When it comes to transportation cards in Japan, the Suica Card is a household name that everyone knows. The cute Suica penguin on the Suica card has even been made into various peripheral products. However, many people have also heard that the Suica card is widely used only in the Kanto and Tohoku regions of Japan, and the Kansai/Western Japan region uses another card called ICOCA. So, can you use Suica in Osaka? Can Suica be used in the Kansai region led by Osaka?
Using Suica in the Kansai Region and Osaka
You Can Use Suica Card Throughout Japan
|JR Hokkaido||Kitaca Area|
|JR East||Suica Area|
|Private railways and buses in the Tokyo metropolitan area||PASMO Area|
|JR Central||TOICA Area|
|Nagoya City Transportation Bureau / Nagoya Railway||manaca Area|
|JR West||ICOCA Area|
|Private railways and buses in the Kansai area||PiTaPa Area|
|JR Kyushu||SUGOCA Area|
|Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau||Hayakaken Area|
|West Japan Railway Company||nimoca Area|
As the title of this article suggests, you can use Suica for transportation in any area of Japan that accepts IC cards, including the Kansai region. The table above shows the areas covered by various transportation cards in Japan, such as Kitaca, Suica, PASMO, TOICA, manaca, ICOCA, PiTaPa, SUGOCA, and nimoca. You can use Suica or other IC cards to ride public transportation in these areas.
However, there are still some train stations in Japan that do not accept IC cards, including some sections of lines such as the Kyoto Tango Railway, the Kishu Railway in Wakayama Prefecture, and others. In these cases, it is recommended to purchase paper tickets instead of using IC cards like Suica to ride the train.
Generally, major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, as well as their suburbs, support IC cards like Suica. However, if your travel itinerary includes other regions, it’s best to search in advance on Google to check whether the train stations you will use support IC card usage.
Suica can be used for travel in the ICOCA and PiTaPa areas in Kansai
If Osaka is your travel destination and you happen to have a Suica card, you don’t have to worry. This Suica card can help you travel on all Osaka tram routes. In addition to Osaka, you can also use Suica to travel on all tram routes in the Kansai metropolitan area that can use ICOCA and PiTaPa. In addition to riding through ticket gates, most stations on these routes also support using automatic top-up machines within the stations to top up your Suica card.
ICOCA is a card issued by JR West, which is equivalent to Suica in the Kansai region. PiTaPa is an IC card for taking private railways, buses, and JR trains in the Kinki region of Japan, and can be regarded as the Pasmo card for the Kansai & Kinki region. These two cards basically cover all the routes in Kansai. According to the rules applicable to all IC cards, Suica can also be used for travel in the ICOCA and PiTaPa areas.
Suica can be used as an electronic wallet in Osaka
As mentioned earlier, Suica can be used for travel on all routes in the ICOCA and PiTaPa areas. Correspondingly, Suica can also be used for shopping in the Kansai region.
If you see a store with the following sign, you can use Suica to shop at that store.
However, if you are using a transportation card to purchase goods in a store, you need to pay attention to whether the card reader is for a specific card type. For example, as mentioned in the above image, PiTaPa affiliated stores cannot use Suica.
For example, although you can use your Suica card to ride on non-JR subway and monorail lines in Osaka, when using Suica to shop, you may encounter PiTaPa-specific card readers and not be able to use your Suica card to make purchases. This is something that you should be aware of.
Using Suica in Kansai Region: Things to Keep in Mind
Note: Suica cannot be used for Cross-Region travel.
If you plan on using an IC card for transportation when visiting cities in the Kansai region of Japan, such as Osaka and Kyoto, there is an important point to keep in mind. You cannot use your IC card for cross-region travel. This means that you cannot use Suica, Pasmo, ICOCA, or any other IC card for travel between different regions.
JR’s regional division
It’s important to understand what is meant by cross-region travel. Most of Japan’s long-distance railways were previously owned by Japan Railway (JR), including the famous Shinkansen. However, due to various reasons, the company was privatized and divided into seven companies: JR East, JR West, JR Central, JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku, JR Hokkaido, and JR Freight. Sometimes these seven companies are collectively referred to as the JR Group.
Except for JR Freight, the six other companies have divided Japan’s JR railway network into six regions, with each company being responsible for the railways in one region. This is illustrated in the map above. The table below, taken from Wikipedia, provides more information on these six companies:
Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu are three islands that belong to different regions in Japan. However, if you are not familiar with the regional divisions in Japan, it may be difficult to distinguish the three companies on Honshu Island. Therefore, you can also distinguish them based on the cities connected by their railway lines.
From left to right (west to east): JR West [Osaka] – JR Tokai – [Tokyo] JR East.
Cross-Region Train Travel
If your itinerary involves routes from two or more regions, then we’re sorry to say that you can only purchase paper tickets for your train travel.
- Travel from JR Tokai region to JR West Japan region: Suica cannot be used
- Take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka: As it crosses three regions, namely JR East Japan, JR Tokai, and JR West Japan, Suica cannot be used
- Travel from Osaka to Okayama, Hiroshima and other areas: As they all belong to the JR West Japan region, Suica can be used
Generally speaking, for long-distance travel across regions, you need to purchase paper tickets instead of using your transportation IC card directly. However, when purchasing tickets, if you choose an automatic ticket machine or a ticket counter that supports transportation IC cards, you can still use Suica to purchase paper tickets.
There is one exception: If you travel from a Suica region (usually JR East Japan region) to a TOICA region (usually JR Tokai region) using a commuter pass within the validity period, you can cross regions with the commuter pass. However, if you are a tourist traveling in Japan, it is unlikely that you will purchase a commuter pass. Therefore, just remember that you cannot use your transportation IC card for cross-region train travel.
No Automatic Recharge Available
One inconvenience when using Suica in Kansai region cities like Osaka is the inability to use automatic recharge.
- Automatic recharge available for Suica: stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo and the surrounding six prefectures where Suica and Pasmo are widely used), and some stations in Sendai and Niigata
- Automatic recharge not available for Suica: all other stations outside of the above-mentioned areas, including the Kansai region
If you are used to automatic recharge in the Tokyo metropolitan area and then come to Osaka, you may find it inconvenient. In Tokyo, you do not have to worry about having insufficient balance on your Suica card, but in Osaka, you might be stopped at the ticket gate if you forget to recharge your card in time.
However, if you do get stuck at the station because of insufficient balance, you can go to the ICOCA settlement machine and recharge with cash.
Introduction to Suica Card by JR East Japan
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