For those of you who might find swiping a credit card just too old fashioned, but waving a phone in front of a vending machine or tapping a card on a magnetic reader lacking that “reach out and touch you” feeling, this just might be the perfect payment method.

Beginning this summer, a selection of restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels, and other businesses in Japan will be allowing you to pay by cash, credit card – and fingerprint. According to The Japan News, about 300 establishments will be testing out the system, which will require participants to connect a credit card with their fingerprints at airports or other ports of entry. Considering that entrants already have to register their fingerprints on entry, this step may not that much more of a hassle.

Tourists will then be able to use fingerprint readers to make payments instead of cash or cards. For the initial rollout, businesses in Hakone, Kamakura, and Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture and Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture have been cited as spots where the technology will be tested. Hotels participating in the program will allow guests to use their fingerprints in place of displaying their passports. The government hopes to extend use of the service to locations in Nagoya and around the Tohoku region, with a long-term goal of having it used throughout the country by 2020.

In the long term, the government has said it hopes to use the payment data from this system to create a better picture of how foreign customers shop and move around Japan (of course, after all this data has been properly anonymized), and in the long run, improve the tourism industry. There are plenty of people who might be reluctant to jump in on biometric payment methods, but they’ve already gotten a test run here, with some success. Japanese biometrics firm Liquid has been used at Nagasaki’s Huis Ten Bosch theme park. Starting as early as the end of this month, Aeon Bank will also be testing fingerprint-based systems at selected ATMs.

Alec Jordan


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