Rakuten, the e-commerce giant often thought of as Japan’s answer to Amazon.com, has started accepting account applications for a forthcoming cryptocurrency exchange to be known as “Rakuten Wallet.” Pre-registration is only available to customers with the company’s Rakuten Bank, and the company’s announcement doesn’t provide details of when or whether the service will be available to others. Rakuten has previously said its exchange will open for business in June 2019, and will incorporate a mobile app for trading cryptocurrencies.
Rakuten, with roughly USD $9 billion in revenue in 2018, is actually tiny compared to Amazon, with its 2018 revenue of $233 billion. But Rakuten’s decision to support cryptocurrency could significantly accelerate adoption at the consumer level. Though the company operates worldwide, its Japanese home base is a major force in crypto, with yen trading accounting for more than half of bitcoin purchases in some periods. Japan was the home to the first major (though ill-fated) crypto exchange, Mt. Gox, and bitcoin’s creator adopted the Japanese pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, though they are not considered likely to be Japanese. Japan is also credited with having some of the most advanced regulations surrounding cryptocurrency, and Rakuten Wallet will operate with clearance from Japanese financial authorities.