Get travel-savvy with smart IC cards
With commuter cards, access to the country's subway, buses, and taxis are a tap away.
Say goodbye to hours of juggling small change at every subway station! These special passes will make your commute a breeze!
Japan is renowned for its incredible transportation facilities. From rapid bullet trains and metro lines to conveniently connected trams and buses, getting around the country is simple. But here's how you could truly make the most of your trip - get a smart travel card. These contactless little wonders will save you time and effort spent on buying single ticket stubs to ride the subway.
There is a variety of commuter cards, each serving different regions and train lines, but the most popular around Tokyo and few major cities are the Suica and Passmo. There's no difference between the IC cards, except that they're owned by different organisations and have a different minimum initial charge.
With commuter cards, your access to the country's subway, buses and taxis are just a tap away. The Suica or Passmo also serves as an e-money card that can be used to purchase items from convenience stores (konbini) and vending machines. Additionally, you can use it to as a cash card in bookstores, on coin-operated lockers, and so much more.
How to get a Suica card
You can either get the Suica card at a JR East Travel Service Centre, located in major JR station lines such as the Yamanote, or acquire it via a ticket vending machine.
For the latter, head to the JR subway line and locate a machine (often set close to the subway entrance, or on the side before access to the train gates).
Now, you might be wondering how to navigate through all that content in Japanese, but don't fret; on the top right part of the screen, there is an option to switch the language to English. Follow the steps, insert the amount into the slot (there is a small fee for issuing new cards), pick up your card from the dispenser. And that's all.
To reload, use the same machines. You can reload as many times as you'd like, at no additional charge.
JR Pass - Tourists' holy grail
For long inter-city travels, opt for a JR Pass! This is a travel passport, exclusively available to tourists, that gives access to all transportation links owned by the Japan Railways Group. That means you can travel great distances, while riding some of the fastest trains in the world (the Shinkansen) and enjoy the best-connected subways, metros and buses for an unlimited number of times.
The JR Pass comes in three options - 7 days, 14 days and 21 days - with different costs for green car (first-class cabins) and standard (ordinary).
Keep in mind that this pass can only be purchased by foreigners and must be pre-ordered before entering Japan.
For more information, visit www.japanrailpass.net/en.