Can I use Suica Card to ride the Shinkansen in Japan?

We have been asked similar questions many times: Can I use Suica card to ride the Shinkansen in Japan? It’s a mystery for many first-time visitors to Japan or even those who are familiar with Japan. Some say yes, while others say no. Now, all you need to do is spend a few minutes reading this article, and you will surely find an answer.

 Updated on July 1st, 2024 Japan discontinued the sale of registered/unregistered Suica and registered/unregistered Pasmo cards on June 8, 2023, and August 2, 2023, respectively.
As of January 12, 2024, foreign tourists can purchase unregistered Suica cards (the green regular version) at JR East Japan Travel Service Centers (駅たびコンシェルジュ) located in Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, or Ueno stations.
Buying A Suica card in Tokyo: Suica Card Revival from 2024?
The red Welcome Suica card, exclusively for visitors to Japan, is sold at Haneda Airport Terminal 3.
Can I Use ICOCA Card in Tokyo? Is ICOCA Accepted in the Kanto Region?
Suspension of Suica and Pasmo Physical Cards: Use Mobile Suicafor Cardless Travel

Can I Use Suica Card to Ride the Shinkansen in Japan?

Let’s start with the conclusion.

If you don’t use services like “Touch de Go! Shinkansen,” “Shinkansen e-ticket,” or “SmartEX service” provided by JR companies, then you cannot use a Suica card to ride the Shinkansen. You must purchase a paper ticket.

In fact, this has been a question even among Japanese residents. Many Japanese people have complained about why they can’t use Suica cards, ICOCA cards, or other IC cards to ride the Shinkansen. In recent years, JR companies have gradually introduced additional methods to use IC cards for Shinkansen travel. However, due to various restrictions, purchasing a paper ticket is the simplest and least error-prone option for foreign tourists who visit Japan, are unfamiliar with the railway system, and may not speak Japanese.

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If you were just looking for an answer to the question “Can I use a Suica card to ride the Shinkansen in Japan?” then you can stop here. The answer is that without any additional procedures, you cannot use a Suica card. Please purchase a paper ticket.

You may also want to read: Japan Shinkansen Ticket Purchase & Riding Guide – A Must-Read for First-Time Visitors

Methods for using Suica to ride the Shinkansen

Next, we will introduce some recently introduced methods in Japan that allow you to use IC cards, including Suica, for train travel. If you find the following explanations confusing or overwhelming, it’s best to forget about using an IC card and simply purchase a paper ticket to ride the Shinkansen.

JR Company Jurisdiction

In Japan, the railway network is operated by several JR (Japan Railways) companies, each with its own jurisdiction. Here are the major JR companies and their respective areas of operation:

  1. JR Hokkaido: Hokkaido region
  2. JR East: Eastern Honshu region, including Tokyo and Tohoku
  3. JR Central: Central Honshu region, including Nagoya and Shizuoka
  4. JR West: Western Honshu region, including Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima
  5. JR Shikoku: Shikoku region
  6. JR Kyushu: Kyushu region

(Picture From JR Rail Pass

 

 

Company NameAliasTheme ColorLocationMain RegionShinkansen
 Hokkaido Railway CompanyJR HokkaidoJR logo (hokkaido).svgMoe Yellow(Grass)Hokkaido, Sapporo CityHokkaido, Northern Aomori PrefectureHokkaido Shinkansen
East Japan Railway CompanyJR EastJR logo (east).svgGreen(Forest)Tokyo, Shibuya WardTohoku, Kanto, Hokuriku, Eastern Shizuoka PrefectureTohoku Shinkansen, Joetsu Shinkansen, and Hokuriku Shinkansen (east of Joetsu-Myoko Station)
Mini Shinkansen: Akita Shinkansen, Yamagata Shinkansen
Central Japan Railway CompanyJR CentralJR logo (central).svgOrange(Pumpkin)Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya CityTokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka via Kyoto Prefecture, Linear Chuo Shinkansen, Southern Nagano Prefecture, Southern Yamanashi Prefecture, and Western Kanagawa PrefectureTokaido Shinkansen, Chuo Shinkansen (under construction)
West Japan Railway CompanyJR WestJR logo (west).svgBlue(Ocean)Osaka Prefecture, Osaka CityHokuriku, Kansai, Chugoku Region, Fukuoka PrefectureSan’yō Shinkansen (entire line), Hokuriku Shinkansen from Jōetsumyōkō Station to Tsuruga Station (section from Jōetsumyōkō Station to Kanazawa Station is already open, section from Kanazawa Station to Tsuruga Station is scheduled to open at the end of 2023)
Shikoku Railway CompanyJR ShikokuJR logo (shikoku).svgAqua(Sky)Kagawa Prefecture, Takamatsu CityShikoku——
Kyushu Railway CompanyJR KyushuJR logo (kyushu).svgRed(Scarlet)Fukuoka Prefecture, Fukuoka CityKyushuKyushu Shinkansen, Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen (from Takeo-Onsen Station in Saga Prefecture to Nagasaki Station in Nagasaki City, opened on September 23, 2022)

(Table From  Wikipedia:JR

Please note that all the IC card services mentioned below are only valid for use within their respective applicable areas.

