Local Currency issued on Smartcards by Japanese Town

Kanagawa City’s Project mixes LOVE and Money.

This headline was published by the world’s largest daily newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 22nd 2002 in Tokyo.  The full text says: “The city of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, will start experimental use of a local electronic currency in February, using plastic cards with integrated circuit (IC) chips.  It will be the first electronic local currency system in Japan."

According to city officials, the first batch of IC cards will be given to 73,000 residents who have volunteered to participate in the project.  Beginning in April, all other residents who apply will be given cards. 

Cards will be issued with a value of 10,000 monetary units called LOVE that can be used like discount coupons at local stores. 

Cardholders can increase their LOVE points through volunteer social welfare activities, garage sales or collection of recycled items, the officials said. 

Participants will apply for volunteer activities posted on the city government’s Web site and, after completing the work, insert their cards into readers connected to the city government’s computer. 

LOVE points equivalent to the assigned value of the work will be transferred from volunteer organizations to the cards via the host computer, the officials said.

The readers will be set up at 1,100 locations all over the city.  With LOVE points, cardholders can get discounts from local shops where the card readers are located or can purchase second hand items posted on the city government’s Web site. 

The experiment was arranged after Yamato applied to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, which had asked local governments to submit ideas on how to use IC cards, according to the officials.

The city expects the project to encourage communications among residents, promote volunteer activities and stimulate the local economy, they added.

“We would like to expand this service to include home shopping,” Mayor Kimiyasu Tsuchiya said.   

In the context of globalisation, Yamato demonstrates that the chronic and systemic shortage of money can be compensated:

  1. National currencies can be complemented
    1. By virtual money that is local or regional
  2. Public services can be financed in other ways than
    1. taxation or
    2. PSBR that increases the National Debt.
  3. Money can be issued
    1. By an authority other than a National Bank or National Government
    2. As credit rather than interest-bearing debt.
  4. The Third Civil Sector shows the Third Monetary Way.

The Forum for Stable Currencies has been a place for debating the problems with interest-bearing debt currencies since 1998.  Solutions have been presented along the principles of LETS (Local Exchange Trade System) and commercial Barter companies.  Furthermore, victims of institutionalised white collar crime have had opportunities to voice their grievances.  It is hoped that future debates will result in progressive developments along the lines indicated by a Japanese city.