back to article Japan unveils new scheme to speed up adoption of cashless payments

Japan has launched a new scheme to speed up the adoption of cashless payments . The scheme, called the “whole area cashless infrastructure construction project”, aims to promote face-to-face cashless payments among small-and medium-sized businesses that continue to cling to cash. It's also a pandemic-prevention promotion: the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mixed Picture

    Thing is, Japan has had cashless payments for small value items for a very long time. In some places. The Suica card in the Tokyo region is a bit like London Transport’s Oyster card - it buys metro and bus rides - but it also works on vending machines, convenience stores, coffee shops, etc. What puzzled me about Europe’s and the West’s development of NFC payment was that they were developing something just like Suica, but reinventing it seemingly in ignorance of the fact that there was already a system in widespread use in the Far East.

    Suica was also integrated into phones long before Apple Pay became a thing. Though it was done in a manner more akin to glueing a Western NFC credit card to the case rather than integrating it into the phone’s OS directly.

    Cash remains king in Japan because people don’t trust the banks. There’s been a lot of fraud with ebanking. The banks are also technologically backward in their use and understanding of technology; hence the primitivism of the approach to security and payment systems. So when you pay electronically, it just doesn’t feel right as any problems with it are going to be embarrassing all round. If you pay by cash, you’ve definitely, positively, with a guarantee of no inconvenience for the payee, paid.

    There’s the whole social thing associated with handing over a large pile of neatly pressed and arranged notes to close a large purchase. A scruffy card just doesn’t compare. And in this day of plastic notes in the UK, I have to say that the feel of Japan’s notes made out of mulberry tree bark paper is really quite something, especially when new and crisp; there’s even a lovely smell. Things like this are really quite important.

    Using a uk chip and pin card there is amusing sometimes. I’ve occasionally had to look at what their till is saying, because it’s saying it in English and they’ve no idea what it means. One types in one’s PIN and the machine says all good, and it’s all a bit mysterious. I’ve had supermarkets accept nothing more than a mag strip swipe, no signature, and it all seems Ok. I’ve had a tyre shop apologising because their machine didn’t understand my card, and would it be ok to sign an old fashioned imprinted voucher.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Mixed Picture

      Cash remains king in Japan because people don’t trust the banks.

      Especially central banks. In the current era of extremely loose monetary policy, central banks are desperate to be able to devalue money in order to reach entirely artificial and arbitrary inflation targets and this is far easier to do with purely electronic currencies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mixed Picture

        I went to Japan for the first time in 2008 and while it's a while ago now I was amazed how difficult it was to even get cash out. ATMs at banks wouldn't take foreign cards so you could only use machines at post offices (which were bizarre things which looked straight from the 1950s) or the machines in some 7 elevens.

        I have been back since but for the life of me can't remember if much had changed. But they love their traditions.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Mixed Picture

          There is a big move to modernise a lot of the banking in view of the Olympic games. It's easy to see that tourists will spend more money if they can more easily get access to their money. The Rugby World Cup was another event driving that, and given how successful that tournament was for Japan from a sporting, tourism, and cultural point of view being well organised for others is a good idea.

          At least the Post Offices and 7-Elevens are there. Back in the early 1990s drawing cash on a card was a half hour spent in the bank dealing with three different people and a whole lot of forms. There might even have been an abacus (which is still definitely not an out-of-date way of doing things; they're marvellous).

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Mixed Picture

        Yes, there's a lot to like about Japan and how society runs.

        I pretty sure that if you're a local and have a bank account, Suica can be auto-topped up from that.

  2. redpawn Silver badge

    Uh yes we accept cash,

    but you need three forms of identification and a credit check.

  3. Mike_R

    By when??

    By 20203, that figure is projected to grow to 27.6

    thats in (thinks) 180 centuries ??

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: By when??

      These things can't be rushed, y'know.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. RobbieM

    I dont blame them.

    This drive for a cashless society is only coming from the banks. To give those corrupt profit grabbing institutes total control of your finances seems madness to me.

    Given all the recent news about money laundering etc in the Fincen papers would you trust a drug dealers money man with all your finances?

    1. Ochib

      Re: I dont blame them.

      If Breaking Bad has taught me anything, it that I need a cash only business to launder my drug money. In fact a number of takeaways need me have "burnt down" after they had to start using tills and only take credit cards

    2. jilocasin
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I dont blame them.

      It's not just the banks, it's the governments. It's hard to track transactions made with cash. Whether to make sure everyone is paying their taxes, or just good ol' fashioned surveillance, it's much simpler for the government to keep track of everyone if cash simply didn't exist.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I dont blame them.

        Obviously why cash is so widespread in unstable revolutionary regimes like Japan

  6. ThatOne Silver badge

    Cashless, moneyless

    In the spirit of increasing state surveillance and control, all nations will at some point try to remove their quaint anonymous banknotes and coins, and replace them with easily controlled electronic ones. Not only this allows them to know everything you're doing, down to which shops and brands you prefer (money!), but it also allows them to control your finances instantly and without you being able to do something about it: Government needs money to help their buddies? They just reach out and take yours.

    Also, real money is a drag for governments, as it assumes real value. You can't cheat when your currency is tied to some real-world value, like precious metals back in time. To cheat and dupe as you see fit, you need your currency to be free from any constraints and rules (see abandon of the gold standard). Thus totally virtual money is the logical next step: It allows you to play fast and loose with your economy, given your wealth is henceforth what you declare it to be, and there are no controls or obligations.

  7. Timo

    Very analog indeed

    When I was in Japan, the suica card was really just a place to store cash. There was not a way to load it with funds directly from a bank, etc. It was not a debit card either. And so every form of payment involved cash at some step. I don't recall if the subway accepted credit cards, I seem to remember that it did not.

    The Japanese are also incredibly frugal, and so I imagine they frown on the concept of giving the card processor a cut of the business. Either from the payer or payee's perspective.

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