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Bitcoin seen spreading to 20,000 Japanese merchants

Retailers aim to open foreign tourists' virtual wallets

A sushi restaurant in Tokyo with a bitcoin ATM installed.

TOKYO -- Japanese merchants accepting bitcoin payments could quintuple to 20,000 this year, looking to cater to foreign visitors' digital wallets as the virtual currency spreads.

According to Tokyo's ResuPress -- which operates Coincheck, a virtual currency exchange that also does transaction processing -- there were around 4,200 physical and online stores in the country accepting bitcoin at the end of 2016. That was roughly 4.5 times the previous year's count. Restaurants and bars, along with shopping websites, took the currency.

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