With upbeat music flowing in the background, popular actress Aya Ueto enthuses about a controversial government project in a state-sponsored TV commercial.

"My Number is your own number that makes your life a whole lot more convenient," she says with a telegenic smile while sitting next to a rabbitlike character dubbed "Maina-chan" — the latest in an interminable line of Japanese mascots created to promote a commercial or public cause.

Starting in mid-October, the government will send all residents in Japan, native or foreign, a randomly generated 12-digit identification number that will in principle remain unchangeable in their lifetime. The program will officially commence in January, when people will be asked by employers and city officials to present their My Number ID when conducting administrative matters related to taxes and social welfare benefits.