13/12/2021

Easy Travel in Osaka: Pitapa and Other IC Cards

Travel with ease around Osaka with Pitapa and other IC cards. Embrace the cashless life, less burden with less cash on hand. Just tap and go with easy money charging at machines or even online. Also usable as a prepaid card, easy purchase from vending machines and in stores.


Table of Contents

  1. IC Cards in Japan
  2. Benefits of Transport IC Cards
  3. Nationwide IC Cards that can be used in Osaka
  4. Osaka Region Specific: PiTaPa and ICOCA
  5. Summary

IC Cards in Japan

Trains are the most widely used mode of transportation in Japan. Using cash and buying a ticket is time consuming and a hassle for rushing students and workers, not to mention the line at the machines. Luckily, IC cards exist to make travelling (and life) way easier for us all.

What are IC Cards? 

IC stands for Integrated Circuit, and a card with an IC chip is called an IC card. They are also known as smart cards. Technically, credit cards and debit cards, or even personal identification and phone SIM cards are all considered IC cards.

In Japan, when someone says IC Card or ICカード, they usually refer to Transportation IC Cards 交通系ICカード .

IC Card VS Electrical Money

Electrical Money (EM) is called denshi mane 電子マネー in Japanese. 

Is there any difference?

Yes. The biggest difference between IC Card and EM is that EM cannot be used for travelling, whether as Teikiken (Commuter Pass) or train ticket.

For more about Teikiken 🚅, check our dedicated article:

Teikiken: Japan’s commuter pass

What are the examples of EM?

iD, QUICPay, Paypay, nanaco, WAON, RakutenPay, and more. 

Benefits of Transport IC Cards

There are multiple benefits to getting an IC Card, aside from the convenience of tap-and-go:

  1. Nationwide compatibility

  2. Usable on trains and buses

  3. Cheaper fares - IC card train fares are slightly cheaper than regular fares

  4. Shopping at convenience stores, vending machines, select shops (numbers growing)

  5. Credit card linking for on-the-go charging and auto-charging features

  6. Point accumulation, whether it’s points for credit card, shopping purchase, train company point

  7. E-wallet compatible, like ApplePay including AppleWatch

Nationwide IC Cards that can be used in Osaka

Nationwide compatibility? That means they are usable in Osaka too. These nationwide IC cards are part of the nationwide interoperability system which allow interoperation between all 10 card systems within their areas. However, please note that while all can be used in Osaka, there may be limitations (such as in on buses) as well as going between Osaka and other regions in the country: 

Suica

Issuing Company: JR East

Mascot: Penguin 

Where to Get: JR East Stations

Primary Area

Suica’s area coverage is expected to expand further to Aomori, Akita, and Morioka in 2023. It’s the first IC card to have Apple Pay and Apple Watch compatibility

※ JR-East, “Suica” “JR東日本ニュース,2021年4月6日

PASMO

Issuing Company: Tokyo Metro 

Mascot: Pink Robot

Where to Get: Tokyo Metro Stations

Primary Area: Tokyo

Since 2021, PASMO is compatible with ApplePay and Apple Watch.  

※ PASMO, “交通系ICカードの相互利用

Kitaca

Issuing Company: JR Hokkaido 

Mascot: Flying Squirrel

Where to Get: JR Hokkaido Stations

Primary Area: Hokkaido

Kita 北 means North in Japanese, Hokkaido is the northernmost area in Japan, thus the name. 

※ JR Hokkaido, “JR Hokkaido IC Card - Kitaca, Usable Area

manaca

Issuing Company: 

Mascot: Unidentified object, but is a happy round yellow blob. 

Where to Get: Nagoya stations 

Primary Area: Nagoya

It’s not a mistake as it’s not written “Manaca”; it’s meant to be all lower case letters written “manaca”. The name is derived from the Japanese term for center, mannaka 真ん中, as the Nagoya area is right in the middle of Japan.

manaca

SUGOCA

Issuing Company: JR Kyushu

Mascot: Frog and Clock

Where to Get: JR Kyushu Stations

Primary Area: Fukuoka

SUGOCA is an acronym for Smart Urban GOing CArd

※ JR Kyushu, “SUGOCA

nimoca

Issuing Company: Nishitetsu

Mascot: Ferret

Where to Get: Nishitetsu Stations

Primary Area: Fukuoka

Not “Nimoca”, it’s meant to be all small letters “nimoca”. 

With the concept of being an all-round usable card, it’s name Nimo にも carries the meaning of “too” or “also” in English. As in, “Bus too, train too, shopping too”, nimoca can be used for everything. 

※ nimoca, “nimocaの基本

Hayakaken

Issuing Company: Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau

Mascot: Prairie Dog named Chikamaru

Where to Get: Fukuoka Subway Stations

Primary Area: Fukuoka

※ Fukuoka CIty Subway, “Route Map

TOICA

Issuing Company: JR Tokai

Mascot: Birbs

Where to Get: JR Tokai Stations

Primary Area: Chubu Region

Its name TOICA トイカ is an acronym for Tokai トカイ, which makes more sense in Japanese Katakana.

