West Japan prefecture launches digital currency ‘Biwako’ in bid to boost region & More Breaking News

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The official website of the local digital currency service “Biwako” is seen on this smartphone screenshot taken on its launch day on July 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Manabu Niwata)

OTSU — The Shiga Prefectural Government launched the local digital currency “Biwako” on July 25, aiming for people to use it to enjoy various experiences at registered spots in Shiga, while boosting connections and migration to the area.

The Biwako currency is named after Japan’s largest lake, which lies in Shiga Prefecture. Biwako credits cannot be exchanged for cash, and are valid for 90 days. The prefectural government is looking for stores, companies and organizations that want to register with the system, and people who want to use the currency.

The program is operated by Kakawari Factory Shiga Suishin Kyogikai, which consists of the prefectural and 13 municipal governments, as well as prefectural universities. The service runs through the local currency service app “Machi no Coin,” developed by IT company Kayac Inc. based in the city of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Users can receive 500 Biwako when they download the app on their smartphones for free. They can “get” or “give (use)” the currency at registered spots. By participating in various events, users can increase the amount of Biwako they own. Registered spots that hold events and hand out the currency to users can receive the necessary amount of Biwako from the operators free of charge.

For this fiscal year, the cities of Nagahama and Omihachiman and the town of Hino are acting as models for other areas in the prefecture. As an example of a registered spot, users can receive 1,000 Biwako for weeding the fields at Gemina Nouen, a farm in Hino. Users who give 300 Biwako to the citizen’s group Omihachiman Machiya Club will be guided to a private roof terrace overlooking the old cityscape.

As of July 25, there are 35 registered spots. The Shiga Prefectural Government aims to increase that number to 300 sites and gather 6,000 users by the end of fiscal 2022.

(Japanese original by Manabu Niwata, Otsu Bureau)

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