ICOCA and Suica are versatile smart cards utilized for a range of public transport services in Japan, including trains, trams, and buses. These cards are integrated into the Japan Railways (JR) smart card network offering access across the Kansai region and further.
The name ICOCA stands for "Integrated Circuit Operating CArd," highlighting its technology-based, automatic operation. In a previous article, I wrote a post about how to buy an ICOCA card. If you want to know how to buy one, you can read the article below:
For illustrative purposes, this guide will specifically refer to the ICOCA card. It's important to note that the instructions provided here are also applicable to Suica and other Japanese IC cards such as Pasmo, Toica, Sugoca, among others.
Start by locating a reload or recharge machine, which you'll usually find at train or subway stations. These machines are often bright and display symbols like IC, Suica, and PASMO. So, it's easy to identify.
These symbols also indicate which types of cards can be recharged at a specific machine. This feature is particularly useful for tourists. As ICOCA cards are issued by JR, you can generally reload them at any JR-operated station across Japan.
Currently, Japan has a system of 10 interconnected IC cards. This integration allows each card to be recharged using machines designated for any of the cards within this network. For instance, a Suica card can be reloaded at a Pasmo machine, and the other way around is also true.
Whenever you spot a machine with the "IC card" logo, it signifies that it supports top-ups for all 10 of these integrated IC cards. For a detailed list of these integrated cards, please refer to the following article. This information is essential for those using public transportation in Japan to ensure convenience and ease of travel.
After locating a machine, your next step is to select your preferred language. These machines usually offer multiple language options, including English.
Then, place your ICOCA card into the card reader. The reader is square-shaped and situated at the bottom of the screen. Wait a few moments until the machine displays the next set of instructions on the screen.
Once your card is detected, the screen will display options for reloading your balance. You can choose to add any amount ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 yen. Pick an amount that aligns with your travel plans.
After you've made your choice, it's time to insert the money into the machine. For example, if you decide to add 4,000 yen, the screen will display "Charge 4000."
And oh! You don't have to insert the exact amount, though. If you want to use larger bills like 5,000 or 10,000 yen, you can do so. Just ensure the bills are not damaged or torn, and make sure the total amount matches what is indicated on the screen.
Once you've inserted the money, wait a few seconds for the machine to complete the transaction. It's crucial not to remove your ICOCA card while the machine is still processing the payment.
When you see a message saying "Take your IC card," you can safely remove your ICOCA card from the card reader. Don't forget to take your receipt (if you want one) and any change you might have.
And voila! You've successfully reloaded your ICOCA card balance. Make it a habit to check your balance frequently to prevent it from running low during your travels. Happy traveling!
If you have any more questions or think something was left out of this article, please feel free to comment below. See you in the next article!