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IC cards Japan + types: IC cards Japan (What they are and how to use them)

What IC cards are and how to use them: IC cards are more than just a smart card that you can use to get on public transportation. You can also use them at convenience stores, grocery stores, gift stores, etc.

Where to use IC cards

They can be used on different types of transportation, such as trains, subways and buses, making it easy to transfer between different modes of transportation. Different types of IC cards are available in regions and railway companies throughout Japan, but you can use any IC card, especially if you are traveling in the city, with the greatest ease in the world, thus avoiding any problems with the dreaded ticket machines.

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Use of IC cards in a metro station

Where to buy IC cards

In this guide we show you an introduction to IC cards.

IC cards can be purchased at train stations, bus information centers or JR ticket offices throughout Japan, especially in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka.

Depending on where you are, the IC cards available differ, so it is best to check beforehand what types of IC cards are available in the area.

For example, if you are traveling in Tokyo, you can buy the famous Suica card at JR East railroads, which is one of the main transportation networks in the area. Or at subway stations, you can buy a Pasmo card, very similar to Suica.

There are no major differences between one and the other, as both can be used on any public transport in Tokyo.

You can easily buy IC cards at ticket vending machines or at ticket offices.

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Machines for purchasing IC cards

Using IC cards from the cell phone

You can also use IC cards on your phone as it is very popular these days to use IC cards on your smartphone, using the app that connects your Apple Wallet which allows you to use IC cards without actually having them on you.

You can set the app to automatically load the designated amount onto your mobile IC card, so you never have to worry about how much you have left on your IC card before you go through the gate.

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Use of IC cards from cell phone

How to use IC cards in Japan

To use an IC card, just tap your IC card at the entrance gates. The correct fare is automatically calculated and deducted from your card.

You can also check the balance displayed on the screen. Don’t forget to add money to your IC card regularly to have enough on the card for travel. You can do this at ticket vending machines at major stations.

When adding money, please note that they only accept Japanese cash, i.e. you cannot pay with credit cards or any other foreign currency such as euro or dollar.

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How to use IC cards

Paying with IC cards at konbini (Docomo Bicycle Sharing)

You can also use IC cards to pay at convenience stores, station vending machines and other merchants. It is very useful to have one card for everything you need to pay for during your trip and it saves you a lot of hassle.

Another unique way to use IC cards is to pay for bike sharing. Docomo Bicycle Sharing is a popular and useful bicycle rental service that has spread throughout Japan (especially in major cities), and accepts IC card payment.

Most popular and useful IC cards in Japan | Midori no madoguchi

Let’s take a look at the most popular and useful IC cards in Japan, in order of popularity:

Suica Card – Where to use suica – Where to buy suica (Midori-no-madoguchi)

Suica (JR EAST Railway): Suica is a popular IC card issued by JR EAST Railway, which has the largest train network in and around Tokyo.

The Suica card can be obtained at multi-function ticket vending machines installed at major JR EAST stations, or at JR ticket offices known as “Midori no madoguchi”.

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Ticket vending machines

Selling prices range from ¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥3,000, ¥4,000, ¥5,000 to ¥10,000. When you get your Suica card you will pay a ¥500 deposit which is automatically included in the amount of money you decide to put on your card, once you return it you will be refunded the amount, but be careful if you lose it as if you do your deposit will not return.

ICOCA Card (JR WEST Railway)

If you are going to visit the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto, the ICOCA card is something you should get before you start your trip.

ICOCA is a widely used and accepted IC cards in the Kansai region. It can be purchased at the multi-function ticket vending machines installed at major JR WEST stations, or you can go to the JR ticket offices (Midori-no-madoguchi).

You will pay a refundable deposit of ¥500 (just like Suica in Tokyo) which is automatically included in the first payment of ¥2,000.

PASMO Card – IC cards

PASMO Card is another popular IC cards issued by other public transport, including private bus operators, railroads and Tokyo subways. It can also be used on JR trains and other public transport. PASMO Card is compatible with and virtually similar to Suica Card.

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PASMO card machine

Manaca Card (Nagoya Railway)

Manaca is an IC card used mainly in the Chubu region of Japan, including Nagoya.

With the Manaca IC card, you can travel from Chubu Centrair International Airport to central Nagoya, southern Gifu and western Shizuoka by taking Meitetsu trains and buses, Nagoya municipal subway lines, Aonami line, Toyohashi railroad lines and many more.

This card is sold at manaca ticket vending machines installed at Nagoya subway stations or at subway ticket offices. Selling prices range from ¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥3,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000, including the ¥500 refundable deposit.

SUGOCA Card (JR Kyushu)

The SUGOCA card allows you to easily move around the Kyushu area with the JR Kyushu railway lines.

It mainly covers the Fukuoka and Kita-Kyushu area, including the most popular tourist destinations such as Hakata, Kokura, Kumamoto and Beppu. If you want to take the shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) to save time, you will need to purchase shinkansen tickets separately.

SUGOCA is compatible with other IC cards. You can also use it as electronic money to pay in stores or stores that accept them.

SUGOCA offers an easy method of transportation and payment for travelers who want to move around the Kyushu area conveniently. It is issued by JR Kyushu, which offers an extensive transportation network throughout the area.

The basic concept is quite similar to that of other IC cards, especially the manaca, which has both unregistered and registered cards. Unregistered cards can be purchased at multi-function ticket vending machines installed at major JR Kyushu stations, or at JR ticket offices (Midori-no-madoguchi).

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If you want a registered one (with your name on it), you will have to go to a JR ticket office, as they are not sold in ticket vending machines. The price is 2,000 yen and includes a refundable deposit of 500 yen.

When you go on a trip what we like most as travelers is to have the best possible experiences, so these activities that I show you below, can be the best experiences you will have on your trip to JAPAN.