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CGV Research|From Azuki to Takashi Murakami: Japan’s NFT Market May Usher in Explosive Growth

Authors: Vargason and Edwin, researchers of CGV FOF


From rock paintings 30,000 years ago to NFTs in the Web3 era, humans always have been fond of works with visually striking. After the rapid development of the NFT market in 2021, the current market is gradually rational, with high-quality NFT projects constantly improving and the NFT ecosystem becoming an equal participant in finance, arts, games, and many other leading creative industries.

Cryptogram Venture (CGV) deems that there is great potential for NFT works and markets in Japan. Japanese animation acts as a bridge that connects global culture. As Japan has numerous high-quality artists, animation game IPs, and a mature user market, and the application of NFT opens a new window for the development and innovation of digital IP, it will have greater discourse power in NFT.

The popular Azuki NFT indicates that the market favors the mixed works integrating Eastern and Western cultures. Takashi Murakami has changed his creative strategy to make NFTs; Japan NFT Cultural Association released unique NFTs based on Yayoi Kusama’s “HANDBAG”; Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce platform, launched an NFT trading and issuance platform. All of these demonstrate that the NFT market in Japan is booming. CGV will talk about them to help you know more about these projects.

Azuki: The NFT favored by web3 natives

Azuki is the representative NFT of Japanese 2D animation. By integrating Eastern and Western cultures, Azuki is deeply loved by web3 users due to its exquisite painting style and unique artistic style. Azuki has four models, namely human, blue, red, and spirit, which are different in hairstyle, eyes, mouth and neck, clothing accessories, background, etc. Each of its NFTs is unique.

Azuki is building a strong IP for everyone. Azuki’s vision is to create the largest community-owned decentralized brand in the metaverse. Those who hold Azuki NFTs have a pass and become a member of the Azuki community. The Azuki community connects the physical and digital worlds through offline events, streetwear brand collaborations, expansion of physical collectibles, and collaborations with music artists. It intends to partner with platforms such as Sandbox VR, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space to create an immersive metaverse, where Azuki will develop IP and create metaverse games and interactive experiences in a unique way.

The worldwide influence of Japanese animation made Azuki successful right after its launch, and this huge cultural power shaped Azuki’s liquidity and ultra-high floor price. When Azuki NFT went on sale in January, it was auctioned for just 1 ETH. Although the market is sluggish, its floor price is still higher than 10 ETH, and according to data, the Azuki series of NFTs are also at the forefront in terms of total transaction volume.

Takashi Murakami: Express Japan’s otaku culture through NFTs

In Japan, Takashi Murakami is not only a widely loved artist but also an idol for the new generation of young people. In Murakami’s view, Japan’s culture before the 1990s was nothing more than a parody of Western trends. Instead, the weird phenomena manifested in otaku culture were something unique.

Takashi Murakami’s works are based on contemporary Japanese pop culture. He became popular with his “ Manifesto for the Childlike”, which implanted flat characters, plants, and flowers into a trendy cultural context centered on Japan. The colorful images of cartoons allude to the connotation of contemporary Japanese culture.

At the end of March 2021, Takashi Murakami released the NFT “MURAKAMI.FLOWERS”, with 108 copies. But, 10 days later, he decided not to sell it, because he thought that he didn’t truly understand NFTs. When trying something new, the biggest fear is not to do it after the first failure. In 2022, Takashi Murakami restarted his NFT project and opened an INSTAGRAM account for MURAKAMI.FLOWERS2022. Takashi Murakami hopes to launch a Himawari version of the classic black and white pixel game similar to “Tamagotchi” at the end of the year to fully explore the value of this cute image.

At the beginning of 2022, the CLONE X released by Takashi Murakami and RTFKT Studios had been on the top of the sales list since its launch. According to Opensea, its current floor is 12.25 ETH. Murakami takashi’s exploration of NFT is also a multidimensional display of his works. As he said when restarting “MURAKAMI.FLOWERS” project, “It wasn’t until working with RTFKT that I learned lots about the metaverse from young people and was surprised at the results and response to this collaboration.”

Mechaverse War: An Integration of Games and NFTs

CGV holds that gaming has become an extension of the real world. As an absolute power in gaming, Japan makes an attempt to encourage players to participate in future gaming combining NFTs and blockchain-based metaverse.

Mechaverse War (メカバースウォー), a Japanese metaverse mech game, is dedicated to creating a metaverse mecha game platform featured with real-time strategies. As a symbol of Japan, the samurai spirit is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Mechaverse War is inspired by the cultural background of modern Japanese anime mecha and ancient samurai armor.

Based on the playable game environment, Mechaverse War intends to develop scenarios derived from NFTs, undertake the digital promotion and expansion of Japanese high-quality animation IP, and use GameFi’s value connection to build an open metaverse platform for Japanese-style animations.

How can players get involved? Players can use the mecha heroes incubated by NFTs to form combat teams, trade characters, and upgrade their combat levels, thus creating more game experience such as fighting mecha monsters. The NFTs in the game will facilitate the incubation, generation and evolution of each mecha hero to ensure the uniqueness, growth, tradability and value-added attributes of the mecha.

According to the Newzoo, driven by nearly 3 billion players worldwide, the global game market earned US$175.8 billion from consumers in 2021, with the majority coming from Japanese teams. Mechaverse War is providing players with a Japanese-style immersive GameFi experience and an interactive experience of NFT collections based on the powerful Japanese animation and game industry resources, IP resources, and the new direction of the encrypted metaverse world.

Rakuten NFT: Rakuten’s path to NFTs

Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce platform, is a pioneer in Japan’s web3 era. It established a blockchain laboratory in August 2016 and provided encrypted wallet-related services in August 2019.

After years of technology accumulation, on February 25 this year, Rakuten decided to launch Rakuten NFT, an NFT trading and issuance platform. Although the platform is only open to people in Japan, it brings new changes to the current NFT market centered on crypto asset investors and the tech community.

Rakuten NFT will not only provide users with peer-to-peer NFT transactions in areas such as sports and entertainment (including music and animation) but will also provide a platform for IP copyright owners to sell NFTs. Users can use their Rakuten ID to earn or spend Rakuten Points during transactions. Any NFT purchased on the platform can be added to the buyer’s favorite on their own webpage, and can be sold on the marketplace.

According to CGV, Rakuten has a host of sports-related partners and operates a number of entertainment-based products, which are of great help to the development of Rakuten NFT. Rakuten NFT plans to release J.League NFT Collection Players Anthem and develop Rakuten NFT Art Gallery.

CGV argues that traditional giants like Rakuten with advantages such as a large user base and profound resources will easily attract market attention if they enter the NFT field based on its genes and expertise.


The development of NFTs accelerates the direct economic connection between creators and fans, which confirms Kevin Kelly’s prediction in “1000 True Fans”. In Japan, a country with a large number of renowned IPs, NFTs will activate creators and works that are well-known and dormant, providing a playground for creating new types of media that bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. CGV uses Yayoi Kusama’s art declaration to summarize the future development of NFTs in Japan, “I am always avant-garde. I am different from other old people. I have been an avant-garde artist since decades ago, and I am still an avant-garde artist.” As a part of web3 era, NFT is embracing Japan.

Note:This article is a CGV FoF research paper and is for reference only. It does not constitute any investment proposal.

About CGV FOF: CGV FoF is an Asia-based Fund of Funds (FoF) that focuses on investments in Crypto Fund and Crypto Studio. CGV FoF is composed of family funds from Japan, Korea, and China’s mainland and Taiwan, with headquarters in Japan and branches in Singapore and Canada.






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