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Cryptocurrency mining comes to Japan's countryside

Cheap electricity, subsidies draw Tokyo startup and young IT talent

A technician checks servers at Alt Design's cryptocurrency mining operation at a former lace factory in the central Japanese city of Fukui. (Photo by Kotaro Fukuoka)

TOKYO -- It is early June, and an air of enthusiasm fills a former lace factory in Fukui, a city of around a quarter million people on the Sea of Japan coast. Around 500 servers fill a space the size of three tennis courts, radiating heat through the building, as cooling fans whir. Employees sweat constantly.

The building is home to a virtual currency mining startup founded by a former employee of a Japanese megabank and major securities trading house. In Fukui, electricity and setup fees are low, a huge advantage for venture businesses keen to trim costs. Hopes are high in the area that more such businesses will come.

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