※ JR Central, “TOICA

Osaka Region Specific: PiTaPa and ICOCA

PiTaPa and ICOCA are also nationwide IC Cards, but their primary areas of usage are focused within the Kansai region. So if you’re living in Osaka, these are good ones to consider! And remember you can always register these cards under your name!

ICOCA

Issuing Company: JR West

Mascot: Platypus

Where to Get: JR West Stations

Primary Area: Kansai Region

ICOCA is a pun on 行こうか, meaning “shall we go?” 

There are 3 types of ICOCA cards altogether:

  • ICOCA

    • Cash recharge only

    • No reissues upon card loss

    • ICOCA points only

  • Smart ICOCA

    • “Smart” features include online member access for checking usage history and points balance

    • Quick Charge (cashless recharge) for ICOCA areas

    • Can be reissued if the card is loss

    • Can collect both J-West and ICOCA points

    • Credit card required for Teikiken purchase

  • Kodomo ICOCA

    • For kids up to age 12. 

※ JR Odekake Net, “ICOCA

PiTaPa

Issuing Company: Surutto Kansai

Mascot: A masked ninja with shuriken in hand called Pitamaru

Primary Area: Kansai Region

PiTaPa is a rare postpay IC Card in Japan. Its name is an acronym that aptly describes the service offered, “Postpay IC for Touch and Pay”. Unlike the other IC Cards that can be easily bought from their respective issuing company stations, getting a PiTaPa is more complex and can only be done online or by post. Additionally, a bank account is a must if you want to get a PiTaPa which is why PiTaPa is not suitable for people not living in Japan. Aside from being a regular transportation IC card, you can also get a 2-in-1 credit card and transportation IC Card PiTaPa partnered with VISA, JCB, Mastercard, and banks. 

After submitting your application, it will be reviewed. If it’s approved, you will receive your choice PiTaPa card by post. This should take around 3 to 4 weeks. Follow the instructions provided with your card and complete the final registration. 

On the 25th day of the month, the notice of usage fees for the previous month will arrive. If this notice is in paper, it will incur a 110-yen cost so apply for email notification in advance. On the 10th day of the next month, the amount due as per the notice will be automatically deducted from your bank account. Example Scenario:

  1. Usage fees from 1st to 31st March

  2. Notice of Usage Fees arrives on 25th April

  3. Auto-deduction/Payment on 10th May

What are the benefits of using PiTaPa?

The greatest benefit is of course that you will never need to recharge it. No more embarrassment from getting blocked at the ticket gate ‘cause, “oops, forgot to recharge”. Don’t need to worry about long queues at the ticket machine, no need to carry cash, and for e-wallet users, no need to worry about phone battery dying or no mobile signal to recharge!  

※ PiTaPa, “Pitamaru

Summary

Whether you are a tourist on an overseas trip to Japan, or a resident here, having an IC Card is convenient in Japan. I would even call it a necessity if you’re going to stay here a long time. Since they do not expire, as long as you do not return them for your deposit, you can just keep them for your next trip. Not just for travelling, but for easy shopping and point collection, enjoy the numerous benefits of IC Cards. 

For Osaka Transportation articles, check these:

You don't have to worry alone anymore A Q&A community about Japan

Related articles

Food Staple: The Different Types of Rice and Their Cost in Japan

Rice is the staple food for many Asian communities including the Japanese; as a standalone dish like sushi or fried rice, or basic staple in teishoku meals, or dessert like mochi or dango, or even sna...

Life food and drink

Your Guide to Visa Extension in Japan

So you have a visa to stay in Japan, whether it be a tourist visa, work visa, family visa, etc. And you’ve decided you want to stay for longer and you want to extend the period of stay on your v...

Life residence status visa residence card immigration procedure

Becoming a Japanese Citizen, All You’ll Need to Know

Naturalization is the next step if you’re intending to stay in Japan for the rest of your life. There are many things you should know before taking this big step. The very first being what natur...

Life permanent residence passport immigration procedure

Eat Healthy with Japanese Mushrooms

Japanese mushrooms come in many types, from the popular “high-class” shiitake, to hotpot regulars enoki, cute brown capped namekos, and more. Mushrooms are a huge part of the Japanese diet...

Life Kanto food and drink

All About 100 Yen Shops

If you are moving to Japan, 100 yen shops may become your best friends in setting up your life here without breaking the bank. They are found all over the country, with their selection becoming more a...

Life tradition / crafts pop culture

Our website uses Cookies with the goal of improving our accessibility and quality. Please click "Agree" if you agree to our usage of Cookies. To see more details about how our company uses Cookies, please take a look here.

Cookie Policy