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Japan wants tourists to pay for everything with fingerprints

I view Japan as quite an advanced nation in terms of technology use. So I was surprised to find that the population still relies quite heavily on cash to pay for stuff, and a lot of stores won’t even accept credit cards, or if they do, only those of Japanese banks. With that in mind, tourists would be best arriving there with a lot of cash.

Although Japan has a very low crime rate, the Japanese government would like to remove the hassle of using cash or cards completely for tourists. It aims to do this by implementing a system that allows all payments to be carried out with fingerprints instead.

The new system is being introduced this summer, and will see tourists offered the option of registering their payment details while still in the airport. A scan of two fingers will be taken and linked to the payment details. Then, when needing to pay for anything a tourist can simply have their two fingers scanned in the store. No cash, no cards, just your fingers.

The experimental payment system will be rolled out to over 300 stores, restaurants, hotels, and other popular destinations for tourists in time for the summer months in Hakone, Kamakura, Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. Once the kinks are worked out a gradual expansion will be done until the entire country has fingerprint payments as an option.

If you’re wondering why Japan is doing this now, the answer is simple: the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The government knows they are going to have a massive influx of foreign tourists during the Games, and wants to make paying for stuff as easy as possible. Fingerprints are their solution.

The biggest hurdle to such a system is trust. Will tourists be happy to hand over their fingerprints and then have them linked to a credit card? A big emphasis is being put on how to handle the data collected while retaining privacy. As the system is being implemented four summers in advance, they have ample time to figure out what works best for reassuring tourists their data is safe and secure.

[Fingerprint scanner and 7-Eleven images courtesy of West Midlands Police & Meredith P. on Flickr]

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