As with many modern train and subway systems worldwide, Japan has introduced an IC Card system for its transportation. The IC Card has a chip inside that allows you to pass through ticket barriers with just a tap, and it is preloaded and recharged with money by you at any train station throughout Japan.
how to buy an ic card
You can buy an IC Card at any major train station in Japan. Usually, they are bought from automated ticket kiosks, which have English options.
The card will cost ¥2000: a ¥500 deposit for the card and ¥1500 to preload and use on your card for transportation.
using your ic card
Once you have preloaded money onto your IC Card, simply tap it on the glowing blue rectangle located on many ticket gates.
Be careful! The machines lined up at a ticket barrier often have different uses: some are IC Card only, some are ticket only, and some are both!
Check the remaining balance on your card as you pass through the gate in either direction; it will be displayed on the machine just past where you tapped the card.
If you have entered through a ticket gate without enough money loaded on your card to go back out, don't worry. There are machines near the ticket gates on the platform side where you can charge your card!
things to note
Different cities in Japan have different "brands" of IC Cards, but as of 2013, they are all compatible with each other.
If you change your mind after passing through a ticket gate onto a platform, simply tapping back out will not work! Please bring your IC card to a station attendant.
When leaving Japan, you can bring your IC card to a station attendant, who can return you ¥500 deposit and the remaining balance on your card. Note that if you wish to have the balance on your IC card refunded, there is a ¥220 processing fee.
You can use your IC Card to pay at many vending machines and convenience stores as well! Keep a look out for the IC card logo and a tap machine.