Japan’s former capital Kyoto is known for its thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and a centuries-long association with the country’s imperial family. A sense of that history is found in the occasional sighting of a geisha amidst the traditional townhouses of the downtown area, but a new cryptocurrency culture is also making itself known in the city.

From June 28-30, Kyoto is hosting the IVS Crypto 2023 conference. Organized by a consortium of public and private groups led by Taiwan-based investment fund Infinity Ventures Crypto and the regional Kyoto government, the event is expected to draw some 10,000 Web3 investors, developers and enthusiasts from all over the world.

“Japan, and Asia as a whole, have recently demonstrated a strong embrace of Web3-thinking, not only on the user-level but more significantly on the country-level,” said Akio Tanaka, founding partner of IVC.

According to the organizers, speakers include Jeremy Allaire, the chief executive officer of digital currency company Circle, the issuer of the world’s second-largest stablecoin USDC. Ripple Vice President Emi Yoshikawa is another speaker, along with Sota Watanabe the founder of Astar Network and Junichiro Hatogai, who heads the FinTech Group at the Bank of Japan. 

The organizers say more than 700 speakers will participate in hundreds of scheduled live talks and associated side events — which include a blockchain game pitching contest, an NFT theme park, a crypto hackathon and artificial intelligence demo session — in a conference that is part of a growing groundswell of crypto-related events in Japan.

In the past three months, the capital city Tokyo provided the backdrop for the DAO Tokyo conference — which its organizers claim was a first of its kind for Japan — a blockchain expo at NexTech Week Tokyo, the TEAMZ Web 3 conference and the Metaverse Japan Lab Symposium.

This week’s Kyoto-based event arrives smack in the middle of — the somewhat confusingly named — Japan Blockchain Week running from June 18 to July 9.

Japan was an early cryptocurrency adopter, but lost some of that comparative advantage as the Mt Gox and Coincheck exchange hacking thefts in the country in 2014 and 2018 saw hundreds of millions of dollars stolen and brought a regulation crackdown by financial authorities. 

That tone has now shifted as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has identified digital assets and blockchain as pillars of a new economy and appointed the government’s crypto czar Masaaki Taira, to drive initiatives. Waka Itagaki — deputy director of the trade ministry’s Web 3.0 policy office — is due to discuss Japan’s regulatory environment during a panel in Kyoto on Friday.

On June 20, Japan exempted cryptocurrency issuers from a 30% tax on unrealized gains as one move to face up to competition from Singapore and Hong Kong to attract investment from digital asset industries and the talent and jobs that are expected to follow.

Hong Kong emerged this year to stake a claim as a Asia hub for the crypto industry as the city introduced new regulations on June 1 for cryptocurrency trading, and initiatives to attract digital asset businesses. Singapore is also in the race for digital asset investment, led by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the city-state’s central bank.

For its part, Japan issued a white paper in April to outline the use cases and challenges of Web3, or what’s seen as an evolution of a decentralized Internet based on blockchain technologies, non-fungible tokens, decentralized autonomous organizations and the metaverse.

“To bring such a forward-thinking event to one of the world’s most ancient cities, one that is so finely rooted in history and tradition, is a special delight,” IVC’s Tanaka said about the Kyoto conference. 

“It’s a singular reminder to all of us, organizers and attendees alike, that our current achievements and future endeavors stand on the foundations laid during hundreds of years of combined human ingenuity and technological breakthroughs,” he said.