If you use public transportation in Japan, you should use a prepaid IC card to pay fares. Major cards include SUICA (sold at JR stations) and PASMO (sold at other private train stations) in Kanto area including Tokyo, ICOCA and PiTaPa in Kansai area including Osaka.
■ How to use
You can use it to pay for almost any train, subway, and bus in the country. When you pass through a ticket gate, you put the IC 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 the 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 an IC card with 2,000 yen, the usable money is 1,500 yen.
Every time you use the IC card, the fare is automatically deducted from it. When the money in the IC card runs out, you can recharge it at a ticket vending machine. You can see or print the remaining money and use-history at a ticket vending machine.
① It can be used to buy something at a vending machine and a shop.
The IC card can also be used as an electronic wallet. You can buy something at a vending machine with the IC 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 the IC cade, 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 less expensive than cash fare, because transportation companies promote to use the IC cards. For example, 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 in the area you purchased. PASMO and SUICA are sold in Kanto including Tokyo and can be refunded in Kanto. ICOCA and PiTaPa are sold in Kansai including Osaka and can be refunded in Kansai area. So, you should refund your IC card before leaving the area you purchased.
In Haneda airport, PASMO can be refunded at Keikyu(Keihin Kyuko train) station and SUICA can be refunded at JR station. In case of Narita airport, PASMO can be refunded at Keisei station and SUICA can be refunded at JR station.
Before asking a staff at a station to refund, you should zero the money left over in the 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.
I hope this information helps you travel efficiently and smoothly in Japan.
By EDDY Murayama, a member of iTWS japan LLP