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Mobile Suica

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Name in Japanese: モバイルSuica (MOBAIRU Suica)
Of interest to: Residents
Coolness: Very cool
Utility: Extremely useful!
Cost: Charges may apply

If you live in Tokyo, chances are you've already heard about Suica. Simply put, it's JR East's transport pass. Instead of buying a ticket to use the trains, buses or subway in the Tokyo area, you can use Mobile Suica on your Osaifu Keitai and breeze through the ticket barriers. Mobile Suica has several advantages over a Suica card. First and foremost, you can recharge your credit from your phone (if you have a credit card). You can also purchase Green Car (first class) tickets and buy Commuter Passes - all on your phone.

Mobile Suica also works in the ICOCA (Kansai) area, albeit only on the JR lines. In Tokyo, Mobile Suica useable on the PASMO (bus and subway) network.

Things To Know

Requirements: A mobile phone with Osaifu Keitai capabilities. Your mobile phone plan must allow data transfer. To recharge your credit directly from your phone, or to be able to purchase Green Car tickets and Commuter Passes, you must have a credit card.

Costs: Registration is free but you may be charged a yearly fee if you do not have a JR East View card. The yearly fee will not be more than ¥1,000 a year. Recharging your credit is free. The Mobile Suica application accesses the Internet and you may be charged for data transfer.

Availability: Registration is available to anyone. Check the Mobile Suica website for a list of stations and shops which accept Edy. Shops accepting Mobile Suica will have the Suica logo on the door or window, as well as a sensor near the till.

Trivia: The Suica mascot is a Penguin, often seen holding or balancing on a watermelon. This comes from the fact that "Suika" is "watermelon" in Japanese.

How To Get It

First of all, you have to decide how you will use Mobile Suica. If you don't have a credit card, you can use Easy Mobile Suica. This service is limited; you can't buy Green Car tickets or Commuter Passes, and to charge up your credit you need to visit a Newdays or Family Mart convenience store. Even if you don't have a Japanese credit card, it's worth seeing if yours will work with the service. If you want to use Easy Mobile Suica, skip ahead to the download section.


You should first register your details with the Mobile Suica website.

Once there, click on the first link from the top to start registration. On the next page, you can click on the second link if you have already registered with JR East's "Eki-net" website. Otherwise, click on the first bullet-point link to continue. Next come the terms and conditions. Select the button on the right to accept and continue.

On the next form you will have to first select you mobile phone operator (NTT DoCoMo, au or Softbank), then your phone's model. If your phone is not listed, then it isn't compatible with the Mobile Suica service. Select the button on the right to move on.

Next is the form itself. Please consult the annotated images of the top half and bottom half of the form. Once done, press the button on the right to continue to the confirmation page. If you get an error instead, make sure you used the correct type of character when inputting data. All Japanese characters should be written with your system's IME, and in full-width characters. All other data should be input without the IME.

Once you have confirmed that your data is correct on the confirmation page, select continue to finish the registration. You should receive an email confirming your registration soon.

Downloading & Installing

You must now download the Mobile Suica applet to your phone. To do this, simply scan the barcode on the Mobile Suica website. You will be taken to the mobile website where you can press the download button. Please note that NTT DoCoMo users have to download two applets. All other users only need to download one.

Once you have downloaded the main applet, run it to install it. Please note: unlike other Osaifu Keitai applications, you cannot delete Mobile Suica once it's installed. Make sure you really want to use this service before installing it. If in the future you wish to have it deleted, you must get your phone formatted by your operator.

Once the applet is running, the login screen will appear. Type in your phone's e-mail address and the PIN you chose earlier during registration. Then select 1 (login) to continue. If you want to use Easy Mobile Suica (you don't have a credit card), then select 2 to register. The registration form you will be presented with is similar to the PC version above, except for the fact that before the form you will be asked if you want to register a credit card (option 1) or not (option 2).

Once you have registered or logged in, you may get a screen asking you if you want to convert an existing Commuter Pass to Mobile Suica. If you don't have one, select 2 to finish.

How To Use It

Thankfully, once it's set up, you will never have to input any more personal information again! From now on, the applet will go straight to the main menu, where you will be able to see how much credit you have.

Recharging Credit

If you don't have a credit card registered (and are therefore using Easy Mobile Suica), then you have to go to a convenience store that accepts Suica, like Newdays in JR stations. Just tell the cashier, "Suica ni CHAAJI shite kudasai". Hand over the amount you want to recharge by, and place your phone over the flashing sensor. when asked to. It will beep and show the remaining credit on the display if everything goes well.

