Suica

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Suica
Suica Train Card.JPG
Location Kantō region, Sendai area, Niigata area
Launched April 8 - July 8, 2001: piloted at 57 stations; November 18, 2001, official launch at 424 stations
Manager JR East
Currency Japanese yen ( ¥20,000 maximum load )
Stored-value Pay as you go
Credit expiry 10 years after last use.[1]
Validity JR East
  Pasmo routes
Retailed JR East stations
Website http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html
How to use a Suica card in a ticket gate

Suica (スイカ Suika?) is a rechargeable contactless smart card used as a fare card on train lines in Japan. Launched in November 18, 2001, the card is usable currently in the Kantō region, at JR East stations near Sendai and Niigata. The card can also be used interchangeably with JR West's ICOCA card in the Kansai region and San'yō region in Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi Prefectures, and also with JR Central's TOICA starting from spring of 2008,[2] JR Kyushu's SUGOCA, Nishitetsu's Nimoca, and Fukuoka City Subway's Hayakaken area in Fukuoka City and its suburb areas, starting from spring of 2010.[3] The card is also increasingly being accepted as a form of electronic money for purchases at stores and kiosks, especially within train stations. As of October 2009, 30.01 million Suica cards are in circulation.[4]

Since Suica is completely interchangeable with the Pasmo card (see for the complete listing of companies and lines that accept Suica) in the greater Tokyo area, it is supported on virtually any train, tramway, and bus system (excluding various limited and shinkansen trains, as well as a few local buses as the system is still in the process of being extended to all routes).

Etymology[edit]

Suica stands for "Super Urban Intelligent Card", and the pronunciation is also a pun on the Japanese word for watermelon, "suika". In the logo, the "ic" is highlighted, standing for the initialism of integrated circuit in "IC card", which in turn is common Japanese vernacular for smart card. An additional meaning comes from the ideophone "sui sui" which means "to move smoothly", intended to highlight the smooth simplicity of using the card compared with traditional train tickets. Since penguins can also swim smoothly through water, a penguin is used as a motif.

Uses[edit]

While Suica's primary usage is as a fare card for transportation services, it can also be used as electronic money for general purchases. With the exception of archaic models of the Suica card, all Suica cards have the Suica electronic money service.gif logo, which indicates that the card can be used as an electronic money in addition to train fare usage. Older cards without the logo can be replaced at no cost.[5]

Most vending machines, kiosks, and coin-operated lockers within JR stations can be paid with the card. In addition to payment, the card is also used as an electronic key to open the specific locker used. Outside of train stations, chain stores such as FamilyMart, am/pm, 7-Eleven, Ministop, Circle K Sunkus, Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera support transactions with Suica, however mostly restricted to the Kantō region only. A few shops at Narita International Airport, and Taxis accept Suica cards. Stores that accept Suica are indicated by displaying either a Suica, Pasmo, Kitaca, Icoca, Toica, Sugoca, Nimoca, or Hayakaken logo.

The card can also be used to make payments at supporting online shops, which requires the consumer to own a Sony FeliCa Reader hardware and a PC running the Windows operating system.

As of 2004, JR East employees use the card as an employee ID card.[6]

Functions/services[edit]

Ticket gates at a JR East station: The center lane is exclusive for Suica, but other lanes also accept Suica.
An automatic Suica ticket gate at a station not equipped with regular ticket gates
Keyless locker system for Suica and Pasmo in Shibuya Station
NEC's LaVie notebook PC showing an integrated FeliCa Port to the right of the image, used for Internet payment with cards such as Suica and Pasmo

Usage of the card involves passing it over a card reader. The technology allows for the card to be read at some distance from the reader, so contact is not required. Many people leave the card in their wallet and just pass the wallet over the reader as they enter the ticket gate.

The balance on the card is displayed when you enter the ticket gate this way. The minimum fare is needed on the card when entering the train system, which is not deducted at that time. The balance is also displayed whenever the card is inserted into the ticket or fare adjustment machines as well. A travel record is stored on the card, and can be displayed or printed out at the same place where one can purchase and reload the Suica cards.

On exit, the card is again passed over the card reader. At this time the fare is deducted from the remaining balance from the card and the new balance is displayed.

The card can also be used to store a commuter pass. This is available for purchase from regular ticket vending machines and allows a Monthly, 3-monthly or Annual pass for travel between two JR stations to be stored on the card.

On occasion, when traveling to a station where Suica is not supported, the card must be handed over to the staff at the exiting station, so that they can calculate the remaining fare and return a slip of paper which must be given to the staff at the next station where Suica is used. Since the system keeps track when a card enters and leaves a station, if the records show that the card had entered a station but not left (due to the situation such as described above, or technical malfunctions), the station staff can reset the card.

