Japanese E-commerce Giant Rakuten Starts Accepting Bitcoin

The e-commerce giant will begin accepting Bitcoin first on Rakuten.com in the US, to be followed by Rakuten.de in Germany and Rakuten.at in Austria.

Photo: Rakuten Deutschland/Flickr

Photo: Rakuten Deutschland/Flickr

Japanese online mall Rakuten revealed its plans to let customers to choose Bitcoin currency as an option of payment by integrating Bitnet’s payment processing platform on a number of its marketplaces.

The e-commerce firm will begin accepting Bitcoin first on Rakuten.com in the US, to be followed by Rakuten.de in Germany and Rakuten.at in Austria. The integration with Bitnet’s platform will supposedly make the Japanese giant one of the largest ecommerce firms to begin digital currency.

In addition to offering its customers advanced security and privacy, Rakuten merchants will immediately see the benefits of being able to use bitcoin, including instant global reach with no cross-border fees, no price volatility, and no fraud, risk or chargebacks.

“Rakuten’s mission is to empower the world through the Internet,” noted  Yaz Iida, President of Rakuten USA. “Not only can bitcoin support this vision by helping our merchants better compete globally, but it also has the potential to benefit society by enhancing the security, privacy, and convenience of financial transactions. This is one of the reasons why we invested in Bitnet last year and we look forward to working with them on our US marketplace.

John McDonnell, Co-Founder & CEO, Bitnet, explained: “Rakuten’s global marketplaces are great examples of how digital currencies can impact global commerce. We’re excited to join with Rakuten in helping both merchants and shoppers reap the benefits of this new technology.”

“We believe that bitcoin will support our mission of empowering the world through the Internet by helping our merchants compete better globally, but it also has the potential to benefit society by enhancing the security, privacy and convenience of financial transactions,” a Rakuten spokesman said via email.

The biggest e-commerce Japanese company, Rakuten was founded back in 1997 and now it has 97 million users across the country, which is more than 75 percent of the population. Those customers drove JPY 2 trillion (US$16.5 billion) worth of sales last year.

Rakuten is headquartered in Tokyo, with over 14,000 employees and partner staff worldwide.

“While diversifying from online sales into financial, Internet and travel services as well as professional sports, it has embarked on a shopping spree in recent years to grow its user base into the billions and better compete with Amazon by adding infrastructure,” PC World explains.

In 2012, Rakuten acquired Canadian e-reader firm Kobo. Last year, it bought messaging app Viber for US$900 million, as well as cash-back shopping website Ebates for $1 billion. Its other acquisitions include Spanish video service Wuaki.tv, Viki, a digital content platform, logistics firm Webgistix and Buy.com.

However, Rakuten would not be the first Japanese giant to work with bitcoin currency. GMO Internet set that precedent last September.

The company’s integration of bitcoin domestically is believed to  puch the digital currency into the mainstream.

For Japanese bitcoin enthusiasts, the march towards widespread acceptance in their country is a long slog. With Rakuten’s latest signal of support, the goal becomes less of a mirage and more of an steadily approaching reality.

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