If you did register a credit card and are using the full Mobile Suica service, then select option 2 from the main menu ("SF"). You will be asked for your PIN for security. Input it and then press 1 to login. From the menu which follows, press 1 again to charge. Now input the amount of money you would like to charge. You can input any amount between ¥1,000 and ¥10,000. The maximum amount you can hold on your phone is ¥20,000. Press 1 once you're happy with the amount. You will get a confirmation page. Check your amount and then press 1 again to start charging. The Suica penguin will roll around your screen for about a minute while your credit is being charged. You will get a final confirmation page once it's finished.

Using Credit

When using the public transportation system, first of all make sure that your chosen line or bus route actually accepts Suica or PASMO. Especially in the suburbs of Tokyo, not all trains or buses have the readers installed. When getting on a train, just hold your phone over the green or blue Suica/PASMO sensor until the light goes out and the gate beeps, letting you through. The screen will show you how much credit is left. If the sensor turns red and the gate does not open, check your credit and try again. Don't "swipe" your phone over the sensor, just make sure the FeliCa logo on your phone is directly over the gate's sensor and touch them together, if necessary. JR East recommends you give the sensor at least 1 second to read your phone's chip. You'll also need to touch your phone again on your way out. Also, don't forget that you can use the priority Suica-only ticket barriers.

On buses, touch your phone to the sensor next to the driver. It should be blue, but the sensor's light turns off if it is not used in a few minutes. It should light up as you bring your phone close, beeping and confirming you've paid your fare. There is no need to touch it again upon leaving the bus.

On a vending machine, first select your drink by pushing its button. Then hold your phone over the machine's Suica or PASMO sensor. It will beep and your drink will be dispensed. You can also just bring your phone to the sensor to see how much credit you have on the machine's display.

In a shop that accepts Suica or PASMO, just tell the cashier, "Suica de, onegaishimasu" when it's time to pay. Then hold your phone to the flashing sensor to complete the transaction.

Extra Tips

- If it has either a Suica or PASMO logo on it, you can use your phone with it. This includes vending machines, lockers, and even advertising posters!

- Remember that you can't use the ticket machines to recharge your credit or check your balance. You have to do everything via the Mobile Suica applet.

- Mobile Suica can be used in the Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto region, but only on certain JR lines. It won't work on any private railways or subways.

- Mobile Suica can be used with Sony's "PaSoRi" FeliCa reader for Windows PCs. The SFCard Viewer application can be used to check detailed usage reports. New Sony computers come with a PaSoRi sensor built-in.

Coming Soon: Mobile Suica - Advanced Usage!


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Name in Japanese: 電子マネー「エディ」 (Denshi MANEE Edy)
Of interest to: Residents
Coolness: Very cool
Utility: Very useful
Cost: Free (Data charges may apply)

Used by an ever-growing list of retailers, Edy is Japan's most popular e-money service. It's available in both RFID Card and Osaifu Keitai form, although this guide will focus on the Osaifu Keitai incarnation. Both simple to set-up and use, it's the perfect way to shop without having to lug around a wallet.

Things To Know

Requirements: A mobile phone with Osaifu Keitai capabilities. Your mobile phone plan must allow data transfer. To recharge your credit directly from your phone, you must have one of the credit cards listed on the Edy website.

Costs: Registration is free and there are no maintenance costs. Recharging your credit is free. The Edy application accesses the Internet and you may be charged for data transfer.

Availability: Registration is available to anyone. Check the Edy website for a list of shops which accept Edy. Shops accepting Edy will have the Edy logo on the door or window, as well as a sensor near the till.

Trivia: Edy actually stands for "Euro, Dollar, Yen" - even though the service is currently only available in Japan and only works using the Yen.

How To Get It

The Edy application comes pre-installed on NTT DoCoMo phones. On au and Softbank, you may have to find and install it yourself. You can download the application by scanning the barcode on the Edy website.

edy_setup1.jpgWhen you run Edy for the first time, you will be asked to activate the service. No personal information is required, the Edy service will simply assign your phone with a serial number. Select 1 to continue.

edy_setup2.jpgOccasionally, Edy will run special promotions for new registrations. In this case, Edy are offering 100 yen free when you register. If there are no promotions at the time you register, you may not see this screen. In any case, select 1 to continue.

edy_setup3.jpgIn this screen, you have to accept the terms and conditions of the service. Select 1 to confirm your registration.

edy_setup4.jpgThe Edy application will connect to the Internet and activate your Edy account. This may take a minute or two. Once it's finished, your Edy number will appear on the screen. Although you won't need it for normal usage, it's useful to keep a record of it in case something happens to your phone and you want to recover your balance.

