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Travelling Tips: Navigating Transportation in Tokyo and Osaka for Your Holiday in Japan

The Holiday Season Has Arrived, in Indonesia, the Long Holiday follows the Muslim Holiday of Ramadan, which changes every year according to the Islamic calendar. Based on the Joint Decree (SKB) of 3 Ministers Number 855 of 2024, the Eid al-Fitr Holiday in 2024 lasts from April 8, 2024, to April 15, 2024.


Are any of you planning a vacation to Japan during this Long Holiday season? If yes, let's continue reading. In this article, Merry Sensei will discuss how to use transportation in Tokyo and Osaka. Unlike some other cities in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka are large and bustling cities. Although Osaka is not as crowded as Tokyo, which is the capital city of Japan, it is still a populous city and one of the world's favorit tourist destinations.


When we travel to Tokyo and Osaka, surely we already have some destinations we want to visit. To reach these destinations, we need transportation. Understanding how to use transportation in the tourist attractions we visit will make the journey to our destination more enjoyable.


1. Types of Transportation

For example, here are transportation options from Haneda Airport to Shinjuku. Let's say we have just arrived at Haneda International Airport and want to go to a hotel located in Shinjuku, namely the "APA Hotel & Resort Nishishinjuku Gochome Eki Tower". I will provide a comparison of 3 available transportation options with commonly used transportation brands (of course, there are other brands available, but they can be asked separately).

No

Transportation

Transportation Picture

Price

Remarks

1

Taxi



10,800 Yen

Maximum 4 passengers (*Not allowed to carry large suitcases exceeding the car's luggage capacity.)

2

Train

610 Yen

Price per person

3

Bus

1400 Yen

Price per person

 

In option 1, we have the choice to use a taxi. Taxis in Japan have a rule that allows a maximum of only 4 passengers, and it's not permitted to bring oversized luggage exceeding the capacity of a car's trunk (sedan). For an estimated price, you can check the following link: [link]. Many Japanese residents opt for taxis when trains or buses are not operational, as taxis operate 24 hours a day.


Apart from taxis, we also have option 2, which is the train. In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, residents generally rely on train transportation. If our tourist destination is in Tokyo, Osaka, or nearby areas, the train might be the preferred choice. Trains in Japan are divided into two types: local trains within cities and intercity trains like the Shinkansen. Similar to taxis, the estimated train fare per person can be found via Google Maps or the official website of the train company.


Option 3 is taking the bus, which also applies a per-person fare. Buses in Japan operate in densely populated areas as well as more remote regions. However, because buses are not the primary mode of transportation for Japanese residents, their operating hours vary significantly. Some buses only run at night, while others operate during working hours. Information about bus schedules and ticket prices can be obtained through Google Maps or the official website of the bus operator.


2. Transportation for Goods or Delivery Services

When traveling, we usually don't carry large items. However, if we've just arrived from the airport, some of us might have oversized luggage or numerous items. In Indonesia, we're accustomed to using cars or online car booking services. However, in Japan, online car booking services are not as common and are relatively expensive. Instead, we'll become accustomed to using public transportation and delivery services if needed. One popular delivery service in Japan is "Yamato Yuubin" (other delivery services like "JP Post" are also available).


"Yamato Yuubin" is a private delivery service commonly used by Japanese residents, especially for sending items from the airport to their accommodation. If we want to travel from the airport to Shinjuku using a train or bus, it's more convenient without carrying oversized luggage. Large luggage or heavy items can be sent directly to the destination through the Yamato counter available at every airport in Japan. When registering for delivery, we can choose a delivery time that suits our needs. For the price of delivering goods, all delivery services in Japan use a calculation system based on the dimensions of the items. For reference on how to calculate the dimensions of items, Merry Sensei has provided the image below.




The image above provides a simulation of shipping boxed items with a total dimension of 57, categorizing the item as "コンパクト Compact" size. In the image, "Yamato Yubin" presents two price options based on the payment method. The first price, "キャッシュレス Cash Less," is a Non-Cash price of 605 Yen, while the second price, "現金 Cash," is a Cash price of 610 Yen.


3. General Knowledge of Non-Cash Payment Systems in Japan

It's evident that the Non-Cash price is cheaper compared to the Cash price in the "Yamato Yuubin" Price List. There are numerous factors contributing to this price difference, which we will discuss in another article. However, from here, we can understand that making payments using Non-Cash methods would be more advantageous when travelling in Japan.


Japan offers various types of Non-Cash or Electronic money payment methods. Depending on the destination in Japan, the types of Electronic Money Cards that can be used vary, with different restrictions or exemptions.


4. Non-Cash Card Areas by Region



The image above illustrates the electronic money card areas valid in Japan, sourced from the official website of the East Japan Railway Company. From the image, we can see that the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto, is the ICOCA area. Meanwhile, the Kanto region, including Tokyo and Chiba, is the Suica/PASMO area.


Therefore, we cannot purchase Suica/PASMO cards in the Osaka area, which is the ICOCA area. Similarly, we cannot buy ICOCA cards in the Tokyo area, which is the Suica/PASMO area.


4.1. Tokyo Area

If we arrive in Tokyo as our first tourist destination, the non-cash payment method we can obtain is the "Welcome Suica" or "Pasmo Passport" at various major stations in Tokyo and airports by presenting a passport as identification to the local attendants. Both of these cards are Electronic Money Cards similar to "Flazz, E-Money, Tapcash, etc." The difference is that these cards are not issued by banks but by the railway management companies. It's worth noting that "Welcome Suica" or "Pasmo Passport" can only be used for up to 28 days after purchase, and the balance loaded onto these cards cannot be refunded.




