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Monacoin: Japan’s first native cryptocurrency — Next big thing or next Beta-Max?
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Monacoin: Japan’s first native cryptocurrency — Next big thing or next Beta-Max?

The mother of all cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, was apparently created by Satoshi Nakamoto, an individual using a Japanese name; no one is sure that he’s really Japanese. However, this is one reason why Japan is fond of bitcoin perhaps a bit of nationalist pride.

What many people don’t know is that Japan does have its own indigenous cryptocurrency, Monacoin, which began almost as a joke in 2013. It’s become a serious commodity in recent years but is it worth investing in?

Monacoin currently has a market capitalization of roughly $220 million (1 Monacoin=$3.74) but last December its value surged to more than a billion dollars, trading at almost $20 per Monacoin. Like all cryptocurrencies, the value is subject to massive fluctuations but in recent weeks the price seems to be rising again.

It was created in December 2013 via a posting on Japan’s ubiquitous Internet bulletin board, 2channel. It should be noted that 2channel, also known as “2chan,” was also the inspiration for 4chan, a bulletin board for Internet discourse in America, plagued with controversy. However, in Japan, 2channel is still a vibrant forum for whistleblowers, hackers, commenters and sometimes breaking news.

This cryptocurrency was initially introduced by an individual, male or female, under the name “Mr. Watanabe.” Like the creator of Bitcoin, Mr. Watanabe has never revealed his or her actual name. In addition, Mr. Watanabe has played little part in the development of the cryptocurrency since it began but is widely believed to be Japanese.

Mr. Watanabe in his original forum post introducing Monacoin, described the currency as a kind of game currency, much like the ones used in the hugely popular Final Fantasy video game. It was modeled after other Japan-developed video games that have their own proprietary currencies. Mr. Watanabe also made it clear that Monacoin was not designed to be a cryptocurrency. Nobody paid much attention to the creator on that point, like “Frankenstein’s monster,” it has taken on a life of its own.

The name of the coin comes from “Mona,” an ASCII art drawn character that resembles a cat emoji and has long been popular on the 2channel bulletin board.

Monacoin is mostly used within Japan, with its international usage very limited. However, anyone can download the apps that let you use it.  It is still mineable if you have the time and computer power to do it. However, will the coin really last or will it end up like many Japanese proprietary formats, such as BETAMAX, a great idea and good technology that becomes obsolete in the face of the competition?

“The merits of Monacoin are that it’s more a means of payment than a source of speculation. The community makes it easy to use. The ability to tip easily in Monacoin via Twitter etc. makes it increasingly used online. The handling fees for it are extremely low compared to other means of payment,” said Keiichi Hida, a leading voice on cryptocurrency in Japan.


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