Akane is an organizer of the Tokyo Bitcoin Cash Meetup, which is one of the most active crypto meetups in the world. She has been involved in crypto since 2013, when she was working as an event organizer at the Pink Cow which was the first restaurant to accept Bitcoin payments in Japan. She has helped a number of merchants in Tokyo accept Bitcoin Cash payments. She is a community manager at Bitcoin.com and also one of the founders of Satoshi Angels, helping with adoption and community building through both entities. 

In Japan thanks to the effort of the local Bitcoin Cash community a large variety of merchants is already accepting Bitcoin Cash
In Japan thanks to the effort of the local Bitcoin Cash community a large variety of merchants is already accepting Bitcoin Cash.

Q1: Hi Akane! Thank you for taking your time to talk with us among your busy schedule this week! Our standard opening question – when did you get the first time to hear about Bitcoin and when did you really get into it?

YA: Thank you too! The first time I heard about Bitcoin was around 2013 when “The Pink Cow” in Tokyo started accepting Bitcoin (BTC). Tokyo Bitcoin Meetups used to take place there, so I got to know some of the early Bitcoin enthusiasts. I also received Bitcoin payments for food and drinks at the Pink Cow. My first impression of Bitcoin was ‘money’ rather than an investment opportunity. 

A few months after BTC split, Tokyo BCH Meetup was started and I started helping as a co-organizer. I knew some merchants so I started asking them to accept BCH. 

Then I got into it even more when there was a Bitcoin Cash conference called Satoshi’s Vision Conference in Tokyo in March 2018 (not to be confused with crypto BSV). I was a volunteer staff of this 3 day conference. It was filled with enthusiastic BCH fans who flew from all over the world excited about this cryptocurrency to be useful money, changing people’s lives for the better. We also had a large BCH meetup with close to 200 people the night before, where I made some friends whom I still keep in touch with. I am not a technical person so I did not understand most of the technical presentations back then but it made me interested in learning more about BCH and crypto in general. And like many, I started studying more and got deeper and deeper into it.

Akane Yokoo
Akane Yokoo.

Q2: After the “fork wars” from 2017 which resulted in a split across the original Bitcoin community you decided to focus your efforts on Bitcoin Cash. To make it short: Why is that?

YA: It was very simple for me. Bitcoin Cash worked as money/cash. BTC was working fine before too, but it no longer made sense to use BTC to buy a cup of coffee because of the high fees. If you don’t know what I mean, try sending $1 in both BTC and BCH. 

Many of the early supporters of BTC moved to support BCH for that same reason. It also made sense to me that I focused on adoption of something that works right now, not something that worked before or will work later. We also have an enthusiastic, strong community of people who are eager to make adoption happen, which helps greatly.

Q3: You have been visiting Vietnam earlier this week and helped in organizing the first Bitcoin Cash Meetup in Saigon. What were the impressions you took from the meetup – and what are the plans for the future of the meetups in Vietnam?

YA: I have helped initiate a few BCH meetup groups but I think there is definitely a demand for meetups in Vietnam. The first meetup was a bit special meetup because we had sponsors and special guest (Roger Ver from Bitcoin.com) etc so it probably attracted more RSVP than usual (107 RSVP) but I hope people will come back for the future ones. Everyone I talked to at the meetup seemed nice and open-minded. Most of the participants seemed like expats living in Vietnam or living close by, and it is the same in Tokyo and many other cities.

We plan to continue organizing the BCH meetups in Ho Chi Minh every 3rd Monday of the month after this month too. I recommend joining the meetup group here and get updates about future meetups. 

The main organizer of this meetup Emily Dallara who I met through crypto about 2 years ago, is a fun, positive and sweet person. We talk about crypto all the time and we are also good friends. I have to thank her for volunteering to organize the monthly BCH meetups, giving people an opportunity to get together and learn about crypto if they want to (more emphasis on BCH in our case). I don’t live in Vietnam, but I plan to keep assisting her with the meetups, and I’d love to fly here sometimes to attend some of her future meetups. I hope people who are reading this will stop by and say hi too. You are always welcome at the meetups! 

Interview Yokoo Akane - Bitcoin Cash Tokyo Meetup

Q4: Vietnam has seen tremendous growth over the past two to three decades; the city landscape is changing rapidly and wealth levels are rising every year. What feeling did you get as a visitor from Japan coming down to the bustling city of Saigon – and do you think cryptocurrencies can help to unlock even more of the economic potential in countries like Vietnam?

YA: This is my second visit to Ho Chi Minh City but it is the first time I knew someone living here, so I am glad that I got to see more of this city. It is way more developed and convenient than I remembered, and most people are very kind (though shy!). I love the Vietnamese food and coffee! 

It’s much more free-style than Japan and more efficient in a way, and I can definitely see cryptocurrencies could be adopted very quickly here and I can imagine people utilizing crypto in many creative ways. Prices of products and services are cheap here – a pho or a chicken rice could cost less than $3-4 including a delivery fee. I have been using my credit card to pay for the food deliveries so I am sure some of the fees go to the credit card company. With crypto we can skip those unnecessary third party fees, and can bring more profit to the merchants, delivery company/drivers, and even users. Crypto like Bitcoin Cash would be perfect for this because it works great for small payments too. Adopting crypto will probably attract more tourists and more businesses to this country too, considering already how easy it is to live here. 

Q5: Japan is somewhat recognized as a front-runner of Bitcoin adoption in Asia, especially for merchant adoption compared to other Asian countries, where the “gambling” aspect of investing into cryptocurrencies plays a much larger role – in a leading position. What’s your take on it as somebody who has been working “in the trenches” since years in the Japanese ecosystem?

YA: We can pay for many things with Bitcoin in Tokyo (I wrote an article about 3-Day Bitcoin Cash survival). We also have a strong community and we run the BCH meetups in Tokyo every week. 
However, Japan is still quite behind in terms of infrastructure for Bitcoin Cash. Most of the adoption you read on news is actually grassroots efforts by the community, and a lot of Japanese people still don’t understand crypto and think it is get-rich-quick opportunity with high risk and skeptical. We have a long way to go, but we just have to keep trying. That being said, I think any other cities can be like Tokyo too with of individuals’ or community’s effort. 

Q6: And last but not least: What developments in the space are you most excited about to come in 2020 and beyond?

YA: Bitcoin Cash keeps improving thanks to all the wonderful developers, and I am personally excited about improvements that bring better user experience. Crypto is still very technical and hard to use for most people. Right now I am looking forward to the NFC (offline payments) implementation with Bitcoin Cash. It would be great if people can pay with BCH with a touch of a card even without internet.

The audience at the first Bitcoin Cash Saigon meetup in December 2019
The audience at the first Bitcoin Cash Saigon meetup in December 2019.