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The Various Convenient Ways to Use Smart Travel Cards in Japan

Smart travel cards (called "IC cards" in Japan) are convenient to have when traveling around Japan. You can use them to ride trains without using any physical cash, and also as prepaid cards to shop. This article explains the many ways you can use these cards in Japan.

3 Things You Can Do With IC Cards

Board a Train

The first thing you can do with an IC card is board a train. As long as you charge it in advance*, all you need to do is tap it on the card reader attached to the ticket gate machine at the entrance. This is an easy way to get on a train without the hassle of purchasing physical tickets.
*You can charge the card at train stations using ticket vending machines or top-up machines.

Buy Stuff From Vending Machines

Some vending machines accept payment using IC cards. To purchase something, touch the card to the card reader and wait until it makes a sound. You don't need any coins, so the entire transaction is done in a speedy manner.

Purchase Items at Convenience Stores

IC cards can also be used to purchase items from convenience stores that have an “IC” sign, which indicates that they accept this form of payment. To make your purchase, tap the card on the card reader near the cash register.

There's Tons More Ways to Use Them!

They Can Be Used on All Train Lines in Japan

Although different IC cards are issued by different operators in various regions, they can be used nationwide and across operators. To ride on any train in the country that accepts payment via IC card, all you need is one of the cards listed below.
*PiTaPa cannot be used for shopping.

◆IC Cards That Can Be Used Nationwide
JR Hokkaido's Kitaca
JR East Japan's Suica
Private operators in the Tokyo Metropolitan area's PASMO
JR Tokai's TOICA
Private operators in the Nagoya area's manaca
JR West Japan's ICOCA
Private operators in the Kansai Region's PiTaPa
JR Kyushu's SUGOCA
Nishi-Nippon Railroad's nimoca
Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau's Hayakaken

Use as a Green Pass

First class carriages, similar to business class on airlines, are called “Green Cars” in Japan. The ticket required to ride them is called “Green Pass”. IC cards also come in handy when you want to ride a Green Car.

If you use Suica, PASMO, Kitaca, or TOICA, you can ride on a Green Car on regular trains on the Tokaido Line, Yokosuka Line, Sobu Line Rapid Service, Shonan Shinjuku Line, Ueno Tokyo Line, Utsunomiya Line, Takasaki Line, and Joban Line. Using an IC card means that you don’t have to pay when you’re on the train, making the trip more pleasant and smooth. To use it, purchase a Green Pass using your IC card at a ticket machine. When you board the train, touch your card to the card reader at your seat.

Use on Buses, Trams, and Taxis

More buses and trams and are now accepting payment via IC card. If it is a flat fee, all you need to do is touch the card to the card reader when paying. If the fare differs by destination, touch the card to the card reader when getting on and off. Some operators offer discounts for using IC cards. For example, the Toei Bus system in Tokyo offers transfer discounts if you use Suica or PASMO.
When taking a taxi, let the driver know you want to use Suica or PASMO, as some taxis don’t accept payment with IC cards. When paying, all you have to do is tap the card on the card reader.

Use at Coin Parking Lots and Museums

IC cards can sometimes be used to pay for parking at coin parking lots, as well as for entrance to museums. Some museums that accept thisform of payment are the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, Kyoto Railway Museum, and Nara National Museum. There are some facilities, such as Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture, that give discounts for using specific IC cards.

Where to Buy and Charge IC Cards

They can be purchased at ticket machines and ticket counters in train stations. You can also purchase them at convenience stores situated in train stations, such as KIOSK and NewDays. To top up at train stations, use ticket machines or top-up machines. To charge them in buses, go to the driver when the bus has stopped, let them know, and then give them cash to have them top it up. Some convenience stores allow you to charge them at the cash register, but note that they will often only accept cash.

Check out this video on YouTube! "The Various Convenient Ways to Use Smart Travel Cards in Japan"

IC cards, which can be purchased quite easily, are becoming a necessity to people living in Japan. Though a deposit is usually required when purchasing a card, they are well-worth it for the convenience, so definitely check them out!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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