Easy Travel with E-money Cards
Digital cash saves you time and stress
One of the most convenient parts of traveling in Japan is being able to use preloaded e-money cards instead of train or bus tickets, making it possible to go anywhere just by touching the card at the gates. The cards are very simple as they basically digitize your cash and make small purchases very easy. One of the best reasons to use them is that you won't accumulate a pocket full of loose change during your trip!
Getting a Card
Your main options are:
Suica: from Japan Rail (most common)
Pasmo: Second most common, available in the Tokyo area mostly
Manaca: Nagoya's card
Icoca: Most common in the Osaka/Kyoto area
Step 1: Locate a machine
The quickest way to get an e-money card is through the electronic ticketing machines at train or subway stations. Some machines only charge the cards once you have them, so be sure to use a machine that also allows purchasing of cards
Step 2: Change the menu language
You can choose English, Chinese, or Korean.
Step 3: Choose a card type
You can choose a registered card or a general one. If you aren't here long it's best to get the regular one, but the registered card allows you to get a new one (with your balance) if you lose it.
Step 4: Choose your deposit amount
It's hard to say how much cash you'll need, but you can top it up any time, and since you can get it refunded after your trip you don't need to think too hard about this.
Step 5: Get your card!
Just insert the amount of cash needed and you will immediately receive a card loaded with your cash (minus the 500 yen deposit).
Step 6: Using the card
It's easy! When going through train gates, just tap the card to the reader and keep walking through the gates. When you arrive at your destination, tap one more time on your way out and the full amount will be deducted from your balance.
You can see your card balance on a small screen on the gates after you tap the card
If you don't have enough money, the gates will close and you'll need to fill up the card at a machine, so always have a bit of cash
When getting on a bus, just tap the card on the reader when you get on. You don't need to do it when you get off
Not every taxi accepts these cards, so check to see if it has a sticker on the window for the card or just show it to the driver