Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How To's #9: Enjoy the Wonders of Suica / Pasmo and Commuter Passes

How do you manage to have millions of people traveling via train in a crowded city like Tokyo?

The answer: Suica/Pasmo

These are cards that cost about 500yen($5) and can work as prepaid tickets. You scan it over the ticketing sensor and it automatically deducts yours fare amount from your card. The sensors can go through wallets and even small purses. You can use these for all ticketing booths that have a scanner.(Metro, JR, Keio, Odakyu)

Be careful not to go too quickly otherwise it won't scan and than at the next station you will have to speak with the counter person to fix your card.

I would like to state that SUICA is better than PASMO. Suica is with the JR system and Pasmo is with Keio and Metro. Suica is more than just prepaid tickets for trains and buses.

Suica can be used at vending machines, convenient stores and electronic stores. For example, at Akihabara, you can pay for many of your purchases using Suica. Thinking about buying a new laptop? got two grand on your Suica?... why not...

Granted thats an excessive example...It is still pretty convenient. In fact, many cellphones have allow you to use your cellphone as a Suica. However adding money is kind of a pain, and it might scratch up your ridiculously aesthetic j-phone.

TEIKI (定期) - Commuter Pass

The commuter pass is a must for anybody living in Japan for longer than a month. You pay a set amount for a pass that lets you unlimitedly travel between one station and another. Students gets discounts, and companies will sponsor work passes(Note: for student discount you must show your school ID). If you are neither, you should buy one anyways if you find yourself traveling to one big station all the time.

Good ones to have are ones going to Shinjuku. Since that is a big station, you will likely depart from there all the time. Having one of these allows you to freely travel back and forth between your home and wherever. So you don't have to worry about the cost if you forget your cell or something.

You can buy your commuter pass and have it as a card or you can have it directly printed onto your Suica. You can do it via machines, or speak with and attendant and "midorimadoguichi" (Translation: Green Window). You may purchase it for 1,3, or 6 months. The costs of the commuter pass will vary on distance and time frame.

It's rare... but I've heard of people getting commuter passes with the Shinkansen!(bullet trains) 0_O

What to do if you lose your Suica and thus your Commuter Pass?

I love the Japanese system! So this has happened to me once, but I was fortunate enough to have someone explain to me the system before I spent a hundred dollars on another commuter pass.

If you lose your Suica or Pasmo, go to the train office. Tell them that you dropped it (suica/pasmo wo Otoshita)... than ask what should you do..(dou sureba ii desuka?)... They should hear your accented Japanese, and proceed to help you by speaking bad English or extremely slow Japanese.

They will ask you for 500yen to buy a new card, and print the new commuter pass on it at no additional charge! How great is that!

And when you go back to your country or whatever, you can sell your Suica back to the station and return your 500yen!

Additional Information: Suica works in the Kansai area. However, it goes by ICOcard. So use any of the JR machines to add money. However, these do not work on the Hankyu line.