The transport ministry said it will begin using body scanners that can “see through” clothing next month on a trial basis to check subway passengers at Tokyo Metro Co.’s Kasumigaseki Station for dangerous items.
The experiment will use technology that converts electromagnetic terahertz waves emitted by people and objects into images and can determine the shape of some objects hidden by clothing.
The test is being carried out to bolster security in the wake of a fatal assault on a bullet train last year. It will be conducted at the hub, one of the busiest subway stations in the country, in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward.
“We are studying various ways to carry out inspections, including methods involving other devices, and (this experiment) will be the first one. We may conduct more experiments using other methods,” a ministry official said Friday.
The body scanners will be installed at one or two of the station’s ticket gates near the Hibiya Park exit between March 4 and 7. The scanners will be used seven hours a day, including during rush hours, to scan objects carried by passengers, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.
Data from passengers, including facial images, may be recorded in the test. The ministry said it will discard personal information collected in the test by the end of March.
As for luggage, the equipment to be used cannot verify what is inside passengers’ baggage. Objects less than 5 cm in length and width will not usually appear on the monitor. Even if they do, their chemical properties will not be recognized.
The scanning process does not require passengers to stop or subject them to bag checks. People who do not wish to participate will be able to use other ticket gates, the ministry said. Around 150,000 passengers use the station daily.
Incidents on bullet trains in recent years have raised concerns about the security of public transportation and the government is exploring ways to strengthen measures in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The ministry hopes to learn whether the scanners, which sound similar to devices used at airport security checkpoints, can detect mock knives and explosives without interrupting operations at the station. As part of the new security measures on railways, the ministry has decided to ban “unwrapped” knives on trains starting in April.
The experiment at Kasumigaseki Station will be run by Sohgo Security Services Co., also known as Alsok.