Japan will begin to use facial recognition technology for departing foreign visitors from fiscal 2019. The new system will be available at Haneda airport in Tokyo before transferring to other big airports including Chiba, Osaka, Fukuoka, Aichi, Hokkaido, and Okinawa prefectures. Foreigners have to place their passports over an electronic scanner and position themselves close to a camera attached to the immigration counters for facial scanning. The system will then identify the passport photo data encoded on microchips and the picture taken at the counter. Once the system confirms the match, the departure is approved. An official at the Immigration Services Agency hopes that the new process will lessen long queues at the counters and will allow immigration staff to do more duties. Moreover, a senior ministry official guaranteed that there would be no cases of misidentification in using the new technology.

Some parts of the country’s airports have been using the scanner since 2007. It is just this year when the immigration authorities decided to apply the same system to departing foreign travelers to improve security. The ministry hopes that the system will strengthen anti-terrorism measures in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of foreign visitors reached 31.19 million in 2018 and is seeking to achieve 40 million by 2020.