Although Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and the only Asian country in the G7, according to the September 2022 Global Financial Center Index (“GFCI32”) published by
Z/Yen Group, Tokyo ranked as the sixteenth largest global financial center after New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Beijing, Shenzhen, Paris, Seoul, Chicago, Sydney, Boston, and Washington D.C. For ranking purposes, the GFCI32 considered the following factors: human capital, business, finance, infrastructure, and reputation.
Both Japan’s central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government are keen to revitalize Tokyo’s position in the international financial market. The Japan Financial Services Agency (“FSA”) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have dedicated teams to attract foreign financial services companies interested in expanding their businesses in Japan. U.S. financial technology (“FinTech”) companies, or those companies that combine software and technology to deliver financial services, can benefit from these new opportunities to enter or expand their presence in Japan.
In 2016, Japan’s central bank, the Bank of Japan (“BOJ”), established a FinTech center to promote the sector’s sustainable growth with careful consideration of digital currency. In October 2020, seven international central banks, including the BOJ and the Bank for International Settlements (“BIS”), published the Central Bank Digital Currency Report to assess the feasibility of central bank digital currencies (“CBDCs”) in assisting central banks in achieving their public policy objectives. Although the BOJ has not officially indicated any plans to issue CBDCs, in April 2021, the BOJ initiated two parts of proof-of-concept studies to determine whether CBDCs’ essential functions are technically feasible in Japan – specifically digital issuances and remittances. The first CBDC proof-of-concept phase concluded in March 2022; the second CBDC proof-of-concept phase incorporating various “peripheral functions” to CBDCs commenced in April 2022. After the proof-of-concept studies are completed, the BOJ will consider conducting a pilot study in which private businesses and consumers will participate.
These studies and the possibility of Japanese CBDCs are important for Japan and its FinTech industry in that they would accelerate the digitalization of payment. Japanese banks – including megabanks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, and Mizuho Financial Group – have actively adopted FinTech into their businesses by partnering with FinTech firms. Specifically, for U.S. FinTech companies interested in entering the Japanese market, the possibility of CBDCs could impact opportunities in payment, settlement, and blockchain technologies.
According to KPMG’s Pulse of FinTech H2’21 Report, 2021 global FinTech investment reached $210 billion, including venture capital and private equity investments as well as mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The Asia Pacific region’s total FinTech investment reached $27.5 billion – or roughly 13% of global FinTech investment. One of the largest Asian FinTech deals in 2021 was PayPal’s USD $2.7 billion acquisition of the Japanese buy now, pay later (“BNPL”) service platform company Paidy.
170 venture companies are members of the FinTech Association of Japan. According to Nasdaq, there are 139 FinTech unicorns globally. Japan currently has a few of these FinTech unicorns, including the companies Liquid and Opn Co.
The following are Japan’s active and growing FinTech sub-sectors.
Until recently, Japan lagged behind other countries in cashless systems. However, with the Government of Japan’s (“GOJ’s”) push for digitalization amid surges in Japanese COVID-19 infections, more Japanese residents have grown accustomed to using cashless payments. Such means of cashless payments include mobile payments using QR codes or barcodes such as d-Barai, au Pay, Rakuten Pay, PayPay, LINE Pay, and Merupay. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (“METI”), the ratio of cashless payment rose to 32.5% in 2021 from 26.8% in 2019, although most cashless payments in Japan continue to be made by credit cards.
Buy Now, Pay Later (“BNPL”)
Although Japan has only a few BNPL payment providers, the number of eCommerce stores that accept BNPL payment is increasing. This payment service is popular among younger Japanese consumers that do not or cannot obtain credit cards.
The use ratio of online banking is also increasing in Japan. The COVID-19 pandemic, shrinking bank branches, and the rise of online banks without retail outlets such as Rakuten Bank are fueling the growth of digital banking.
Crowdfunding that raises funds for a project through a large online group of people provides individuals and small businesses opportunities for early-stage financial support for their entrepreneurial concepts. Japan has three types of crowdfunding: (1) purchase/reward crowdfunding, which is Japan’s most popular and highest growing form of crowdfunding; (2) donation crowdfunding; and (3) investment crowdfunding.
Insurtech uses technological innovations such as artificial intelligence (“AI”) to make current insurance procedures more efficient and allows insurance products to be priced more competitively. Insurtech can help improve customer service by streamlining application procedures, automating and accelerating customer interactions, and enhancing simulations of insurance premiums. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual commercial channels are being strengthened, and administrative procedures such as contract procedures and payment requests are being digitized and automated at a rapid pace.
There are currently 31 cryptocurrency exchanges in Japan. In 2021, the cryptocurrency trading volume in Japan was $327 billion (¥36 trillion). Japanese legal requirements for operating a cryptocurrency exchange are not onerous. Cryptocurrency exchanges must register with the Japan Financial Services Agency (“FSA”) to trade a cryptocurrency in Japan.
Non-Fungible Token (“NFT”)
Non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) are cryptographic assets that exist on a blockchain and cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency like cryptocurrencies. NFT technology can prove ownership of digital data. By giving identification information to digital data using blockchain technology, it is possible to indicate the “owner” or the “uniqueness” of the data. Currently art assets and real estate tracts are commercial areas in which NFTs are being used extensively.
Although Japan’s NFT market size is still relatively small compared to other countries, it is rapidly expanding. Since 2021, many Japanese firms have entered the NFT marketplace – including Rakuten, LINE, SBI, GMO Internet, and Coincheck.
Security and Fraud Prevention Technologies and Solutions for Financial Services Corresponding to increases in higher numbers of Japanese FinTech and online transactions has been the increase in cybercrime incidents. For U.S. companies interested in the Japanese FinTech space, you may want to carefully consider a Japanese partner or a Japanese-speaking agent to provide products and services to local Japanese FinTech or financial services companies. In addition to facilitating delivery of the products and services, a Japanese agent can work with customers in Japan to ensure appropriate cybersecurity measures are followed.
Both Japan’s central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government are keen to revitalize Tokyo’s position in the international financial market. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has a dedicated team to attract foreign financial services companies interested in expanding their businesses in Tokyo.
In addition, Osaka Prefecture and the City of Osaka are also eager to promote Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, as a global financial city. Osaka officials established the Osaka Global Finance One-Stop Support Center in December 2021 to help foreign financial services firms and investors to establish their businesses in Osaka. U.S. FinTech companies may wish to explore these opportunities in Osaka for purposes of entering or expanding their presence in Japan.
Government of Japan Agencies
Tokyo Government Agencies
Osaka Government Agencies
Upcoming FinTech Events
FinTech Summit (FIN/SUM) 2023 (Date to be Determined)
Commercial Service Japan
For more information about Japan’s FinTech sector, please contact the U.S. Commercial Service at Office.Tokyo@trade.gov or Ms. Ms. Tamami Honda at Tamami.Honda@trade.gov.