Japan Accelerates Digital Yen Plans Amidst Global CBDC Race

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Japan is advancing plans for a digital yen, with the Bank of Japan poised to pilot a CBDC program and the finance ministry preparing an expert panel to tackle the laws, signaling a significant shift in Japan’s traditional cash-centric economy.

Japan is actively stepping up efforts to issue a digital yen, a central bank digital currency (CBDC), in line with global trends in digital currency development. The move marks a significant change in Japan’s financial landscape, responding to both domestic needs and international advances in the field.

In recent years, the concept of CBDCs has gained momentum globally, with various countries exploring and implementing versions of them. Japan, traditionally known for its money-oriented economy, is now making significant strides in this direction. The Bank of Japan (BoJ) and the Japanese government are working together to address the feasibility and legality of the digital yen.

Pilot program and expert panel

As reported in early 2023, the BoJ plans to launch a pilot program in April to test the practicality of the digital yen. This follows the completion of the initial phase of experiments by March 2023. In parallel, the Ministry of Finance established an expert group back in April to discuss and resolve legal issues related to the issuance of CBDC​​​​

Global context and comparison

Japan’s transition to digital currency is coming at a time when several countries, including China, the European Union and the United States, are exploring similar initiatives. China, in particular, is at the forefront of the CBDC race, having already implemented pilot retail payment schemes. In contrast, Japan aims to ensure the coexistence of CBDCs with various forms of money and address the minimization of personal data storage​​​​

Implications for the Japanese economy

The introduction of a digital yen could revolutionize Japan’s financial system, known for its reliance on cash transactions. It can improve the efficiency of domestic and international payments, thereby modernizing the financial system. The move also shows that Japan recognizes the growing importance of digital currencies in the global economy.

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Future perspective

Although the launch of a digital yen has not yet been officially confirmed, the pilot program and the formation of the expert group are critical steps towards this goal. The BoJ has indicated that any decision to issue CBDCs will only be made after comprehensive national discussions, which are expected to last at least until 2026.

Japan’s cautious but progressive approach to the digital yen reflects its desire to remain competitive in the evolving global financial landscape, while accommodating domestic preferences and legal considerations.

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