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Why Japan Fell in Love with Monacoin, the Cat Meme Cryptocurrency

Never mind the cute Shiba Inu of dogecoin, people in Japan are falling for a new Internet meme-based cryptocurrency – the locally invented and cat-logoed ‘monacoin’.


While it has only about a third the market cap of dogecoin, the scrypt-based monacoin held a 12th place ranking for the past week on Coinmarketcap and was in the top 10 on Cryptocoinrank with a market cap of $6.13m – despite estimates that 90% of its user base is located in Japan.


Few other, if any, non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies have achieved this level of interest with such a geographic concentration of users.


At least five online and physical stores, plus an auction site, now accept monacoin for payments and the currency is traded on five exchanges: three in Japan, China’s ybex and the BVI’s AllCoin.com. A monacoin tipping system, developed by a 17-year-old high school student, is also active.


Monacoin’s 90-day price graph has started to look like a mini-version of bitcoin’s three-year chart: it has gone from a flatline value of around three yen (¥) through May and June, before rising in early July and shooting up to a high of ¥80 on 1st August. It has since fallen back to ¥44.6 with a market cap of $4.17m at press time (note: ¥1 equals roughly $0.01).


Monacoin price chartMonacoin price chart for the last three months. Source: cryptocoinrank.com

Positive news coverage


Why the sudden dramatic rise and drop? Some interest can be attributed to the WBS TV network in Tokyo, which ran a report on its program ‘World Business Satellite’. Viewers said the report was generally positive in nature compared to Japanese mainstream television’s coverage of bitcoin, which tends to focus heavily on Mt. Gox and the Silk Road.


The show mentioned a man that recently bought a plot of land in Nagano Prefecture with monacoin as mentioned in a tweet:


こちらの土地、最近「3万2001モナ」で売買されました。「モナ」というのは日本初のネット上の「仮想通貨」の単位。ビットコイン騒動で一度は下火になった仮想通貨、いま「日本発」で次の動きが出始めています。経済事件簿でお伝えします。#wbs pic.twitter.com/HdQhjH56T6


— WBS(ワールドビジネスサテライト) (@wbs_tvtokyo) July 7, 2014



Translation:


“This piece of land was recently purchased for 32,001 MONA. ‘Mona’ is an internet-based ‘virtual currency’ unit started in Japan. Virtual currencies have been on the wane due to bitcoin’s scandals, but now the next trend is starting to appear from Japan. Report from our Economic Case Files.”


The subsequent fall could be due to speculators seeing a bubble and dumping their holdings. At the price peak, those 32,001 MONA would have been worth $25,000.


Japan wants something Japanese


The success of the altcoin may also be the result of Japan’s desire to produce its own native version of everything, with information in its own language. For years, Japanese shunned Facebook to use the locally-developed social network Mixi. The only downside was it wasn’t open to anyone outside Japan.


Apple products and even smartphones in general took slightly longer to take off in Japan, as locals were happy with the Internet-connected handsets they already had.


This so-called ‘Galapagos effect’ in both technology and entertainment is almost inevitable when you’re an island country with 125 million people and a proprietary language. Add to this the fact that bitcoin’s documentation, developer materials, forums and most online information are written in English, and it’s easy to understand why some in Japan might also want to develop their own cryptocurrency.


There is also plenty of information available in English, including a subreddit.


Keiichi Hida, a prominent digital currency enthusiast and lobbyist with ‘Rising Bitcoin Japan‘ in Tokyo, told CoinDesk it is important to have something to which people could relate:


“A few early adopters of cryptocurrencies recognized it at an early time. But almost all monacoin information is on Japanese websites and in Japanese. So monacoin was more accepted by other Japanese.”


Hida uses monacoin and, as well as his bitcoin advocacy activities, he and some friends formed the Monacoin Foundation. The foundation has so far promoted the use of the cryptocurrency in Japan by holding three information seminars in Tokyo and Osaka.


Unlike bitcoin, however, monacoin’s lead developers are not members of the foundation.


Mystery ‘Mr Watanabe’


Monacoin was launched in December 2013 on Japan’s Internet mega-forum 2channel (‘ni-channeru‘). The capital of Japanese online culture, 2channel has over 600 active message boards covering nearly every topic of interest and is one of the more popular sites in the country.


Introducing the altcoin on the forums was the pseudonymous ‘Mr Watanabe’, who has never revealed his real identity. That may sound familiar. Unlike the equally publicity-shy Satoshi Nakamoto, however, monacoin users are almost certain that Mr. Watanabe is  Japanese.


Monacoin is not intended to be a ‘national altcoin‘ in the spirit of Iceland’s Auroracoin and its many followers, and there is no ‘airdrop’ or handout planned so far.


