JAPAN IC CARD

JAPAN IC CARD

What are they and how we use them?

Photo credits to: TOICA: 東海旅客鉄道株式会社 PASMO: 株式会社パスモ ICOCA: 西日本旅客鉄道株式会社 SUGOCA: 九州旅客鉄道株式会社 Hayakaken: 福岡市交通局 Suica: Ms. TK Kitaca: 北海道旅客鉄道株式会社 nimoca: 西日本鉄道株式会社 manaca: Ms. Sakiko Kosakai *PASMO is a registered trademark of Pasmo Co.,Ltd.

Where did the time go?

In the blink of an eye, the digital revolution wave was taking over the late 20th century. Born in the 90’ s, I felt incredible witnessing the way people communicate shifted from paper to electronic.
Compared to the printed paper tickets in the old days, eTickets and QR code are now more commonly used. Phew, glad that it saves us from the hassle of rummaging the paper ticket through our pockets!
Same goes with the evolution of public transport ticketing, cards are replacing paper passes. Touch ‘n Go in Malaysia, EZ-Link in Singapore, Rabbit Card in Thailand, and… hey, and then there’ s Japan.


Inspired by the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology commonly used in Europe and the United States, Sony Japan invented a technology unique called FeliCa to exchange recorded data for transportation-related IC cards. In Japan, even though IC cards (integrated circuit cards) are issued by
dozens of different railway and bus operators, they all share the Nationwide interchangeable
Transportation IC Card symbol .
All you have to do is hold the card over the corresponding reader and it can be read and written in about 0.1 seconds. Thanks to this swift function, passengers can whizz through the ticket gate in a short amount of time.


Do you know that in Japan, IC cards serve more purposes than just to pay fares on public transportation? In March 2004, Suica e-money service first made its appearance in Japan, enabling the card holders to pay by stored credit at convenience stores, vending machines, restaurants, and other outlets inside station facilities. Wanna buy an onigiri? Tap your IC card at the checkout. Thirsty but coinless? Thirst-quenching vending machines are there to rescue you.

Beginner’s Guide: How does an IC Card work?

Use it this way...

Photo Credit : Mr.Akira Kitamura

When passing automatic ticket gates, touch the card onto the card reader for about one second (rather than inserting it into the ticket slot). The applicable fare will be automatically deducted when you exit through the ticket gate at your destination station. When riding buses, card readers are placed at the entrance and/or exit of the bus. Check the current balance & recharge the amount.

Photo Credit : Mr.Akira Kitamura

The current credit balance is shown on a small display whenever you pass a ticket gate or make a payment at a store. Otherwise, the balance can also be checked at ticket machines together with a usage history.

Photo Credit : Mr.Akira Kitamura

1
Brief Introduction to IC cards.

There are basically ten major IC cards representing the five major areas – Greater Sapporo, Greater Tokyo, Greater Fukuoka, Greater Osaka, and Greater Nagoya.


Cute fact:
Many of their names end with “ca.” This “ca” was inspired by the English word “card.” Its pronunciation is the same as the Japanese hiragana syllable “ka.”


On each card is the phonetic Japanese name printed in English alphabet. Some of these cards also obtain their names from regional dialects, such as Sugoka which means “great” in Fukuoka dialect. Just like the manhole covers we featured in the October issue, you know that the Japanese never fail to take things to the next level. If anything and everything can go kawaii, why not transportation cards too? Using a cute card definitely helps brighten up your day, ain’t it?

2
Where to buy and how much does it cost?

IC cards can be purchased at ticket machines and ticket counters at the corresponding railway stations. The fundamental cost includes a refundable deposit of 500 yen, plus an extra amount (typically 1500 yen), making a total of 2000 yen. All the IC cards are virtually similar in terms of coverage. The cards mainly differ on where they can be purchased and refunded. Therefore, most people will prefer to buy the card available in the first city where they arrive,
e.g. Suica or Pasmo in Tokyo, Sugoca in Fukuoka or Icoca in Hiroshima.

3
Insufficient funds...teach me how to top-up!

Most transportation-related IC cards are prepaid, which means that you can recharge your card in advance. Therefore, if you use your card frequently, you may not be able to pass through automatic ticket gates due to a lack of balance. With so many people coming and going at a busy ticket gate, a low balance can cause problems for others.
At train stations, IC cards can be recharged at automatic ticket vending machines「自動券売機」(jidoukenbaiki),multipurpose ticket vending machines 「多機能券売機」(takinoukenbaiki) and the fare adjustment machine 「のりこし精算機」(norikoshiseisanki). The bill amount that can be deposited in a single transaction is 500 yen, 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen. You can deposit as many times as you like up to a maximum of 20,000 yen.

4
Watch out about crossing between areas!

In short, you can use any IC card within any prefecture, but cannot use the card from a specific area to cross to another area.
For example, although East Japan Railway Company (JR East) is the issuer of Suica, there is no problem in using Suica on trains or in stores within the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Tokai) area.
However, if you board a train from JR East’s area and get off in JR Tokai’s area, you are unable to just tap the card and go through the automatic ticket gate as usual.
Although the barrier between areas has been removed, the issue of crossing from one area to another is still there. At disembarkation stations, you can’t go through automatic ticket gates and have to pay at manned gates.

Fun Facts about IC card:

  1. Established in 2001, Suica was the first
    IC card in Japan.
  2. Suica is green because it rhymes
    with suika, which means watermelon
    in Japanese.
  3. The number of notches varied on each
    card: one notch means that the owner
    can have their information printed on
    the card; two notches means the
    opposite.
  4. A quick way to check the balance
    before you pass through ticket gates:
    simply go to any vending machine and
    tap your IC card at the card reader.
  5. Wanna go cardless? Go download the
    Suica app! It’s also compatible with
    Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

EDITOR'S NOTE

The purpose of me writing articles to introduce unique little things in Japan to Malaysian readers are (a) I am very into them; (b) not many sources talk about them. My first visit to Japan was in 2017. Back then, I knew the existence of a transportation card, but… there were actually so many different types?! I was only relying on paper tickets the entire time. What a shame! And I thought, hey, why not tell Malaysians about these mindblowing cute transportation cards in Japan, so that they can get at least one if they ever visit Japan? If you are a stamp or postcard collector, you should also jot down IC cards in your must-have list. With the unique design printed on each card, it’s a fun way for foreigners to learn about the local culture and history. (Vender♡)

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