Japan: 'Bitcoin isn't a currency'

Without any regulatory or government oversight, the government forbids commercial banks to provide customers with the cryptocurrency.

The popular virtual currency Bitcoin isn't actually a currency, according to the Japanese government.

The country's cabinet approved an official document on Thursday that stated, "Bitcoin isn't a currency" and therefore won't be regulated as such, according to The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, commercial banks are forbidden from providing the digital currency to customers.

The main rub for the Japanese government is that Bitcoin isn't regulated by any official body. And, it's unclear which ministry would provide oversight of the cryptocurrency and how that ministry would go about putting regulations in place.

The government didn't rule out the idea of creating regulatory framework for virtual currencies but did say if this were to be done it'd have to be in conjunction with other countries.

It's been a wild ride for Bitcoin over the past few months. While the virtual currency has become more accepted and grown exponentially -- going from $2 per coin in 2011 to roughly $1,000 per coin last fall -- it has recently hit some rough patches.

The prominent Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox went offline last month and then filed for bankruptcy after it was revealed that hackers stole nearly $500 million in bitcoins through a weakness in the company's system. Bitcoin bank Flexcoin also announced this week that it was shutting down after being hacked.

Despite these hurdles, Bitcoin is still trading on several other exchanges and coin prices currently range from $400 to more than $4,000.

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About the author

Dara Kerr is a staff writer for CNET focused on the sharing economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado where she developed an affinity for collecting fool's gold and spirit animals.

 

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