In his original forum post introducing monacoin, Mr Watanabe suggested the coin was a game, with the mission of the game to find its hashes. Just as games like Final Fantasy XIV and DragonQuest had their own proprietary currencies, monacoin would be the same.


Monacoin is not supposed to be similar to securities, he continued, but more like points accrued to be spent only in the monacoin network.


“I’m writing this clearly so there are no misunderstandings,” he said.


Front cover of the 'MonaComi' mangaFront cover of the ‘MonaComi’ manga

Becoming its own meme


Monacoin, Hida said, is a good match for Japan’s geek/gamer ‘otaku’ culture. Its name and logo are based on ‘Mona’, a cat-like ASCII art character used on 2channel. Monacoin tips are popular with manga fans and creators.


monacoin ascii


A Google image search for ‘monacoin’ uncovers a plethora of different monacoin memes, ‘monacoin-chan’ characters and mascots (as well as pictures of Monaco, which has probably missed a trick with the name should it ever decide to launch its own altcoin).


This summer will see the launch of MonaComi, a manga comic based on monacoin which has so far collected 18,000 MONA in donations.


Disclaimer: The author of this article lives in Japan but is not involved with the monacoin project or Foundation, and does not currently hold any monacoins.


MonaComi image courtesy ‘rinrin-san‘


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A monacoin \u003ca href=\"http://monash.pw/bot/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003etipping system\u003c/a\u003e, developed by a 17-year-old high school student, is also active.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMonacoin\u0026#8217;s 90-day \u003ca href=\"http://www.cryptocoinrank.com/Monacoin#\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eprice graph\u003c/a\u003e has started to look like a mini-version of bitcoin\u0026#8217;s three-year chart: it has gone from a flatline value of around three yen (¥) through May and June, before rising in early July and shooting up to a high of ¥80 on 1st August. It has \u003ca href=\"http://satoshinakamoto.jp/monacoin_realtime_charts.php?lang=ja\" target=\"_blank\"\u003esince fallen back\u003c/a\u003e to ¥44.6 with a market cap of $4.17m at press time (note: ¥1 equals roughly $0.01).\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cdiv id=\"attachment_111822\" class=\"wp-caption aligncenter\"\u003e\u003cdiv class=\"image-container width-630\"\u003e\u003ca href=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MOnacoin-chart2.png\"\u003e\u003cimg class=\"wp-image-111822 size-article-full\" src=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MOnacoin-chart2-630x197.png\" alt=\"Monacoin price chart\" width=\"630\" height=\"197\" /\u003e\u003c/a\u003e\u003cspan class=\"wp-caption-text\"\u003eMonacoin price chart for the last three months. \u003cem\u003eSource: \u003ca href=\"http://www.cryptocoinrank.com/Monacoin#\" target=\"_blank\"\u003ecryptocoinrank.com\u003c/a\u003e\u003c/em\u003e\u003c/span\u003e\u003c/div\u003e\u003c/div\u003e\n\u003ch2\u003ePositive news coverage\u003c/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eWhy the sudden dramatic rise and drop? Some interest can be attributed to the WBS TV network in Tokyo, which ran a report on its program \u0026#8216;World Business Satellite\u0026#8217;. Viewers said the report was generally positive in nature compared to Japanese mainstream television\u0026#8217;s coverage of bitcoin, which tends to focus heavily on Mt. Gox and the Silk Road.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe show mentioned a man that recently bought a plot of land in Nagano Prefecture with monacoin as mentioned in a tweet:\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cblockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" lang=\"en\"\u003e\u003cp\u003eこちらの土地、最近「3万2001モナ」で売買されました。「モナ」というのは日本初のネット上の「仮想通貨」の単位。ビットコイン騒動で一度は下火になった仮想通貨、いま「日本発」で次の動きが出始めています。経済事件簿でお伝えします。\u003ca href=\"https://twitter.com/hashtag/wbs?src=hash\"\u003e#wbs\u003c/a\u003e \u003ca href=\"http://t.co/HdQhjH56T6\"\u003epic.twitter.com/HdQhjH56T6\u003c/a\u003e\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e— WBS(ワールドビジネスサテライト) (@wbs_tvtokyo) \u003ca href=\"https://twitter.com/wbs_tvtokyo/statuses/486117578561966081\"\u003eJuly 7, 2014\u003c/a\u003e\u003c/p\u003e\u003c/blockquote\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cscript src=\"//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js\" async=\"\" charset=\"utf-8\"\u003e\u003c/script\u003e\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eTranslation:\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cblockquote\u003e\u003cp\u003e\u0026#8220;This piece of land was recently purchased for 32,001 MONA. \u0026#8216;Mona\u0026#8217; is an internet-based \u0026#8216;virtual currency\u0026#8217; unit started in Japan. Virtual currencies have been on the wane due to bitcoin\u0026#8217;s scandals, but now the next trend is starting to appear from Japan. Report from our Economic Case Files.\u0026#8221;\u003c/p\u003e\u003c/blockquote\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe subsequent fall could be due to speculators seeing a bubble and dumping their holdings. At the price peak, those 32,001 MONA would have been worth $25,000.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003ch2\u003eJapan wants something Japanese\u003c/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe success of the altcoin may also be the result of Japan\u0026#8217;s desire to produce its own native version of everything, with information in its own language. For years, Japanese shunned Facebook to use the locally-developed social network \u003ca href=\"https://mixi.jp/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eMixi\u003c/a\u003e. The only downside was it wasn\u0026#8217;t open to anyone outside Japan.