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为什么日本会成为亚洲无现金社会中罕见的“钉子户”?

专栏国际资讯基于互联网平台的金融业务

为什么日本会成为亚洲无现金社会中罕见的“钉子户”?

作为一个外国人,你可能很难在日本东京的NIHONBASHI商业区获得现金。

上周在东京时,我一连试了好几个ATM。头两个不接受我的美国借记卡,第三个成功了但给我吐的是设计非常漂亮的1万日元大额纸币,上面是有点忧郁的东京大学学者和创始人福泽谕吉。

我需要现金因为日本小商小贩喜欢现金。韩国几乎所有交易和中国大部分交易都是无现金形式,但约80%的日本零售交易依然使用现金。这是因为在日本实体的金钱是生活不可缺少的一部分。

金钱是文化事物,在日本尤其如此。日本有个叫otoshidama 的传统,孩子新年可以得到包在小小的可爱的信封里的一小笔现金,这些信封叫pochiert bunuro。

日本国际大学全球交流中心研究者Mihoko Sayurai说"我们以前非常期待得到那些小信封。"她还说现金感觉更加安全更加心安。过节或者进行庆祝应该有礼物,日本人通常会将旧的纸币换成崭新的没有折痕的纸币。

不使用现金不一定会加快贸易速度,因为日本零售商非常非常善于结算零钱。Sayurai说:"我们相信日本的收银员会轻松完成准确的找零工作。她在美国读的硕士,她说美国收银员结算现金能力不怎么样。日本国际大学教授Soichiro Takagi说:"付现金比等划卡快多了。"

纸币的触感、日本收银员找零的能力还有现金在日本人生活中的各种象征意义都很重要。此外,日本顾客也十分理解小商贩抵制现金的理由:他们知道如果接受银行卡支付,那商贩就要付给发卡机构3%的处理费。Takagi说:"我们关心商贩,所以我们宁愿付现金。"

2018年,3000万前往日本的外国人肯定已经注意到,礼节和尊重在日本十分重要。

同时,看着中国移动支付的迅猛崛起,相隔不远的新加坡和香港也决定开始快速推动无现金转型。韩国已经转型了20年,比如用信用卡支付可以享受减税以及要求所有公司企业每年至少2万美元通过无现金方式接受。现在韩国计划2020年前完全实现无现金社会,先开始逐步停止铸造硬币。日本离韩国只有600千米不到,而且在科技方面向来领先一步。但目前日本的文化还没有准备好接受无现金社会。

当然日本也有广泛使用的无现金支付系统。比如很多东京零售商店和交通系统都接受预付智能内部芯片卡(PASMO和Suica IC卡)支付。Sayurai说它们受欢迎的原因是它们不用绑定银行卡;本质上独立,用户也没有透支的风险。但要充值这些芯片卡,你需要……现金。日本的出租车几年前才开始接受信用卡,一些依然坚持用现金。上周我每一次打车,我都要和司机交流一番,用手比划出卡的形状并且点很多头以确保司机接受刷卡支付。

网上纳税也不方便。2016年开始,日本向每人发放了国家ID,每人有个独有的12位号码,名为"我的号码"。但取得一张实体的上面印着你号码的卡并不是强制措施;这个号码目前没有绑定太多东西;只有约一半的日本人真的有张实体ID卡。如果想在网上报税,你需要申请实体ID卡并且买一个读卡器。你上传报税表和你的身份卡扫描件后,税务局就会打印出来然后将纸质版存放许多年。

目前,日本正进行着一场角力,可能会改变以上的格局:日本政府正推动无现金社会以使经济更加消费者友善并增加生产力。政府考虑给从中小型企业无现金购买产品和服务的提供2-5%的商品价格返利。

政府的政策中有一些不协调之处:日本政府同时也打算提高2%的消费税(向客户"消费"的产品和商品征税),而且上述返利不是现金而是给消费者卡上"积分"。然后信用卡公司根据自己的政策来兑现这些积分。这将给日本年龄较大的贫穷人口带来大量负面影响,他们更可能受消费税的影响而且更不可能有信用卡。(相关阅读:《外国数字支付商或无法享受日本无现金支付折扣计划》)

无论短期内日本政府的政策有什么效果,他们似乎并不想进行真正的结构性转型。日本政府运作数字化程度不高,纳税和使用模拟进程交通的复杂依然会存在。这些计划的统称"无现金愿景"更多只是个口号。Mihoko Sayurai之前在挪威住过好几年,从来没有使用过现金。去年秋天她回到日本后,她发现总是需要带现金。我问她她认为日本政府是不是在推动无现金转型,毕竟充值交通卡还有纳税都那么复杂麻烦。她说她认为日本政府的目标是近期的2020年东京将举办的夏季奥运会。政府已经注意到外国人在日本获得现金有多么困难。(我跑好几个ATM这种事情并非单例。)日本希望来奥运会的外国人能够更加方便地购买更多商品,而不用揣着大带现金走来走去。

但为此的努力现在遇到现存体系的阻挠,很多问题还是文化上的。比如Nihonbashi的大桥和高速公路重叠,很多日本人都支持拆除高速公路。他们不担心堵车,他们只想要那座古老美丽的大桥回归。

IN NIHONBASHI, A business district of Tokyo named for an old, beautiful bridge that has been obscured by an expressway, it is very difficult for a foreigner to get cash. When I was in Tokyo last week to give a talk, the first two ATM machines I tried refused to cooperate with my American debit cards. The third one worked, giving me large, beautifully designed ¥10,000 bills featuring a dot portrait of a somewhat glum Yukichi Fukuzawa, scholar and founder of Keio University.

