Railway Smartcards Get Ready for Use Throughout Japan


Rail Update Japan

Partnership Linking Suica and Nine Other IC Cards Begins March 23 Railway Smartcards Get Ready for Use Throughout Japan

From the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The JR group of companies and 11 major private railways in Japan announced on December 18, 2012 that their smartcards will become interchangeable within all of their networks, beginning on March 23, 2013. This means that a user will need only one of the 10 contactless rechargeable cards for the rail and bus services of 142 operators throughout the country. As of December 1, a combined total of about 80.09 million cards had been issued.

The cards within the partnership include Suica, issued by JR East, PASMO (private railways in metropolitan Tokyo), and ICOCA (JR West).

Here’s an example of how the new partnership will work. With just a single PASMO card you’ll be able to pay for travel on any JR train — including Hokkaido in the north, central and western Japan, and Kyushu in the south — and also on the trains of major private railways in different parts of the country. However, unless you have a Suica or PASMO card you won’t be able to use the new system to board a train in one area and get off in another.

Smartcards issued by railway companies are becoming more common as electronic money for payments at convenience stores and outlets like eating and drinking establishments. Once the new partnership takes effect, card users will be able to make payments within a “federation” of about 200,000 enterprises throughout Japan.

The ten smart fare cards becoming interchangeable in March 2013 are:

• Kitaca (JR Hokkaido)
• Suica (JR East): Metropolitan Tokyo and 11 prefectures
• PASMO (private railways in Kanto region): Metropolitan Tokyo and 8 prefectures
• TOICA (JR Central): 5 prefectures
• manaca (private railways in Nagoya region): 3 prefectures
• PiTaPa (private railways in Kansai region): 10 prefectures
• ICOCA (JR West): 10 prefectures
• nimoca (Nishi-Nippon Railroad)
• HAYAKAKEN (Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau)
• SUGOCA (JR Kyushu)

The names of the cards depicted above are proper nouns printed in their original format.

This article appeared in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. We thank the publisher, The Yomiuri Shimbun, for granting us permission to present the article in translation.


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