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eApple products and even smartphones in general took slightly longer to take off in Japan, as locals were happy with the Internet-connected handsets they already had.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis so-called \u0026#8216;Galapagos effect\u0026#8217; in both technology and entertainment is almost inevitable when you\u0026#8217;re an island country with 125 million people and a proprietary language. Add to this the fact that bitcoin\u0026#8217;s documentation, developer materials, forums and most online information are written in English, and it\u0026#8217;s easy to understand why some in Japan might also want to develop their own cryptocurrency.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThere is also \u003ca href=\"http://monacoin.org/en/index.html\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eplenty of information\u003c/a\u003e available \u003ca href=\"https://warosu.org/biz/thread/232980\" target=\"_blank\"\u003ein English\u003c/a\u003e, including a \u003ca href=\"http://www.reddit.com/r/monacoin/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003esubreddit\u003c/a\u003e.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eKeiichi Hida, a prominent digital currency enthusiast and lobbyist with \u0026#8216;\u003ca href=\"http://risingbitcoin.jp/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eRising Bitcoin Japan\u003c/a\u003e\u0026#8216; in Tokyo, told CoinDesk it is important to have something to which people could relate:\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cblockquote\u003e\u003cp\u003e\u0026#8220;A few early adopters of cryptocurrencies recognized it at an early time. But almost all monacoin information is on Japanese websites and in Japanese. So monacoin was more accepted by other Japanese.\u0026#8221;\u003c/p\u003e\u003c/blockquote\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eHida uses monacoin and, as well as his bitcoin advocacy activities, he and some friends formed the \u003ca href=\"http://monacoinfoundation.org/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eMonacoin Foundation\u003c/a\u003e. The foundation has so far promoted the use of the cryptocurrency in Japan by holding three information seminars in Tokyo and Osaka.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eUnlike bitcoin, however, monacoin\u0026#8217;s lead developers are not members of the foundation.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003ch2\u003eMystery \u0026#8216;Mr Watanabe\u0026#8217;\u003c/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMonacoin was launched in December 2013 on Japan\u0026#8217;s Internet mega-forum \u003ca href=\"http://www2.2ch.net/2ch.html\" target=\"_blank\"\u003e2channel\u003c/a\u003e (\u0026#8216;\u003cem\u003eni-channeru\u003c/em\u003e\u0026#8216;). The \u003ca href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2channel\" target=\"_blank\"\u003ecapital\u003c/a\u003e of Japanese online culture, 2channel has over 600 active message boards covering nearly every topic of interest and is one of the \u003ca href=\"http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/2ch.net\" target=\"_blank\"\u003emore popular\u003c/a\u003e sites in the country.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIntroducing the altcoin on the forums was the pseudonymous \u0026#8216;Mr Watanabe\u0026#8217;, who has never revealed his real identity. That may sound familiar. Unlike the equally publicity-shy \u003ca href=\"/information/who-is-satoshi-nakamoto/\"\u003eSatoshi Nakamoto\u003c/a\u003e, however, monacoin users are almost certain that Mr. Watanabe is  Japanese.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMonacoin is not intended to be a \u0026#8216;\u003ca href=\"/coindesk-guide-worlds-national-altcoins/\"\u003enational altcoin\u003c/a\u003e\u0026#8216; in the spirit of Iceland\u0026#8217;s \u003ca href=\"http://auroracoin.org/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eAuroracoin\u003c/a\u003e and its many followers, and there is no \u0026#8216;airdrop\u0026#8217; or handout planned so far.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn his original forum post introducing monacoin, Mr Watanabe suggested the coin was a game, with the mission of the game to find its hashes. Just as games like Final Fantasy XIV and DragonQuest had their own proprietary currencies, monacoin would be the same.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMonacoin is not supposed to be similar to securities, he continued, but more like points accrued to be spent only in the monacoin network.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u0026#8220;I\u0026#8217;m writing this clearly so there are no misunderstandings,\u0026#8221; he said.