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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.
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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.
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 .
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:
What are the examples of EM?
iD, QUICPay, Paypay, nanaco, WAON, RakutenPay, and more.
There are multiple benefits to getting an IC Card, aside from the convenience of tap-and-go:
Usable on trains and buses
Cheaper fares - IC card train fares are slightly cheaper than regular fares
Shopping at convenience stores, vending machines, select shops (numbers growing)
Credit card linking for on-the-go charging and auto-charging features
Point accumulation, whether it’s points for credit card, shopping purchase, train company point
E-wallet compatible, like ApplePay including AppleWatch
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:
Issuing Company: JR East
Where to Get: JR East Stations
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”
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”
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”
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.
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”
Issuing Company: Nishitetsu
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”
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”
Issuing Company: JR Tokai
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”
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!
Issuing Company: JR West
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:
Cash recharge only
No reissues upon card loss
ICOCA points only
“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
For kids up to age 12.
※ JR Odekake Net, “ICOCA”
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:
Usage fees from 1st to 31st March
Notice of Usage Fees arrives on 25th April
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”
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:
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