When travelling to Japan, it's inevitable that you'll use the train a lot - it's such a significant part of its public transport network and a fundamental way to get around.
If you've been to Japan before, you're probably already familiar with IC cards, the prepaid smartcards used to pay for transport and other services (similar to Touch 'N Go or EZLink). For Tokyo and its surrounds, the two IC cards that are most widely used are Suica (used for JR East trains) and Pasmo (for trains and bus operators other than JR). Typically, purchasing the cards will require a deposit or issuance fee of JPY500, which are technically refundable for tourists but require you to go to their respective stations to do so.
Credit: @deushita on Instagram
Well, the good news is that now you can skip that! JR East has just launched a new card that's targeted specifically for travellers - the Welcome Suica card. With this card, you will no longer be required to pay the JPY500 issuance fee/deposit upon purchase! The card comes in six versions with balances ranging from JPY1,000 to JOY10,000, with each card valid for 28 days and refunds won't be
allowed, so be sure to only choose the amount you would need for your travels. You'll be able to distinguish a Welcome Suica card from regular Suica cards with the pretty red and white cherry blossom design of the card. Besides the difference in design and validity period, the Welcome Suica works similarly to regular Suica cards, in that you'll be able to use it to pay for fares on buses, trains and metro lines as well as taxis, and also for payment at retailers that accept payment with Suica cards (including convenience stores, vending machines, eateries or grocery stores).
Credit: @hopinhsien on Instagram
Pasmo has launched its own version of a tourist card that's designed to charm lovers of Hello Kitty - the Pasmo Passport card that's targeted for travellers features a design with the cute characters of Sanrio (including Hello Kitty in a kimono!) and some iconic Japan landmarks. Similar to the Welcome Suica card, the card lasts for 28 days and buyers won't be entitled to refunds on any balance in the card. However, the Pasmo Passport card costs JPY2,000 (which includes a JPY500 issuing fee + JPY1,500 in funds available to be used) and is designed
for short term visitors - for long-term visitors, Pasmo recommends getting one of the regular Pasmo cards. There are special discounts and privileges you can enjoy with the Pasmo Passport - check here
when you purchase yours to see the ongoing promotions valid at the time.
Available since 1 Sep 2019, you can now find both cards at Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo. Alternatively, they are also sold at JR East and Pasmo's counters at their respective stations (check here for JR East
and here for Pasmo
And there you have it! Two cards you should definitely be aware of for your trip to Tokyo. If anything, they make for a cute little souvenir to take home on your trip 😉