Bloombergtechnology

Square Signs Up 1,200-Year-Old Buddhist Temple in Japan

  • Mount Koya will use Square’s credit card readers from April
  • The 1,200-year-old temple complex is a world heritage site

Square Inc. has just scored its oldest customer ever -- a 1,200-year-old Buddhist temple in central Japan.

Visitors to Mount Koya in Wakayama prefecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be able to to buy souvenirs and pay entry fees using Square’s white credit card readers, according to a joint statement from the payments company and the religious group operating the facilities. The service will start in time for the Golden Week holidays in early May, Japan’s busiest travel season.

“The time spent on tabulation and accounting can now be used more effectively,” said Shigeo Otani, head of finances at the temple that celebrated its 1,200th anniversary two years ago. “We should use technology if it helps the pursuit of essence.”

Square is seeking a foothold in a country where people still prefer paying with cash. Jack Dorsey, Square’s executive officer who also leads Twitter Inc., is taking advantage of Japan’s push to make credit-card payments available at all of the country’s major temples and shrines ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games. In a survey of overseas tourists, 68 percent of respondents said they would increase spending if more locations accepted plastic. Visitors from abroad reached 24 million in 2016, topping the record for a fourth straight year, according to the nation’s tourism organization. 

Mount Koya had almost 2 million visitors in 2015, according to the Wakayama government.

Adoption by a popular tourist destination could help the San Francisco-based company make its white square card-reader dongles more recognizable. While Square was early to introduce card readers that plug into iPhones or iPads, it now competes with similar offerings from PayPal Holdings Inc., Japanese startup Coiney Inc. and online retailer Rakuten Inc. Square doesn’t release sales numbers for Japan.

“From new businesses to temples founded 1,200 years ago, our technology can help ensure sales are never missed just because a customer is not carrying cash,” Dorsey wrote in an email.

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