If you want to travel like a local, if you want to avoid the trouble of buying a ticket every time you take train or bus, if you want to avoid losing the ticket, you should buy an IC Card.
What is IC Card?
IC card is a prepaid transportation card and E-money card that contain an Integrated-circuit (IC) chip, allowing the user to pay transportation fares, make payment at most of the convenient stores, increasing number of restaurants and vending machines.
There are more than ten different IC cards operate all around Japan. Although each card has it own corresponding railway, however since 2013 most of the cards are compatible with each other’s. You can use one IC card anywhere in Japan (there are few exceptional areas). In greater Tokyo you will only be able to purchase either SUICA or PASMO IC Cards.
Suica Prepaid IC card issue by JR East in greater Tokyo. The card can be used in any buses and trains all around Japan (with few exceptional places though). Also can be used as Electronic-Money in some shops, restaurants and vending machines.
Pasmo is prepaid IC card issue by Tokyo`s railway, subway, buses operators other than JR. but can be used in any trains, buses in greater Tokyo and nation-wide. Also, you can use Pasmo card as E-money too.
How to purchase IC Card?
IC card can be purchased in any major station all around Japan, Including Narita and and Haneda airports stations. Bear in mind that every zone and railway has its own IC card, therefore, you can only purchase SUICA and PASMO in Greater Tokyo Area. Since most of the IC Cards can be used in any train, therefore, there is no big difference concerning good or bad IC Card. You can simply purchase either Suica or Pasmo and use it throughout your trip in Japan.
It can be purchased both at the ticket vending machines and ticket counter of corresponding railways. The initial cost consists of 500-yen refundable deposit plus the amount to preload and use for the transportations.
Getting a PASMO?
You can get a PASMO in any stations` ticket vending machine or railway counter that is not JR.follow the step bellow for purchasing A PASMO from Ticket Machine. If you want to get it from the Railway counter please ask the counter of corresponding Railway.
for getting a SUICA Card follow the same steps but in JR Vending Machine. Please also be noted that beside the initial refundable deposit of 500 yen, another 1500 yen is needed to preload the SUICA for the first time. After purchase the balance should be 1500.
How to recharge IC card?
The amount that can be charge onto the IC card are from 1,000 Yen (500 for SUICA) to 10,000 Yen at the ticket vending machine, However, can be charged up to 20,000 at the railway counter.
for recharging find the ticket machine at the station, then look for the picture of your IC Card. some ticket machine does not recharge an IC Card from a different railway.
most of the ticket machines in Japan has English as well.
Insert your card to the IC card slot, then press “Charge” button or (チャージ). the following screen will appear.
Press the desire amount you want to top up. and enter the money to the banknote slot. your card card will be recharged.
Refund: when you are leaving Japan and you have balance in your card you can go to the railway counter and ask for the refund. a handling fee 210 Yen will be charge, the remaining balance in your card plus 500 refundable deposit will be refunded.
How to use IC card
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. A card cannot be shared by multiple travelers at the same time.
when the card does not have sufficient fund, the card reader will turn red and ticket gate will be block.
How to use IC card at the shop and vending machines
most of the convenience stores, vending machines, coin lockers etc, have the option of paying by IC card. The amount charge onto the IC card can be use as E-money. In case of Shop, just show the IC Card to the shop staff, they will will show you where to touch it. and in case of vending machines they have almost similar card reader as in station.