Japan could be on the cusp of making one of the biggest leaps for the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies seen in recent years.
Reports suggest that the country’s biggest train operator, the East Japan Railway Company, is preparing to enable commuters to pay for their journeys using an array of digital assets – including stablecoins.
According to local media, the rail operator is teaming up with a tech company to build the infrastructure necessary for it to accept crypto payments via the ever-popular Suica smartcard – a prepaid e-money product that can be purchased from vending machines, topped up, and used to settle fares without the need to buy a ticket in advance. It is also believed that JR East is investing in DeCurret, a crypto exchange that recently secured regulatory approval from the nation’s financial conduct authority.
The news is already significant because JR East is responsible for more than six billion train journeys a year. However, what really could make it a landmark moment for mainstream adoption is how the company’s Suica smartcards are also accepted as a payment method in more than 580,000 convenience stores nationwide. Theoretically, this could mean that consumers who wish to pay using cryptocurrency would be able to purchase train fares, tea, tacos, tiramisu (and a myriad of other items that don’t begin with T) without needing to embark on convoluted conversions.
DeCurret, the crypto exchange that JR East is collaborating with, supports Bitcoin, Ripple, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash at present – and Ethereum is set to follow in the coming months. Although there is a healthy amount of speculation at present, it is plausible that the Suica smartcard could eventually end up offering compatibility with some – if not all – of these coins and tokens.
The inclusion of stablecoins in any offering is a smart move, because it would help the product to appeal to consumers who remain wary about cryptocurrencies because of the risk of price volatility.
All that remains to be seen is when this major milestone will be achieved by JR East, and how many cryptocurrencies will be accepted. A broader range of coins and tokens would prove crucial if JR East and their Suica smartcard want to make inroads in the crypto community, and it would also give consumers options when topping up their cards.