These electronic money cards are also available for children at a discounted card price and transportation fare. For purchasing the cards and reloading the balance, we can also use the automated card vending machines available at train stations.



The use of electronic money cards in Japan is limited to the railway lines managed by the issuer of the electronic money cards or in certain other regions in Japan that have partnered with the service.


Therefore, since the Suica area (Tokyo) has collaborated with several areas such as Kitaca, Manaca, TOICA, ICOCA, Hayakaken, and others, the Suica card can be used as a payment method in those areas. To provide more detail, Suica is accepted as a payment method at stores that accept payment methods with the logos below.



4.2. Osaka Area

If you land in Osaka as your first tourist destination, the non-cash payment option you can obtain is the "ICOCA" card. You can get it through Automated Card Vending Machines available at various major stations in Osaka and airports by providing personal information or showing your passport as buyer identification to the local attendants.

 




Unlike the Welcome Suica and Pasmo Passport cards mentioned earlier, the ICOCA card does not have a specific expiration date. The ICOCA card can be used indefinitely as long as it remains undamaged. In terms of card types, there are two variations of the ICOCA card: one for International Tourists and one regular ICOCA card. Each card type has options for adults and children. The regular ICOCA card for adults can be purchased without presenting passport identification. However, purchasing the ICOCA card for tourist adults or children, as well as the regular ICOCA card for children, requires identification or providing the date of birth when purchasing through Automated Card Vending Machines.


Similar to the Welcome Suica card, the use of the ICOCA card in Japan is limited to the railway lines managed by the ICOCA card issuer, but the ICOCA card can also be accepted in some other regions in Japan that have partnered with the service, including the Tokyo area.


5. One Type of Non-Cash Card for All Regions

As additional information, several railway lines in Osaka, Tokyo, and various areas in Japan are currently developing integrated payment systems that are unified with the Visa network. This means that train ticket payments can be made using Visa Debit Cards or Visa Credit Cards, in addition to ICOCA cards or Suica/PASMO cards, etc. For example, the Tokyo Metro and Osaka Metro railway networks already accept payments with Visa Touch for all lines within their networks. However, for JR railway lines and bus networks, there has been no official announcement regarding this matter yet.



In conclusion, the railway system in Japan can be divided into two types: the Shinkansen or high-speed intercity trains, and the local trains. The payment methods and types of trains discussed earlier refer to the local train system. Purchasing tickets for the Shinkansen or intercity trains still requires visiting ticket counters at major stations in each city.


Therefore, understanding the transportation system and the use of electronic money cards in Japan is crucial for tourists planning a trip to Osaka or Tokyo. By choosing the appropriate transportation method and understanding how to use electronic money cards such as Suica, Pasmo, or ICOCA, the journey will be smoother and more enjoyable. Additionally, with the development of integrated payment systems using Visa cards, the experience of using public transportation in Japan is becoming more convenient for international tourists. With thorough preparation and sufficient knowledge, a vacation in Japan will be an unforgettable experience. Hopefully, this information is beneficial for those planning a trip to Japan.


Of course, for readers interested in preparing for Japanese language lessons, feel free to ask Merry Sensei! With Merry Sensei, you'll discover fun and effective ways to master the Japanese language. Don't hesitate to ask questions or seek assistance in your Japanese learning journey. Let's embark on your language adventure now! 🇯🇵✨


Data Source:

  1. Welcome Suica. East Japan Railway Company. Retrieved from https://www.jreast.co.jp/multi/en/welcomesuica/welcomesuica.html on March 20, 2024.

  2. Welcome Suica (for short term use). 2022. East Japan Railway Company. Retrieved from https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/downloads/pdf/welcomesuica_e.pdf on March 20, 2024.

  3. Notice Regarding the Temporary Suspension of Personalized 'Suica' and 'PASMO' Card Sales. 2023. East Japan Railway Company, PASMO Council, Tokyo Monorail Co., Ltd., Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit Inc. Retrieved from https://www.jreast.co.jp/press/2023/20230731_ho02.pdf on March 20, 2024.

  4. Pasmo Passport. PASMO. Retrieved from https://www.pasmo.co.jp/visitors/en/about/ on March 20, 2024.

  5. ICOCA. JR-West. Retrieved from https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/howto/icoca/ on March 20, 2024.

  6. Kansai One Pass. JR-West. Retrieved from https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html on March 20, 2024.

  7. Commencement of Ride Service Pilot Project Utilizing Credit Card Touch Payments in 2024 Fiscal Year. 2023. Tokyo Metro. Retrieved from https://www.tokyometro.jp/news/2023/216086.html on March 20, 2024.

  8. Gradual Introduction of Ticket Gates Compatible with QR Codes, Visa Touch Payments, and Facial Recognition for Osaka-Kansai Expo. 2023. Osaka Metro. Retrieved from https://subway.osakametro.co.jp/news/news_release/20230213_touch_kessai_kaoninsyou_kaisatsuki.php on March 20, 2024.

  9. Yamato Transport to Increase Fares and Fees Starting October, with Different Amounts for Cashless and Cash Payments. 2019. IT Media Business Online. Retrieved from https://www.itmedia.co.jp/business/articles/1909/05/news115.html on March 20, 2024.

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