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cdiv id=\"attachment_111720\" class=\"wp-caption aligncenter\"\u003e\u003cdiv class=\"image-container width-444\"\u003e\u003ca href=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi.jpg\"\u003e\u003cimg class=\"size-full wp-image-111720\" src=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi.jpg\" alt=\"Front cover of the 'MonaComi' manga\" width=\"444\" height=\"626\" srcset=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi.jpg 444w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-83x117.jpg 83w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-48x68.jpg 48w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-56x79.jpg 56w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-184x260.jpg 184w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-106x150.jpg 106w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-248x350.jpg 248w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-297x419.jpg 297w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-177x250.jpg 177w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-207x292.jpg 207w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-142x200.jpg 142w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-95x134.jpg 95w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-345x486.jpg 345w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-380x536.jpg 380w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/MonaComi-285x402.jpg 285w\" sizes=\"(max-width: 444px) 100vw, 444px\" /\u003e\u003c/a\u003e\u003cspan class=\"wp-caption-text\"\u003eFront cover of the \u0026#8216;MonaComi\u0026#8217; manga\u003c/span\u003e\u003c/div\u003e\u003c/div\u003e\n\u003ch2\u003eBecoming its own meme\u003c/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eMonacoin, Hida said, is a good match for Japan\u0026#8217;s geek/gamer \u0026#8216;otaku\u0026#8217; culture. Its name and logo are based on \u0026#8216;Mona\u0026#8217;, a cat-like ASCII art character used on 2channel. Monacoin tips are popular with manga fans and creators.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003ca href=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM.png\"\u003e\u003cimg class=\"aligncenter size-full wp-image-111730\" src=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM.png\" alt=\"monacoin ascii\" width=\"248\" height=\"165\" srcset=\"https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM.png 248w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM-176x117.png 176w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM-90x60.png 90w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM-119x79.png 119w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM-225x150.png 225w, https://www.coindesk.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-03-at-5.36.03-PM-201x134.png 201w\" sizes=\"(max-width: 248px) 100vw, 248px\" /\u003e\u003c/a\u003e\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eA Google image search for \u0026#8216;monacoin\u0026#8217; uncovers a plethora of different monacoin memes, \u0026#8216;monacoin-chan\u0026#8217; characters and mascots (as well as pictures of Monaco, which has probably missed a trick with the name should it ever decide to launch its own altcoin).\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis summer will see the launch of \u003cem\u003eMonaComi\u003c/em\u003e, a manga comic based on monacoin which has so far collected 18,000 MONA in donations.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eDisclaimer:\u003c/strong\u003e The author of this article lives in Japan but is not involved with the monacoin project or Foundation, and does not currently hold any monacoins.\u003c/em\u003e\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cem\u003eMonaComi image courtesy \u0026#8216;\u003ca href=\"http://rinrin.monaist.net/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003erinrin-san\u003c/a\u003e\u0026#8216;\u003c/em\u003e\u003c/p\u003e\n","amp":"\u003cp\u003eNever mind the cute Shiba Inu of dogecoin, people in Japan are falling for a new Internet meme-based cryptocurrency – the locally invented and cat-logoed ‘monacoin’.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eWhile it has only about a third the market cap of dogecoin, the \u003ca href=\"/information/bitcoin-glossary/?amp#ess\" rel=\"amphtml\"\u003escrypt\u003c/a\u003e-based monacoin held a 12th place ranking for the past week on \u003ca href=\"http://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/views/all/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eCoinmarketcap\u003c/a\u003e and was in the top 10 on \u003ca href=\"http://www.cryptocoinrank.com/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eCryptocoinrank\u003c/a\u003e with a market cap of $6.13m – despite estimates that 90% of its user base is located in Japan.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eFew other, if any, non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies have achieved this level of interest with such a geographic concentration of users.\u003c/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAt least five \u003ca href=\"http://monaroad.net/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eonline\u003c/a\u003e and \u003ca href=\"http://ilab.cc/monacoincase\" target=\"_blank\"\u003ephysical\u003c/a\u003e \u003ca href=\"http://giftmona.com/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003estores\u003c/a\u003e, plus an \u003ca href=\"http://mona-auctions.jpn.org/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eauction site\u003c/a\u003e, now \u003ca href=\"http://www.digiket.com/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eaccept\u003c/a\u003e monacoin for payments and the currency is traded on five exchanges: three in Japan, China’s \u003ca href=\"https://ybex.co/trade/mona2btc/index\" target=\"_blank\"\u003e\u003cspan class=\"amp-wp-f6bf23d\"\u003eybex\u003c/span\u003e\u003c/a\u003e and the BVI’s \u003ca href=\"https://www.allcoin.com/trade/MONA_BTC\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eAllCoin.com\u003c/a\u003e. A monacoin \u003ca href=\"http://monash.pw/bot/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003etipping system\u003c/a\u003e, developed by a 17-year-old high school student, is also active.\u003c/

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