Touch de Go! Shinkansen

Get on a Shinkansen anytime with your Suica! Touch de Go! Shinkansen for Tohoku, Akita, Yamagata, Joetsu, and Hokuriku Shinkansen.

Touch de Go! Shinkansen is a new feature launched by JR East in 2020. It allows passengers to board Shinkansen trains without the need to buy a ticket in advance or make a reservation. You can ride just like you would a regular train, using an IC card.

It’s simple to use. Just register your IC card on the Touch de Go! Shinkansen service, and you can board Shinkansen trains within the JR East area without needing to buy a ticket. You can even register your card at a regular ticket machine.

Service area map for Touch de Go! Shinkansen

Image source: About Touch de Go! Shinkansen

However, there are several restrictions. You cannot use Touch de Go! Shinkansen for the following sections:

Example: Sections involving Morioka Station (e.g., Sendai to Oomagari, Ichinoseki to Shin-Aomori) Example: Transferring at Fukushima Station from Tohoku Shinkansen (towards Shiroishi-Zao) to Yamagata Shinkansen (towards Yonezawa)

Image source: About Touch de Go! Shinkansen

  • Sections involving Morioka Station (Tokyo ⇔ Shin-Aomori, Tokyo ⇔ Akita, Shin-Aomori ⇔ Akita)
  • Sections involving Fukushima Station (Tokyo ⇔ Shinjo)
  • Transferring at Fukushima Station and traveling from Shiroishi-Zao ⇔ Yonezawa
  • Transferring at Omiya Station and traveling from Oyama ⇔ Kumagaya
  • Transferring at Takasaki Station and traveling from Annaka-Haruna (west) ⇔ Jomokogen (east)
  • Transferring at Echigo-Yuzawa Station and traveling from Urasa ⇔ Gala Yuzawa

If you are traveling only between Fukushima and Shinjo on the Yamagata Shinkansen, or between Morioka and Akita on the Akita Shinkansen, you can use Touch de Go! Shinkansen.

Since all trains between Morioka and Shin-Aomori, Morioka and Akita, and Fukushima and Shinjo have reserved seats only, if your travel is within these sections, you can use Touch de Go! Shinkansen and sit in a regular reserved car. However, if your journey includes even one station outside these sections or crosses sections, you cannot use Touch de Go! Shinkansen.

For journeys between Sendai and Morioka, you can use Touch de Go! Shinkansen to board regular reserved cars on “Hayabusa,” “Hayate,” and “Komachi” trains.

Shinkansen e-Ticket

Shinkansen e-Ticket, or Eki-net, is a service offered by JR East. You can register your Suica, Pasmo, or other IC card on JR East’s online reservation service, Eki-net, and purchase Shinkansen tickets online. When you board the train, just swipe your registered IC card to read your e-ticket and board the train.

Although Shinkansen e-Ticket is also a service by JR East, unlike “Touch de Go! Shinkansen”, it involves advance ticket purchase, so it has fewer restrictions and can be used to buy Shinkansen tickets for non-JR East trains as well.

One important thing to note is that if you purchase paper tickets for the Sanyo Shinkansen or Kyushu Shinkansen (which run west of Osaka and on the Kyushu Island) through the Shinkansen e-Ticket website, you can only collect them from JR East, JR Central, JR Hokkaido stations, or JR West stations along the Hokuriku Shinkansen route, located east of Osaka.

Smart EX Service

Smart EX Service is a new feature launched by JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu. After registering for free and linking your credit card, you can reserve and purchase Shinkansen tickets in advance. These tickets can then be linked to your IC card, and you simply swipe your card to read the ticket and board the train.

Smart EX Service is limited to the areas managed by JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu.

Even though Smart EX Service is not a JR East service, you can still use it to purchase Shinkansen tickets and link them to your Suica card. This includes both physical Suica cards and the more popular Mobile Suica used on smartphones.

Summary: It Is Recommended to Purchase Paper Tickets

If you do not use services such as “Touch de Go! Shinkansen,” “Shinkansen e-ticket,” or “Smart EX Service” provided by JR companies, you cannot ride the Shinkansen with a Suica card alone. You will need to purchase paper tickets.

However, if your travel falls within the applicable range of “Touch de Go! Shinkansen,” “Shinkansen e-ticket,” or “Smart EX Service,” you can consider using these services and ride the Shinkansen with IC cards, including Suica, provided you carefully check the applicable range or purchase tickets in advance online.

Nevertheless, the simplest and least complicated method is still to directly purchase paper tickets for the Shinkansen.

 

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