Japanese Transportation IC Cards

I’m always a fan of public transportation.

One reason is because I don’t want to contribute unnecessary greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Other reasons that are more honest are (1) I don’t have much money to buy my own car/motorbike and (2) I’m not really good at driving.

And I was really excited to start living in Japan because the public transportation is very good!

In Japan, we use trains and buses on a daily basis. Until now I haven’t tried taxi yet, but I don’t think it is necessary unless I just happen to be out between midnight until dawn (around 5 AM for the first train) where only taxis are available.

For most of the time, I use an electronic IC Card called Pasmo. It is a very convenient card to pay for your train and bus fares (as well as shopping in a lot of tenants, vending machines, and coin lockers) for residents and travelers alike!

You might wonder should you buy Pasmo or Suica (or 8 other similar cards)…. and the good news is that you can buy any IC cards available in your nearest station (e.g. if the nearest station is JR station you might want to buy Suica) and use it almost anywhere. Please make sure in below map that you are traveling within the valid area of transportation IC card, because once you stepped out from the area, you will not be able to use the card, although the origin and the destination are both covered by the transportation IC card (from now on I will call it Pasmo again).

Ten transportation IC cards and their valid areas (source)

I received my Pasmo card from my husband right after I landed in Haneda International Airport. In fact, you can buy the card right there!

From Arrival Lobby to Keikyu’s Haneda Airport International Terminal Station to buy Pasmo  (source)
Pasmo ticketing machine (source)

You can either buy a blank Pasmo (usual case for travelers) or named Pasmo (usual case for residents). Just remember that only named Pasmo can be re-issued when it’s lost.

You can check the balance in your Pasmo in the ticketing machine that you usually see in train stations (see the picture). Otherwise, you can download an Android app (Suica Reader) to check it on-the-go (you will need your NFC on).

For charging/topping up, you can come to the same ticketing machine (for units as low as 10 yen) or convenience store (for 1,000 yen units).

Traveling with Pasmo is not only easier, but also cheaper (up to 9 yen) than original ticket. However, if you are planning to go around Tokyo only, you might want to buy discount ticket that you can use for unlimited rides of Tokyo Metro & Toei subways for one day. It is practically covering all important places in Tokyo, so I really recommend this ticket. It costs 900 yen and you can buy it in the same (mighty!) ticketing machine.

Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway (source)

If you live (or stay) in suburban Tokyo (like I do), there is similar discount ticket issued by the nearest train station (it happens to be Tokyu Corp’s station). The ticket includes the travel to the nearest Tokyo Metro station (roundtrip) and it costs around 1,100 yen depends on where you buy the ticket.

Transportation in Japan is very convenient but sometimes I sat down and compared the price to those in Indonesia… just a lot more expensive. However, if you gather the information very well, you might end up saving a good sum of money!

Happy traveling!

Further Reading

  1. Japan Guide’s article on IC Cards.
  2. For travelers, Lonely Planet’s article on Trains.
  3. Pasmo Official Site.
  4. Haneda Airport Access Guide.
  5. Tokyo Metro’s page on 1-Day Ticket.
  6. Tokyu Corporation’s page on Discount Tickets.

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