New payment system will allow tourists to use their fingerprints instead of currency in Japan

The Japanese government starting this summer will be testing a new payment system that will allow foreign tourists to authenticate their identities and avail shopping and hospitality services anywhere in Japan through their fingerprints.

The idea is to increase the number of foreign tourists by using the system to prevent crime and relieve users from the necessity of carrying cash or credit cards. It aims to realize the system before the occurrence of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The testing phase will involve using fingerprint scanners at around 300 popular souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and other establishments in important tourist centers. They are located in areas that are popular among foreign tourists such as Hakone, Kamakura, Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. However, by next spring, the government plans to expand the experimenting jurisdiction to Tohoku and Nagoya districts. This system is likely to be introduced throughout the country, including Tokyo by 2020.

The experiment will have inbound tourists register their fingerprints and other data, such as credit card information, at airports and elsewhere.

It is important to note that under the Inns and Hotels Law would require the visitors to show their passports when they check into ryokan inns or hotels. However, they can make purchases through fingerprints while staying in Japan, according to Japan News.

Tourists would then be able to conduct tax exemption procedures and make purchases after verifying their identities by placing two fingers on special devices installed at stores.

Officials are hoping to launch the system throughout the country – including Tokyo – by 2020, with as many as 40 million overseas annual visitors expected by that year.

The new system will also enable the government to analyse the spending habits and patterns of foreign tourists, with anonymous data to be managed by a government-led consultative body.

The data obtained from the project will be used to help government officials create effective tourism management policies, according to Yomiuri.

However, critics are concerned about the reaction of tourists when they will be asked to share personal information like fingerprints with the authorities, hotels, and retailers, etc.

In October 2015, a similar system that was introduced by Huis ten Bosch theme park situated in Nagasaki on a trial basis was a success, where the visitors can make payments with just their fingerprints at about 30 stores and restaurants.

By the end of this month at the earliest, Tokyo-based Aeon Bank will become the first bank in Japan to test a system in which customers will be able to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (ATM) using only fingerprints for identification and omitting the use of cash cards. This new system is aimed at reducing the occurrences of fake transactions using stolen cards.

“The system is also superior in the area of security, such as preventing people from impersonating our customers,” an official from the bank said.

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