ICOCA is a handy railway IC card issued by JR West.People could use it only for the JR line before, but these days the card has been made available for most main railways in Kansai*, such as the city subways, Hankyu, Hanshin, etc. and buses too. It can also be used in other areas in Japan as well, such as Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Hiroshima and so on.
*Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Kyoto, and Wakayama
You can purchase ICOCA card at a ticket vending machine at any JR station. The initial minimum charge amount is 2,000 yen (500 yen for the card deposit + 1,500 yen transportation fare).
To use the card, you just need to scan it at the gate at the little screen. You can get through the gate if you have more than 9 yen on the card in Kansai area, but the minimum fare is needed in Kanto (Tokyo) area (Kansai area is more generous).
You can top up the card at a charging machine and adjustment fare machine inside the gate or at a ticket vending machine. When you ride an express train (特急), you can use ICOCA to purchase an express ticket if it’s an ICOCA-compatible area.
You can get a deposit refund when you no longer want to use the card, at a ticket counter called “Midori no Madoguchi” (it has a green signboard) at any major JR station. 210 yen for the commission fee of the refund is deducted from the balance, but the rest of the balance and the 500 yen deposit will be refunded. If the card has less than 200 yen, the commission fee will not be deducted.
Nowadays ICOCA can be used even at some vending machines and convenience stores so there are a plenty of occasions to use the card.
The expiry date is 10 years from the last day you have used the card, so you can keep the card until you come back to Japan next (hopefully you’ll come back again soon!)
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