Coming to Tokyo and looking for the best way to get around the city? Good news for visitors: two of Japan's leading public transport operators have released special-edition IC transportation cards with Japanese-inspired designs.
Offered by JR East, the new Welcome Suica card features a classic design of cherry blossoms on a red background. It's available with prepaid amounts ranging from ¥1,000 to ¥10,000. Pasmo's version of the tourist transportation card, on the other hand, is called the Pasmo Passport and it features world-famous Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty posing in front of iconic landmarks in Tokyo and Japan, including Mt Fuji and Tokyo Skytree.
If you find it cumbersome carrying around coins, this is the perfect way to travel cashless. Just like any regular Suica or Pasmo card, these tourist-edition cards are reloadable and can be used to pay fares on all trains (except shinkansen), buses and metro lines, as well as to make purchases at conveniences stores, vending machines and selected shops and restaurants that accept IC cards.
There's no discerning difference between the two cards in terms of usage. The only exception is that for Suica, there is no upfront deposit; you have to purchase a stipulated prepaid amount to start. Meanwhile, you can get a Pasmo card with an initial amount of just ¥2,000, which includes a non-refundable issuing fee of ¥500.
You can reload both cards with more credit as and when needed at train stations nationwide. These cards also offer deals and discounts at selected attractions (check their respective websites for details).
However, do note that these cards can only be used for 28 days, after which they become invalid. But hey, the designs make them a cool memento to remember Tokyo by. Welcome Suica can be purchased at JR East Travel Service Centers, Narita and Haneda airports, as well as major train stations in Tokyo. Pasmo Passport is available at Narita and Haneda airports as well as select train stations across the capital.