For a smoother and more convenient bus, train and subway experience in Japan, equip yourself with a prepaid IC card. You can pay your public transportation fares by simply tapping the IC card on a card reader as you enter and exit buses or train and subway stations.

What are the Different Kinds of Prepaid IC Cards?

  • Suica – Offered by JR East and valid on all Japan Rail trains in the Greater Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata regions, and non-Japan Rail lines, such as the Tokyo Metro Subway and other private railway lines, in Tokyo. The Suica can also be used for certain transportation systems in the Sendai and Niigata, Hokkaido, Tokai, West Japan and Kyushu areas.
  • Pasmo – Works on the same buses, trains and subways as Suica (both JR and non-JR) and the two are basically interchangeable.
  • Icoca – Offered by JR West and valid on all JR trains servicing the Greater Osaka, Hiroshima and Okayama areas.
  • Kitaca – Offered by JR Hokkaido for all Japan Rail trains and non-JR trams, buses and subways in the Greater Sapporo area.
  • Toica – Offered by JR Central and valid on all JR train lines that run in the Greater Nagoya region and select parts of Shizuoka Prefecture.
  • Manaca – Can be used for travel on non-JR and non-Kintetsu bus, subway and train lines in Nagoya.
  • Sugoca – Offered by JR Kyushu and valid on all JR-operated trains in the Nagasaki, Oita, Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Greater Fukuoka regions.
  • Hayakaken – Valid on the Fukuoka Subway lines in Fukuoka City.
  • Nimoca – Works on all Nishitetsu buses and trains that service the Greater Fukuoka region and some other cities on Kyushu Island.

Where Can You Buy Prepaid IC Cards?

Prepaid IC cards are available at the manned ticket counters and the automatic ticket machines at railway and train stations. Upon purchase, an amount of 2,000 yen (which includes a 500 yen refundable deposit) is typically charged onto it.

How Do You Use a Prepaid IC Card?

At railway stations, simply touch your prepaid IC card onto the card reader on the automatic ticket gates to enter. Then, once you arrive at your destination, touch it again onto the reader to exit the station.

When riding a bus, tap the card onto the reader when you enter and when you exit the bus. The card readers are usually placed by the rear doors and next to the bus driver.

How Do You Recharge Prepaid IC Cards?

You can add credits to your IC card by recharging it at a special recharging machine found at train and subway stations around the country. Whatever IC card you have, you can top it up at any machine, regardless of the issuing company or place of purchase. So, if you bought your Suica in Tokyo, it is possible to put more credit on it at a recharging machine at a Fukuoka or Osaka train station.

Are There Other Uses For the Prepaid IC Cards?

In addition to paying for your public transportation fares, your IC card can also be used to pay for purchases at some shops, vending machines, convenience stores and storage facilities in Japan. This is pretty common at and around the major railway stations in the biggest Japanese cities.

Do Prepaid IC Cards Expire?

Prepaid IC cards will only become invalid if they have not been used in ten years. So, keep yours when you return home, ready for your next trip to Japan!