The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged more cash-loving Japanese to move away from banknotes and coins, giving a boost for banks in their drive toward digitalization, the industry’s lobby group chief said.

"A trend toward cashless payments, which so far progressed gradually, has picked up speed during the pandemic,” Kanetsugu Mike, chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association, said at a news briefing on Thursday. "The banking industry would like to actively work toward going cashless.”

Japan has long been known for its heavy use of cash, which is a burden for banks that are trying to move more services online. Maintaining ATMs alone costs about ¥700 billion annually and another ¥100 billion is spent handling cash at branch counters, Nomura Research Institute estimates.