Japan Visitor: What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007



In the not so distant future, paying with cash in Japan may be the equivalent of wearing a fedora. Unlike the United States, though, credit cards are not going to make cash transactions rare; rather, it is prepaid cards.

suicaThe Financial Services Agency (FSA) is now considering giving approval for eMoney transactions to include both money transfers--now limited to banks and financial institutions--and the ability to convert the balance of a prepaid card into cash.

There are currently four major prepaid cards in Japan: Edy, Suica (at left), ICOCA (below right), and PASMO.

Edy has 28 million subscribers and can be used at Circle K convenience stores.

Suica is JR East's rechargeable smart card that can be used JR lines in Kanto, Kansai, and Sendai, and on all subway lines and buses in the Tokyo metropolitan region. There are 20 million cardholders.

ICOCA is JR West's answer to Suica, and it is used primarily in Kansai--Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara--but can also be used in the capital as well. To date, 2.9 million cards have been issued.

icocaThe final card, PASMO, is a rechargeable smart card used on all train and bus transport in the Tokyo metropolitan region. 3.3 million cards have been issued.

The three transport cards can all be used at many convenience stores.

This month, two more cards enter the market: nanako and WAON. The former debuted on the 23rd and is good for use at the 22,000 7-11 stores in Japan. WAON will be issued on April 27, and can be used at the 23,000 AEON stores.

These cards promise to make using dirty old bills so 2007.

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