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Facial recognition system to be launched at Tokyo's Haneda Airport in October

In this file photo taken on Aug. 4, 2014, a Japanese traveler tries out a facial recognition device at Narita Airport. (Mainichi)

A new facial recognition system to make it easier for Japanese citizens to proceed through immigration control upon their return to Japan will be introduced at Tokyo's Haneda Airport in mid-October, the Ministry of Justice said on July 4.

    The system is also set to be introduced for departure screenings at Haneda, as well as other major airports including Narita, Kansai International, and Chubu Centrair International in fiscal 2018. These measures are expected to enable immigration control to respond more effectively and strengthen its anti-terrorism capabilities in light of the predicted surge in foreign visitors during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, by allocating more immigration staff to screening inbound visitors.

    Under the system, photographic data of a traveler's face stored in the IC chip of their passport is compared with a photo taken at the immigration control screening site. If there are no problems, the person will be able to proceed through immigration without an arrival stamp. No prior registration is required for Japanese citizens, and the photograph of the traveler's face is deleted once facial verification has been completed.

    In November 2007, fingerprint recognition gates were introduced at Narita, Haneda, Kansai International and Chubu Centrair International airports. This system can also be used by foreigners living in Japan who are on mid to long-term visas. However, prior registration of details such as the applicant's fingerprints is also required, and in 2016, only around 2.5 million Japanese nationals took advantage of the system -- a user rate of approximately 8 percent.

    The number of foreign visitors coming to Japan has increased dramatically, with more than 24 million people entering the country in 2016. The government aims to attract 40 million visitors to Japan in 2020, and 60 million in 2030.

    The Ministry of Justice is asking the public for feedback about new facial recognition immigration gates between July 5 and August 3.

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