I needed cash, because Japanese retailers love cash. At a time when almost all transactions in South Korea and most sales in China are cashless, about 80 percent of Japanese retail sales are in cash. That’s because in Japan physical money is a deeply felt part of life.

Money is cultural, especially in Japan, where a tradition called otoshidama requires that children get small amounts of cash on New Year's Day in adorable little envelopes called pochi bukuro. "We used to look forward so much to getting those envelopes," Mihoko Sayurai, a researcher at the Center for Global Communications at the International University of Japan, told me. Cash feels safer and more secure, she added. For gifts marking ceremonies and celebrations, Japanese people routinely turn in their old bills for fresh, unfolded new ones.

Moving away from cash doesn’t necessarily speed up commerce, since Japanese retailers are crazy good at counting change. “We trust our shopkeepers to give us accurate change," Sayurai said. (Sayurai went to graduate school in the US, and she made it clear to me that she doesn’t think much of American shopkeepers’ cash-counting abilities.) "It's much faster to pay with cash than wait for a card transaction," International University of Japan professor Soichiro Takagi told me.

There is something about the feel of bills, the skill of the shopkeepers in dealing with them, and the ceremonial role of cash throughout life which resonates profoundly in Japan. In addition to this attachment, Japanese customers are sympathetic to the small-business owners resisting cashlessness: They know that shopkeepers have to pay a 3 percent fee to card networks for the privilege of accepting cashless payments. "We care about shopkeepers," Takagi told me. "So we'd rather pay cash." As most of the 30 million foreigners who visited Japan in 2018 will surely have noticed, manners and respect are a very big deal in Japan.

Meanwhile, Singapore and Hong Kong, not so far away, are watching the staggering rise of mobile payment systems in China and pushing swiftly toward cashless. South Korea has been steadily moving toward cashless for more than 20 years, giving tax deductions for purchases made using credit cards and requiring that all businesses making more than $20,000 a year accept cashless payment methods. Now South Korea is planning to go completely cashless by 2020, beginning by phasing out the production of coins. Japan is less than 600 away from South Korea and has a reputation for being a step ahead when it comes to technology. So far, though, Japanese culture isn't quite ready for a cashless world.

To be sure, there are some cashless payment systems in wide use in Japan. For example, prepaid smart internal chip cards (PASMO and Suica IC cards) are accepted as payment in many Tokyo retail stores and transit systems. They're popular, according to Sayurai, because they're not tied to bank accounts; they're independent in nature, and the user doesn't risk going beyond his or her means. But in order to fill them, you have to use … cash. Taxis in Japan didn't take credit cards until a couple of years ago, and some still insist on cash. Each time last week I hailed a cab, I had to have a little interaction with the driver, forming a rectangle with my fingers and doing a lot of head-nodding, to make sure he would take a card.

Trying to pay taxes online also isn’t easy. Beginning in 2016, everyone in Japan was assigned a national ID in the form of a unique 12-digit number, called My Number. But getting a physical card with your number on it is not mandatory; the number is not tied to much at the moment; and only about half of Japanese people actually have cards. To file taxes online, you have to apply for that physical card and buy a card reader that can scan it. Once you transmit your tax forms and a scanned image of your card to tax authorities, they print everything out and store the paper for years.

There's a tussle going on right now in Japan that may change this picture: The government is pushing for greater cashlessness to make its economy more consumer-friendly and increase the country’s productivity. The government is thinking of refunding 2 to 5 percent of the cost for products and services purchased from small- and medium-sized businesses, if those transactions are cashless.

There are a couple of inconsistencies in the government's approach: It's also planning to raise consumption taxes (taxes on products and goods "consumed" by a customer) by 2 percent, and the refunds will be in the form of "points" on customers' cards rather than cash. The credit card companies will set the amount of points according to their own practices. This all sounds as if it will have an outsize negative effect on the poorest and the oldest in Japan, who are both more likely to be affected by consumption taxes and less likely to have credit cards.

Whatever effects it will have in the short term, this government push away from cash does not appear to be truly structural or transformational. The Japanese government is not highly digital, and all the complexities of paying taxes and moving through life using analog processes are likely to stay in place: The "Cashless Vision,” the term for this set of plans, may be more of a slogan than anything else. Mihoko Sayurai lived in Norway for several years, and never used cash. On her return to Japan this past fall, she found herself carrying cash all the time. I asked her why she thought the Japanese government was pushing for cashless, given the complicated internal processes for topping up transit cards and paying taxes that she had described to me. She told me she believes the government’s current motivation is the nearness of the 2020 Summer Olympics, to be hosted by Tokyo. The government has noticed how difficult cash access is for people from other countries. (My trips to several ATMs were not unusual.) Japan wants foreigners visiting for the Olympics to have an easier time buying more goods without having to carry huge amounts of cash in their pockets.

But the effort is running into a buzzsaw of existing clunky systems, and many of them are cultural. It's like that bridge/expressway overlap in Nihonbashi, where there is public support for getting rid of the expressway. The Japanese aren’t worried about keeping the flow of traffic; they want their old, beautiful bridge back.

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