We have been asked similar questions many times: Can I use a 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.
Starting from June 8, 2023, Japan will suspend the sales of anonymous Suica and anonymous Pasmo cards, with no specified date for resumption. As an alternative, passengers can choose to purchase ICOCA within the Kansai area or opt for Welcome Suica.
Suspension of Sales for Suica and PASMO Cards
The Red Suica Card: “Welcome Suica” for Foreigners Visiting Japan
Can I use a 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.
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.
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:
- JR Hokkaido: Hokkaido region
- JR East: Eastern Honshu region, including Tokyo and Tohoku
- JR Central: Central Honshu region, including Nagoya and Shizuoka
- JR West: Western Honshu region, including Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima
- JR Shikoku: Shikoku region
- JR Kyushu: Kyushu region
（Picture From JR Rail Pass）
(Table From Wikipedia：JR ）
Please note that all the IC card services mentioned below are only valid for use within their respective applicable areas.
「タッチでGo!新幹線（Touch de Go!Shinkansen）」
“Touch de Go! Shinkansen” is a new feature introduced by JR East in 2020. It allows passengers to ride the Shinkansen without purchasing tickets in advance or making reservations, similar to using an IC card for regular trains.
The usage is simple. By registering your IC card with “Touch de Go! Shinkansen,” you can directly use your card to ride the Shinkansen within the designated areas specified by JR East, without the need to purchase a separate ticket. Registration can even be done at regular ticket machines.
However, there are several limitations to this feature. The following cases are not eligible for this service:
- When crossing Morioka Station (between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori, Tokyo and Akita, and Shin-Aomori and Akita)
- When crossing Fukushima Station (between Tokyo and Shinjo)
- When transferring at Omiya Station for travel between Oyama and Kumagaya
- When transferring at Fukushima Station for travel between Shiroishi-Zao and Yonezawa
- When transferring at Takasaki Station for travel between Jomo-Kogen and Annaka-Haruna
- When transferring at Echigo-Yuzawa Station for travel between Urasa and Gala Yuzawa
For the Yamagata Shinkansen, it can be used for travel between Fukushima and Shinjo, and for the Akita Shinkansen, it can be used for travel between Morioka and Akita.
For travel between Morioka and Shin-Aomori, Morioka and Akita, and Fukushima and Shinjo, all trains operate with reserved seating only. However, if you travel within the same section, you can use vacant seats in the reserved seating cars.
If you travel between Sendai and Morioka with stations in between, you can also use vacant seats in the reserved seating cars of the “Hayabusa,” “Hayate,” and “Komachi” trains.
The “Shinkansen e-Ticket” is a service introduced by JR East. By registering your Suica/Pasmo card or other IC cards in JR East’s online reservation service called “eki-net,” you can purchase Shinkansen tickets as e-Tickets. Then, you can simply tap your registered IC card at the ticket gate to board the train.
The “Shinkansen e-Ticket” is also limited to the jurisdiction of JR East, but unlike “Touch de Go! Shinkansen,” it does not have as many restrictions because it involves purchasing tickets in advance.
「スマートEXサービス（Smart EX Service）」
The “Smart EX Service” is a new feature jointly launched by JR Tokai, JR West Japan, and JR Kyushu. After free membership registration and linking a credit card, users can make advance reservations and purchase Shinkansen tickets using their credit card. The purchased tickets can then be linked to their IC card, and they can simply tap their IC card to board the train.
The “Smart EX Service” is limited to the jurisdiction of JR Tokai, JR West Japan, and JR Kyushu.
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 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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