain on the merchants and is generally passed on to consumers in higher prices. In the future, there is a possibility that social media companies may introduce payment arms like Tencent's WeChat has done in China. Domestically, a consortium of Japanese banks is already working on an electronic payment solution based on a digital currency called JCoin.

Japans electronic payment systems are a mix of old and new. Their struggle to move away from cash transactions has potentially opened a window to an improbable jump to the early adoption of new payment solutions. Few would have anticipated Japan being an early adopter of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, but paradoxically their slow move to plastic presents them with an unforeseen opportunity. The message for us is that we need to be thinking on how we will approach crypto-currencies, and adapt our payment systems (and billing systems) sooner rather than later ....

PS McDonalds are preparing for the 2020 Olympics by introducing support this winter for an influx of visitors with Visa and Mastercards

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