Mobile terminals dubbed "biocarts," which have recently been introduced at three Japanese airports, have successfully reduced the time taken by foreign visitors to complete entry procedures by up to 40 per cent, according to the Justice Ministry.
Eighty-one of the terminals, which are equipped with cameras and other equipment to take visitors' photographs and fingerprints while they wait in line, were introduced on October 1 at Kansai, Naha and Takamatsu airports.
Additional immigration inspection desks and personnel were also stationed at the airports. The terminals were intended to reduce the waiting time at the desks by enabling people to complete photo and fingerprint requirements beforehand.
The time inspection officers take to process foreign visitors at the desks at the three airports was cut by 30 per cent to 40 per cent as a result, according to ministry figures.
Furthermore, the biocarts reduced the total waiting time for travellers, including time spent in line.
In the first half of October, the average longest time to complete entry procedures at both the north and south inspection areas in Terminal 1 of Kansai Airport was 29 minutes, according to the ministry. During the same period last year, the figure was 52 minutes for the south area and 50 minutes for the north area. In both areas, the time has been cut by more than 40 percent.
The biocarts "are producing the results we were hoping for," a senior Justice Ministry official said.
As of the end of October, more than 20 million foreign visitors had come to Japan in 2016. With the number of foreign visitors expected to grow ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, efforts to speed up entry procedures at airports and other entry points around Japan has become an important issue.
The ministry plans to introduce biocarts at 12 airports, including Narita, from next fiscal year and beyond.
The ministry is also considering introducing additional steps, including "advance entry inspections" in which foreign visitors could do immigration procedures at their point of departure.