Tokyo metro to trial tap-and-go credit cards

Train travel in and around Tokyo is going to be easier for visitors.

By David Flynn, August 31 2023
Tokyo metro to trial tap-and-go credit cards

Tokyo’s elaborate railway network has sometimes been described as a colourful bowl of soba noodles, but at least hopping on and off the subways will be made easier as Japanese rail companies roll out ‘contactless’ station gates which work with credit and debit cards.

The move will finally see Tokyo catch up with many other cities around the world, including recent convert Hong Kong.

It comes as sales of the convenient rechargeable Suica and Pasmo cards have been largely halted due to the ongoing global semiconductor shortage, although the tourist-oriented Welcome Suica and Pasmo Passport cards remain available.

(You can also add a digital Suica or Paso card to the Apple Wallet on your iPhone or Apple Watch via the Apple Wallet’s Transit Card feature, although there’s currently no Google Wallet equivalent.)

Tokyo Metro, the larger of the city’s two private ‘subway’ systems – carrying a staggering 6.84 million passengers per day – will begin trialling credit and debit cards for tap-and-go travel on some lines in the coming months, according to news service Nikkei Asia.

The private Tokyu network, which includes commuter rail lines in the Greater Tokyo area, plans to begin rolling out the same technology on its Den-en-toshi Line from Shibuya, with the aim of expanding it across all lines by mid-2024.

There’s no word yet on if Japan Rail, especially Tokyo-based JR East, intends to join the push, although that would seem inevitable.

The JR-backed Suica platform is used not only for train travel but has become a near-ubiquitous part of daily life in Japan, being accepted at everywhere from convenience stories to vending machines, along with retail meccas Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera.

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