Known as “Miss Bitcoin” on Japanese social media, Mai Fujimoto says she invests all of her savings in the virtual currency that has proved a huge hit in Japan.

“I convert all my disposable income into cryptocurrency,” the 32-year-old tells AFP. “I’ve been doing this for nearly a year now. I convert all my savings into cryptocurrency instead of putting them in a bank.”

She is not alone in her enthusiasm. Bitcoin is recognised as legal tender in the world’s third-biggest economy and nearly one-third of global bitcoin transactions in December were denominated in yen, according to specialised website

This has led to many analysts speculating that the famous Mrs Watanabe—shorthand for Japanese individual foreign exchange investors— is behind the recent volatile frenzy that pushed the price of bitcoin up to nearly $20,000 before dropping back.

But why Japan?

Firstly, unlike regional rivals China and South Korea, whose regulators have clamped down hard on the cryptocurrency, Japan has welcomed it with open arms.

In April, Japan passed a law recognising bitcoin and other virtual currencies as legal tender while also stressing the need for transparency and financial stability.

Some well-known Japanese businesses have started accepting payment in bitcoin and one firm made waves when it said it would pay part of its employees’ salaries in the currency if they wish. “The involvement of big companies, the sense of security derived from government approval and media exposure really brought in a whole new group of people to the market,” said Koji Higashi, a wellknown commentator on the cryptobusiness in Japan.