TOKYO >> As cashless payments become more common, Japan is taking steps to catch up to other nations.
Only 20 percent of Japan’s business transactions were cashless in 2015, compared to 90 percent in South Korea and 60 percent in China.
The government hopes to raise the cashless payment rate to 40 percent by 2025.
At Gathering Table Pantry restaurant, a sign notifies customers that the eatery accepts credit cards and electronic money, but not cash. Royal Holdings, a major food service company that runs the chain, opened the branch in November as a trial run for a restaurant with a cashless system.
“My friends and I don’t use cash very often,” said one patron, a 27-year-old advertising designer.
Royal Holdings decided to conduct the trial as it would save on labor as restaurants deal with a shortage of workers. It also saves time, a company official said, since counting cash after closing a store takes an average of 40 minutes. With the cashles system, it can be done in two or three minutes.
Cashless payments have gradually increased with the spread of smartphones. Purchases can be made easily by installing an app linked to a credit card or a form of electronic cash, such as East Japan Railway’s Suica debit card.
One factor delaying the spread of cashless payments is the high cost of credit card terminals. However, there are services that do not require such terminals.
The Mizuno restaurant in Nakagawa, Tochigi Prefecture, uses Coiney, a Japanese mobile-payment company that allows cashless payments to be made on a tablet.
Japan’s preference for cash is said to be partly due to the fact that counterfeit bills are rare, which makes people feel comfortable using cash.
The Japanese government believes that expanding cashless payments could be a key innovation. In China, consumers use smartphone apps not only for purchases, but also such tasks as managing assets, making hotel and hospital reservations, and paying for public services.
Records of these transactions can be accumulated and the data analyzed, possibly leading to new services.
Since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will likely bring many foreign visitors with a strong need to use cashless services, it is necessary to increase these conveniences.
The most common reason for opposing cashless payment is a fear of possible overspending.