If you use public transportation in Japan, you should use a prepaid transportation card. Major cards include SUICA (sold at JR stations) and PASMO (sold at other private train stations) in the Kanto area including Tokyo, ICOCA and PiTaPa in the Kansai area including Osaka and Kyoto.
■ How to use
You can us an IC card to pay for almost any train, subway, and bus in the country. When you pass through a ticket gate, you put the card over the designated place on the ticket gate for a second, and the gate will stay open for you to pass through it with a beep sound.
You can buy an IC card at a ticket vending machine at almost every train and subway station. The price ranges from 1,000 yen to 10,000 yen which includes the 500-yen deposit. So, if you buy a card with 2,000 yen, the usable money is 1,500 yen.
Every time you use the card, the fare is automatically deducted from it. When the card runs out, you can recharge it at a ticket vending machine. You can see or print the remaining money and use-history at the machine.
① Electronic Wallet
An IC card can also be used as an electronic wallet. You can buy something at a vending machine with the card logo and at some kinds of shops such as convenience stores. You don’t need to count small coins at a cash register.
② Time efficient
In case of normal ticket, you have to buy a ticket each time you pass through a ticket gate. With an IC card, you can travel smoothly without buying a ticket each time. So, the IC card is very convenient and saves a lot of time.
③ Less expensive
Usually, a fare payed by the IC card is a little less expensive than a cash fare, because transportation companies promote to use the IC cards. For example, the subway fare from Shibuya to Ginza costs 200 yen in case of normal ticket, but it costs 195 yen in case of the IC card.
All kinds of IC cards can be used in the country, but they can be refunded only in the area you purchased. PASMO and SUICA are sold in the Kanto area and can be refunded in the area. ICOCA and PiTaPa are sold in the Kansai area and can be refunded in the area. So, you should refund your IC card before leaving the area you purchased.
In Haneda Airport, PASMO can be refunded at the Keikyu (Keihin Kyuko train) station, and SUICA can be refunded at the JR station. In case of Narita Airport, PASMO can be refunded at the Keisei station and SUICA can be refunded at the JR station.
Before asking a station staff to refund, you should zero the money left over in your card. Then you will get 500 yen of the deposit. If some money is remaining in the card, you will get 500 yen, but not all the money returns, because its processing fee is charged.
■ Specially designed cards for vistors
For visitors from overseas, specially designed IC cards are sold. They are “Welcome SUICA” and “PASMO Passport”. They can be souvenirs after use.
(1) Welcome SUICA
The Welcome SUICA is sold by JR-EAST. It depicts cherry blossoms on its front side.
No deposit is needed and it can be used for 28 days from the date of purchase.
For details, please see the site of JR East.
(2) PASMO Passport
The PASMO Passport is sold by subway and other train companies. It has designs of Japan’s sightseeing spots and characters such as Hello Kitty. The issuance fee is 500 JPY. It can be used for 28 days from the date of purchase.
For details, please see the site of PASMO corporation.
We hope this information will help you travel efficiently and smoothly in Japan.