Japan isn’t just the home of superstar all-girl idol bands like AKB48—it’s also the spiritual home of Bitcoin; Satoshi Nakamoto, the virtual currency’s creator used a Japanese name and the first successful bitcoin exchange, Mt.Gox, was founded in Tokyo. According to Japan's TBS News, over 30% of global bitcoin transactions are conducted in yen. It seemed only a matter of time before someone found a way to synergize bitcoin and all-girl idol bands, and this month the debut of Virtual Currency Girls (仮想通貨少女/kasoutsuka shojo) made it happen.
The band was conceived and launched by talent management company Cinderella Academy (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo). The Virtual Currency Girls are made up of eight female band members, aged between 15 and 22. Each girl, clad in a character mask, a frilly maid uniform and knee-socks, represents a virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and even Mona.
Fans are expected to root for both the girls and/or the currency they represent. In their debut concert on January 12, the ostensible leader, 18-year old Rara Naruse (Bitcoin Cash), explained, “We want to enlighten Japan through entertainment about the possibilities of virtual currency. Cryptocurrencies are not just speculative investments but are really great technology that will change the future," she explained. However, onstage Rara had a bit of a catfight with the 16 year-old representative of Bitcoin, Hinano Shirahama. Ms. Shirahama (Bitcoin) insisted that Ms. Naruse (Bitcoin Cash) was a flash-in-the pan next to the older and more revered original Bitcoin. Rara was insistent that she, or rather her currency, was the future. No one appeared to win the fight but the audience was amused.
While the dialogue and on-stage banter may seem silly, the girls have all studied up on the virtual currencies they represent; they can explain them succinctly and in ways that are more informative than many long-winded books. Hinata Kozuki (Ripple), a 15-year-old who lives in Aomori Prefecture, spends four hours on the train to get to band practice in Tokyo on the weekends. “I picked Ripple because when you send virtual currency, it supposedly arrives the fastest. If I really was Ripple, band practice would be a lot less tiring," she said.
Their debut song, "The Moon And Virtual Currencies And Me," is a catchy tune but also a cautionary one. It warns the public to avoid fraudulent virtual currency operators, and lock down their cyber security. It’s also a meditation on making and losing huge sums of real money by investing in cryptocurrency.
The band members sing as well as any Japanese teen-idol band, and there is certainly something charming about eight teenagers shouting a chorus of virtual currency names, pronounced with a Japanese accent:
“NEMU! NEO! MONA! EIDA! RIPPURU! BITTO! IISSA!”
It takes some decoding but any cybercurrency fan can figure out the lyrics if they listen closely. There are also references to the smallest unit of Bitcoin, a Satoshi, and other obscure terms that should inspire study amongst their fans.
The song ends with a prophecy and a warning, which loosely translated goes like this:
"Paper [money] is over. It’s the digital age… Also are you thinking about taxes [on your earnings]… You put better some away. If you forget, the tax office will come for you someday!"
It’s hard to find fault with a band that warns you about cybersecurity and the need to pay your taxes, while dancing and smiling at the same time. With less than a month in existence it is not clear whether this band will be a hit or a miss, but at the moment they seem to be gaining traction. They have a song, and of course, they have merchandise. In keeping with the theme, Virtual Currency Girls' goods, can only be purchased in cryptocurrency. Cash, in principle, is not accepted.
The appearance of such a band shouldn't be that surprising. Japan has been very friendly towards cryptocurrency; it recognized bitcoin as legal tender in April last year. In September, the Financial Services Agency officially recognized 11 companies as legal cryptocurrency exchange operators.