Once registration is over, you can start using it immediately.

How To Use It

Using Edy is a lot easier than setting it up - not that setting it up is very difficult! As with any Osaifu Keitai application, Edy works even when your phone is switched off, and there is no need to even access the Edy application again.

Charging Credit

The simplest way to put money onto your phone is to visit a shop or use an automatic charging machine.

If you go to a shop, they accept Edy and allow you to charge your credit, simply tell the cashier, "EDY ni CHAAJI shite kudasai", give them the money, and place your phone over the flashing sensor. If everything goes to plan, the sensor will tinkle (Edy say their sensors go "shariiin").

If you manage to find an automatic charging machine, first place your phone onto the flashing sensor. The lights will turn steady and your current balance will appear on the display. Insert your money and press the green button to charge. Several models of chargers exist. Some let you press a button to specify by how much you want to charge, others require you to press the green button to charge every time you insert a banknote. The sensor will tinkle every time the charge is successful. Once you're happy with the amount charged, you can press the blue button for a receipt.

In both cases, you can now open the Edy application to confirm that the charge was successful. The main menu of the Edy application displays your current balance in big numerals.

Charging by credit card requires filling out a registration form. Unfortunately, my credit card (Citibank) is pretty much the only one NOT accepted by Edy, so I can't provide a setup guide just yet.

Using Credit

Paying by Edy is quick, painless and convenient. Whenever you're in a shop that takes Edy as payment and it's time to pay, just tell the cashier, "EDY de onegai shimasu". When the Edy sensor starts flashing, put your phone on top of it until is tinkles. There's no need to "swipe" it, and there's no need to physically touch the sensor either. Make sure that the FeliCa logo on your phone is facing the sensor. It'll usually work up to 1-2cm away from it.

Extra Tips

- Edy can be used with Sony's "PaSoRi" FeliCa reader for Windows PCs. The Edy Viewer application can be used to check detailed balance reports, receive Edy Gifts, transfer money (Edy to Edy), as well as recharge credit via a credit card. New Sony computers come with a PaSoRi sensor built-in.

- Some shops may offer you certain rewards for using Edy with them. You may occasionally receive cash gifts from these shops. You can receive these gifts by using the "Edy Gift" option from the Edy application's main menu (option 3).

Osaifu Keitai

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Name in Japanese: おサイフケータイ (Osaifu Keetai)
Of interest to: Residents
Coolness: Quite cool
Utility: Very useful
Cost: High

One of the first things anyone buys when living in a new country is a mobile phone. Unfortunately for most people coming to live here, Japan's mobile phone network is largely incompatible with the GSM standard currently used elsewhere. Additionally, Japanese phones are heavily tied to their operators and their services. If you switch operators, you will have to buy a new phone too.

When buying a new phone, one feature to look for above all other is the "Osaifu Keitai" feature. Phones bearing this logo have an integrated Sony FeliCa RFID chip, which allows the user to access various services. Some of the most popular include e-money payment services, transport passes, and point cards. Osaifu Keitai literally means "wallet-phone", and it can indeed replace many of the cards already in your wallet!

How To Get One

osaifukeitai_felicalogo.jpgIf you already have a mobile phone, you might already own one! Look to see if you can find this logo somewhere on your phone's casing. It's usually on the back, underneath the camera. If you can't find this logo, or if you don't already own a mobile phone, you'll have to buy a new one.

All three of the major carriers have Osaifu Keitais. NTT DoCoMo and au have the widest range, while Softbank currently don't have a good selection. Another thing to note is that most services are only available for NTT DoCoMo, with au having an excellent selection and Softbank once again having a limited selection.

Apart from the cost of a new phone, the actual feature is free to use. Individual services may have additional subscription costs and may require data transfer to install and maintain. Actually using the chip does not incur any costs.

How To Use

In order to be useful, you will need to install a specific service. Here are some of the most popular, along with their usage guides.

Shopping/E-Money: Edy, iD, Nanaco
Transport: Mobile Suica, JAL, ANA

In order to access previously-installed applications, check your phone's Java application folder. NTT DoCoMo call them "i-appli", au call them "EZ-appli", and Softbank call them "S! appli".

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