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Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jason_benjamin/

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jason_benjamin/

In the nearly six months since Mt.Gox imploded, two major things have happened to the bitcoin community in Japan. The first is that Japan’s population became aware of bitcoin in a very big way, as coverage of the failed exchange and the $500 million loss became headline news in a country that had previously seen cryptocurrency as just another tech fad. The second, and more urgent issue was that as bitcoin awareness was growing in the country, there were no other exchanges in the country to help connect buyers to the world market.

The lack of a major Japanese exchange hasn’t been a huge issue until, as most of the post-collapse coverage of Mt.Gox was extremely negative and few Japanese citizens were demanding one. As time passes and bitcoin remains a relatively strong economic force, however, it’s becoming more evident that demand is growing.

The question is: Who will launch the first one? Will it be a Sunlot Holdings-backed Mt.Gox revival? Will it be the plan proposed by OKCoin and BitOcean? Or will it be, as today’s story on Bloomberg suggests, the little-known Japanese bitcoin brokerage bitFlyer?

Founded by former Goldman Sachs trader Yuzo Kano, bitFlyer raised $1.6 million in seed funding earlier this year. The system isn’t set up like a standard exchange, but instead functions as a counterparty to both buyer and seller, much like Coinbase. Kano declined to tell Bloomberg how many customers his company has, but his active quest for additional venture funding to fuel an expansion outside of Japan hints that bitFlyer hasn’t cracked the Japanese market.

Part of the problem, Kano suggests, is that the ghost of Gox still lingers in the air over Tokyo.

“If we have another fiasco like Mt. Gox, it’s game over,” Kano told Bloomberg. “There needs to be monitoring to prevent that from happening.”

Thus far, the Japanese government has declined to take any definitive stance on bitcoin or virtual currency. With a growing set of traditional economic issues to deal with, and a tiny bitcoin community, Japan’s authorities have bigger fish to fry. That may change, however, when the Tokyo bankruptcy courts finally settle on a plan for Mt.Gox’s assets. With tens of thousands of user accounts and 200,000 BTC going to the company with the best settlement offer, their heir to Mt.Gox would, on paper at least, instantly become one of the most largest exchanges in the world.

Even if bitFlyer isn’t in the running for Mt.Gox’s assets, Bloomberg suggests that it is a position to benefit heavily from the likely swarm of activity resulting from new Japanese interest in digital currency. As the only Japanese exchange currently up and running, it might just have an edge.

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