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Japan pushing cashless purchases to help boost spending

When this spring’s baseball season started in Japan, supporters of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles faced an inconvenience they had never before experienced: meal and drink booths did not accept cash.

The owner of the team, internet trading company Rakuten Inc., tried to encourage their mobile payment system by QR code. But it rapidly came out that the marketing ploy was much more than that.

Sales of meals, drink and goods at the Eagles Stadium in Sendai’s northwestern town rose 20 per cent from the same two-month span of 2018 in April and May, partly because getting money out of the equation altered expenditure practices.

“We see it as an achievement tale,” said Hayato Morofushi, Rakuten’s mobile payment marketing manager. “We’ve just started using QR codes for payments in Japan, so we don’t predict everyone to leap on the bandwagon. As we get more success stories, more individuals will take over.” Experts tell more individuals will participate when queues travel quicker. Customers don’t see money exiting their wallets and focusing on buying goods, so they’re spending more.

That psychology might be essential to Japan’s economy, trapped in a deflationary mindset for centuries, where customers are delaying expenditure in hopes of stable or higher rates. Since 2013, the Bank of Japan has invested more than US$ 3 trillion on bonds and other resources to achieve, without achievement, a 2 per cent level of cost development.

A planned rise in retail revenue from 8% in October to 10% could harm expenditure. Conscious of this danger, the state bets heavily on mobile payments, a sector that only takes root in Japan.

The state will give redeemable bonuses for potential discounts to shoppers using QR codes and other cashless transfers for nine months as quickly as the tax rise starts.

The initiative has a 280 billion yen (US$ 2.6 billion) six-month plan that will be reassessed in the current fiscal year.

“If we modify the way we spend, we can alter culture as a whole,” said Masamichi Ito, head of the cashless advancement department of the Japanese Economy Ministry, laid up in October to double cashless operations by 2025 to 120 trillion yen.

READ: Japanese regional banks jump in on cashless payment initiative.

Cash covers 80% of Japan’s operations, with the remainder being split between loan cards, portable and prepaid swipe accounts. This is the most significant level of money use after Germany in the developed world.

Low homicide levels–Japanese carry significant quantities of money comfortably–and an ageing workforce viewed as the primary barriers to broader acceptance.

According to Statista, portable transfers are 30% to 35% of operations in India and China, two of the world’s most voracious spenders.

According to the Nomura Research Institute (NRI), cashless payments on median boost revenues per customer by 1.6%. Over the previous six years, domestic usage in Japan has risen by an estimate of 0.5% each year.

The state claims that remaining cashless could relieve other significant financial headaches, such as a surplus of labour and dropping bank profitability, merely by being more productive.

Cashiers waste more than two hours a day handling money on average, while Japanese companies invest about 1 trillion yen a year on their ATM network and physically transferring money, according to NRI.


Tourism expenditure, particularly from China, has been one of the few financial hot places in Japan, and Chinese visitors use the Ant Financial Services Group’s mobile payment system AliPay to more than 300,000 Japanese dealers.

Some duty-free checks deposit tax refunds straight into AliPay deposits at large department stores. The app utilises focused advertising to assist consumers to figure out what they want to purchase and advises neighbouring associated products. Users are advised to buy comparable Japanese products internet when they move to China.

In a May meeting, Ryu Young-joon, chief executive of Kakao Pay, informed Reuters that South Korean portable payment company Kakao Pay is looking to join Japan, gambling on Tokyo’s attempt to go cashless.

“They don’t recognise credit cards in many shops when I go to Japan,” Ryu said. “I believed it would be nice if I could use Kakao Pay in Japan.” PayPay, a Japanese QR tag scheme introduced in October, is consistent with AliPay, which could clear the route to local implementation.

Three months earlier, Satoshi Komiya, 39, who operates a Tokyo curry restaurant, received PayPay-signing an agreement that assured he would be paid no charges for three years and since then, he said he’d found a “small” rise in revenues.

“Hitherto, so nice,” said Komiya.


But other Japanese transaction suppliers, including Origami, Messaging App Line and Mercari auction location, usually pay charges of around 3%.

Because larger distributors in Japan have median revenue margins of around 2%, such charges are a significant barrier to acceptance, claims NLI Research Institute scientist Yuki Fukumoto.

Japan also has an omnipresent vending machine and meal ticket dispenser network that relies on cash and can not be substituted or upgraded daily.

“People say shoppers spend more when using QR codes, but I don’t believe it’s going to occur in my store,” said Tomoko Yokoyama, 50, who operates a tennis store in Tokyo, as she re-strung a racket.

“Any buy I have to settle charges, so it’s the same as buying products at a premium,” she explained. “It’d be a catastrophe.”

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