The government is considering conducting luggage inspections at a Tokyo train station as an experiment as it explores ways to strengthen public security in advance of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, sources close to the matter say.
The experiment is planned for February at Tokyo Metro’s Kasumigaseki Station, one of the busiest stations in Japan and which was attacked by the Aum Shinrikyo cult group with nerve gas in 1995. Around 150,000 passengers use the station daily.
Concerns about terror attacks on public transportation infrastructure have also mounted after incidents aboard bullet trains in recent years.
In 2015, a self-immolation on a shinkansen bullet train killed an unrelated passenger, and last year a man with a knife went on a rampage, killing one passenger and injuring two others.
The government hopes the planned experiment will help it identify potential problems with the measure and consider its feasibility.
While hand luggage inspections on trains are common in some countries, Japan does not do them.
There is strong opposition among railway companies that argue inspections are inconvenient because they increase transit time for commuters. They also say it is difficult to find space dedicated to that purpose inside stations.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has asked security companies and manufacturers of security equipment to suggest ways of conducting the experiment. It has also requested cooperation from the Japan Railway group and other operators.
After the knife attack on a shinkansen train in June, the ministry immediately considered introducing luggage inspections. But faced with opposition from railway companies, the ministry has only decided to prohibit unwrapped knifes on trains starting from April.