Travel Guide – Japan: The One about the IC Transportation Card (Suica and Pasmo)

If you are traveling Japan, aside from your passport and your JR Pass, one of the most important things to do, once you arrive in Japan, is to get an IC Transportation Card that will allow you travel in Japan.

The first thing to do either prior to your trip or at the airport is to at least have around Y10,000 yen ready ($100 US) or at least Y2000 minimum.

The top two in the Kanto region (where Tokyo is located) are Suica and Pasmo and when arriving to Narita or Haneda Airports, you will find Suica (in Green) or Passmo (in Pink) ticket machines.

Be patient and go up to the machine and select English.

Select that you want to purchase a new Suica or a Passmo Card and you can either choose for a blank card or with your name printed on it.

Insert two Y1000 and your new IC transportation card will be made and will come out of the machine.

Please note that depending in which area of Japan you are in, other prefectures use IC cards with different names, for example, Nagoya uses Manaca and Toica IC cards:

But to keep things simple, let’s stay with Suica and Pasmo IC transporation cards!

After receiving your card, now you will want to charge your card (add more money), here is a video I streamed live via Facebook:

Assuming that you are going to Tokyo first from Narita Airport, after you charged your card and added more yen, hold on to your card as more than likely to get to your destination in Tokyo, you’ll more than likely need to purchase your Narita Express ticket to take you to Tokyo.

So, now assuming you are now in a station at Tokyo.  Now to head to your destination, hopefully you have a pocket WiFi and a smartphone or tablet with you.  Go to Hyperdia or Google Maps and type in the station that you are in and the station you are going to and you will see the time of departures.

So, while in the station, find which train you have to ride.  Hopefully where you are staying is near a station close to JR Yamanote Line.

Here is an example, using Google Maps.  Let’s say, I want to go from Tokyo Station to Ikebukuro Station.

Here are things to know by looking at this map.  One, the JR Yamanote is the most convenient to ride because it takes you to the main station.  But if I take the Marunouchi Line, note the M with a red circle or other stations with a letter and a circle around it.  That’s a metro subway and not the train.

If you are carrying luggage, I recommend riding the train over the metro because metro’s tend to have A LOT of stairs.  It is a hassle to bring luggage over those stairs.  But if you are staying near the subway/metro station, not much you can do but to take it slow and hopefully there is an elevator that you can bring your luggage and save you time and endure less pain.

So, I chose to ride the JR Yamanote Line and the cost it will deduct from your IC Card is Y200.

So, now…inside the station, search for the GREEN Yamanote Train entrance. If you need help, you can ask the attendance and show your itenerary or the location you are going to and they will tell you which stairs to take.

Next thing to do is get your IC card or your wallet with your IC card and wave it on top of the IC detector on the gate.  You will hear a beep, the gates open and you can go through.  That’s about it.

It’s really simple to use.  But just remember, if you have a Japan Rail Pass and you have already activated it, then if you are riding a JR train, you do not need to use your Suica or Pasmo card.  Just go to where the train attendant right next to the gate and show your JR Pass and he/she will let you through.  And that’s it!!!

OK, so now you have your IC Transportation Card…Suica or a Pasmo card and you know how to use it for transportation.  But if you are at the station, there are stores, restaurants, kiosks and food/beverage machines that take your IC transporation card.  Just wave your card on the IC Card reader and your purchases will be deducted from your card.  It’s that easy!

But if you want to see how walking the through the gate is, you can view the following videos below.

Here is a Facebook Live Stream of me going from Ikebukuro station and riding the train to Nippori Station:

Photo and videos by Dennis A. Amith

Suica and Pasmo Machine Photos by Loy Fruel (Thanks Loy!)