Points of purchase[edit]

These cards are available at card vending machines at the train stations that allows Suica. A new card costs 2,000 yen, which includes a 500 yen deposit that will be refunded if the card is returned. The remaining 1,500 yen is immediately available for train rides, and more money can be charged on to the card (in 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 4,000 yen, 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen increments), up to a card maximum of 20,000 yen, at similar ticket vending machines or fare adjustment machines displaying the Suica logo inside each station.

Types of cards[edit]

Suica cards are sold by three railway companies

A Suica card works as the standard prepaid Suica card (with user's name available on it) which can be used to ride trains in the place of paper tickets, or it can become the Suica commuter pass for unlimited traveling between two destinations for work or school. The Suica commuter pass also doubles as a prepaid Suica card for purchases or tickets outside of the normal commute route.

The VIEW Suica card pairs the prepaid Suica with a credit card. Various types exist, including at least one available through JR and View, and others such as the Bic Camera Suica. These function both as a pre-paid Suica as well as a regular credit card, and provide an auto-charge feature to prevent exhausting the Suica balance unintentionally. The automatically recharged amount is added to the user's credit card bill. Thus, these cards have two balances: a prepaid Suica balance and a credit balance for which monthly bills are sent. Thus, store-related cards like the Bic Suica card can include fully three separate functions: serving as a store point card, a general use Suica, and as a credit card. Any credit purchase (restricted, in the case of Bic, to JCB) adds a small amount to the available points on the store point card. Yet another type of Suica card offered by Japan Airlines (JAL) that is called JALCARD Suica. In addition to having Suica and credit card functionalities, a JALCARD Suica card can also function as an electronic boarding pass for a JAL-operated domestic flight in Japan at an airport that offers the JAL IC service.

The MySuica card allows users to input personal information at the time the card is created. If the card is later lost or stolen, the user can obtain a new card with the previous balance.

Ticket gates return an error when the scan encounters more than one compatible card. Although it is intended that each person have only one Suica card, many people have more than one. Further, since the introduction of Pasmo in March 2007, more people have at least one of each. Consequently, JR has begun, and intensified since March, an awareness campaign to discourage commuters from storing multiple cards together. Incompatible cards, such as Edy, seem to have an inconsistent effect on a machine's ability to read the card which may depend on the reading device. On the other hand, the Express-IC (EX-IC) card for Tokaido Shinkansen reservations is meant to be used in this manner (stacked on either a Suica or ICOCA to facilitate transfer between Shinkansen and regular lines).

Technology[edit]

The card incorporates contactless radio frequency identification (RFID) technology developed by Sony, called FeliCa. The same technology is also deployed in the Edy electronic cash cards used in Japan, the Octopus card in Hong Kong, and the EZ-Link Card in Singapore.

Usage with other systems[edit]

On March 18, 2007, the Tokyo-area private railways, bus companies, and subways implemented Pasmo, a smart card solution to replace the existing Passnet magnetic card system. Through collaboration with JR East, passengers can use Suica cards wherever Pasmo cards are accepted to ride any railway or bus in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Monthly passes for JR East lines can only be on Suica cards, while monthly passes for Tokyo Metro can only be on Pasmo cards but otherwise, the cards are functionally identical for commuters.

This agreement has since been implemented with other systems across Japan; Suica cards can now be used on JR West's ICOCA, JR Central's TOICA, and JR Hokkaido's Kitaca systems. Usage agreements on other systems are planned in the future.

Transit systems/lines usable with the Suica card include:

Other transit systems outside of the Suica system where Suica can be used include:

Mobile Suica[edit]

Since January 2006, a version called Mobile Suica has been incorporated into mobile FeliCa wallet phones by Japan's mobile operators. This system includes Java applications to manage the Suica function in the mobile phone, to recharge the Suica card stored in the mobile phone, review the stored value and perform other functions via the mobile phone. An enhancement for 2007 will allow for Suica charges to be added directly to the phone bill, eliminating the requirement to constantly add to and monitor the remaining balance.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Suica & N'EX | Fares & Passes | JR-EAST
  2. ^ Japan Railways Group - IC ‘Smart Cards’
  3. ^ http://www.jreast.co.jp/press/2009/20091220.pdf Suica、SUGOCA、nimoca、はやかけん 相互利用サービス開始日の決定について (Japanese)
  4. ^ http://www.jreast.co.jp/press/2009/20091014.pdf
  5. ^ JR East. "JR東日本:Suica>利用方法>お買い物" (in Japanese). 
  6. ^ "JR East workers use Suica cards as ID", Japan Times, 3 April 2004
  7. ^ Began operation on March 18, 2007.

External links[edit]