One of the most often seen Japanese mascots is the Suica mascot, a cute penguin designed by a well known artist, Sakazaki Chiharu.
Suica 「スイカ」 means “watermelon” in Japanese, but is actually an acronym for Super Urban Intelligent Card and, like the name says, it is a RFID smart card that was launched by the East Japan Railway Company in November 2001.
Suica can be used on almost any train, bus or metro system in the greater Tokyo area and also on some lines in Sendai and Niigata, Hokkaido, Tokai, West Japan and Kyushu. It can be used also for vending machines, coin-operated lockers, taxis and some chain stores (you will see the logo displayed).
The initial payment for the Suica card is 2000 yen, which includes a 500 yen deposit (so the remaining 1500 yen can be used) and it can be charged to a maximum of 20000 yen.
It can be bought at the card vending machines from the train stations and it is available for 10 years after the last use, but few will probably be used for so long, since the latest trend is the Mobile Suica, a service that allows the usage of mobile phones - so the cards will soon be replaced by applications…
Travel Tip: My Suica card was the first thing I ever bought in Japan!
It was part of the Suica & N’EX package, available only for foreign visitors, a package that includes a Suica combined with a one or two-way ticket for Narita Express, and includes an attractive discount.
Plus, this version of Suica features a special design, you can see a picture of mine on the Travel tips article I wrote 2 years ago… And it happened to me several times to be asked by Japanese travelers about my unusual Suica…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: