A year ago, China had 90 percent of the bitcoin trade. However, Beijing banned initial coin offerings or ICOs and regulators cracked down on bitcoin exchanges. In September, the bitcoin trade was taken over by another Asian dynamo.
Japan realized bitcoin was a legal form of payment and now bitcoin trade in Japan accounts for half the volume of global trade. The U.S. accounts for about a quarter of the bitcoin trade.
Cryptocurrency’s legalization in Japan has encouraged big retailers to join the movement and to partner with bitcoin exchanges, and begin receiving digital currency as payments.
You can pay with bitcoin in more than 4,500 stores in Japan. The Nikkei, Japan’s stock exchange, claims that number could increase over five times by the end of the year.
A visual representation of the digital cryptocurrency, Bitcoin took place on October 24, 2017 in London, England.
Mai Fujimoto, or Miss Bitcoin in Japan, is a “crypt evangelist” and blogs and tweets about all thing bitcoin.
Mai claims that even though regulations built trust in the currency, bitcoin won’t be replacing cash anytime soon. Bitcoin is still considered an investment and not an everyday currency in Japan.
"Many people have bought bitcoin now and maybe we need time to use bitcoin and learn about it," she told CNBC.
Bitcoin’s rise in Japan has had many problems, however.
Three years ago, Mt. Gox, a Japanese-based bitcoin exchange, went bankrupt after its accounts were raided by hackers.
Regulators have stricter rules and require cryptocurrency exchanges to maintain minimum capital reserves, establish anti-money laundering practices, and separate customer accounts.
Mike Verweyst, a bar owner in Japan, takes bitcoin payments all the time. New regulations haven’t hindered people from using cryptocurrencies.
Mike says, "It's kind of surprising. Japan doesn't really seem to be the first to adapt to new concepts like this. In fact, they kind of shy away from change mostly.”
"But maybe they're going to grab it and run with it, I hope."