Tag Archives: Travel planning

How to buy a Suica card

Train travel in Japan can be intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, the sky’s the limit! Yes, you can purchase an individual fare ticket, but life is so much easier with the Suica card. It is a re-loadable card that allows you to simply scan the card at the station, and it will deduct the money as you exit at your destination, just like a debit card. Here’s how you do it in a few easy steps!

2015-06-25 10.06.35

STEP 1 Find a ticket machine at the station with the Suica banner above. (Not all machines sell new Suica cards.)

2015-06-25 10.07.06

STEP 2 In the top right corner of the machine, there will be an “English” button, first select that, then choose the blue button titled “purchase new Suica”.

2015-06-25 10.07.47

STEP 3 Select the middle button titled Suica. (NOT the one called My Suica).

2015-06-25 10.07.55

STEP 4 Select how much money you would like to load onto the card. (Keep in mind, the purchase of the Suica card is Y500, so that will not count towards your balance.)

2015-06-25 10.08.08

STEP 5 Insert your money (cash only) into the proper slot at the bottom of the machine.

2015-06-25 10.05.09-1

And your card will dispense from the slot below. It’s that easy! (Remember, losing your card is just like losing cash, you will not be refunded any balance.)

2015-06-25 10.11.25

You are good to go! Approach the turn style with the green “in” arrow.

2015-06-25 10.11.33

Place your card directly over the blue window and the gate will open. And that’s it!

***Don’t forget- this card is re-loadable. To check your balance, simply insert your card into any machine, and it will display your balance. Then, add more yen if needed.

A children’s Suica card is also available for purchase, but you must go to the window with the child’s passport and purchase directly with an agent, since children travel at half fare. Not every station sells children’s cards , but depending on which side of base you live on, Akishima (at Moritown mall),  and Haijima,  are the closest options.2015-06-25 10.14.08

***Children under 6 years of age do not need train fare. Simply swipe your own card and walk through the turn style together. There is usually a wider lane with no turn style doors for strollers or wheel chair use. (The rules regarding children’s fares can be a bit confusing, but 6 years of age is when the child is considered school age, therefore needing train fare.The Japanese school system begins in April, so if your child turns 6 prior to April, 1st of the current year, you must buy a card. If your child turns 6 after April of the current year, you are good until the next April. Hope that makes sense!) Jamie Cowan, June 2015.

Japanese National Holidays

Watch out for these dates at you plan your travels, because they are official holidays in Japan and you’ll be traveling with the throng.

January 1 – New Year’s Day
Second Monday of January – Coming of Age Day
Feb 11 – National Founding Day
March 20 (or 21) – Vernal Equinox
April 29 – Showa Day
May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day
May 4 – Greenery Day
May 5 – Children’s Day
Third Monday of July – Marine Day
August 11 – Mountain Day
Third Monday of September – Respect for the Aged Day
September 22 (or 23) – Autumnal Equinox
October 10 – Health and Sports Day
November 3 – Culture Day
November 23 – Labor Thanksgiving Day
December 23 – The Emperor’s Birthday

Japan has several seasonal vacations when children are out of school and companies close down. These are periods of heavy travel. Prices increase and hotel rooms are in short supply. On the other hand, these are great times for sightseeing around Tokyo since everyone else is out of town!

New Year’s break: Many merchants and companies close around December 28 and reopen about January 5. Governments and banks take a shorter vacation, from about the 3lst to the 3rd.
Summer vacation: School summer vacation runs from about July 19 to around September 1. Watch out for O Bon, usually the week of August 15 but held in some places in mid-July, when Japanese often travel to their hometowns to be with family and friends.
April and “Golden Week”: Japanese schools break for two to three weeks in April, when their academic year ends. This often coincides with the American spring break.  Then, from the end of April to the beginning of May, there is a period known as “Golden Week.” It incorporates three national holidays: April 29 (Green Day), May 3 (Constitution Memorial Day), and May 5 (Children’s Day). Companies often give employees the days between the holidays off. Since the weather tends to be good, many Japanese visit resorts, or travel abroad.
During the summer and winter holidays, especially at the beginning and end of the mass exoduses to the beach or ski resorts, stay home! Listen to the news to find out when the outgoing and return traffic rushes are expected and avoid travel during those times. Teresa K. Negley 2010