JR, Hankyu Smart Tickets Now Mutually Compatible

This is just one more stop on the long, slow road toward mutual compatibility in so-called high-tech Japan. JR East and West still have separate RFID tickets (Suica and Icoca respectively — click links for image character goodness), but at least they at some point became mutually compatible. Now it looks like there is some hot Private train-on-public train action going on (Abstracted from Nikkei):

Icocca, Pitapa Services Mutual Compatibility Begins, Commemorative Ceremony Held at Hankyu Umeda Station

Mutual use of JR West’s Icoca and the PiTaPa service (which despite its wacky name amazingly does NOT seem to have a cutesy image character associated with it! Oh wait, I should have known…) used on private-owned Keihan, Hankyu, and the public Osaka City Subway (Note: JR East, West, and all other regional branches of JR are also technically private but still considered separate from the 私鉄 or “private” train companies, which are in turn separate from city-owned subway lines.) became mutually compatible starting January 21. Yoshimi Taniguchi of the Kinki Transit Bureau (which collects statistics and manages licenses in addition to apparently administering an interpreter exam for tour guides) expressed hopes that such tie-ups would expand to buses and other modes of public transportation.

Customers praised the convenience of no longer having to buy a ticket when switching lines (Note: Of course, the chief benefit to regular users of both lines would simply be to no longer have to carry an extra card in their wallets…)

There are differences in the two systems, however, that complicate matters: Icoca is a pre-paid service (like Washington DC’s SmarTrip), while “post-pay” PiTaPa collects funds from bank accounts. When customers use PiTaPa for JR, they will have to revert to a prepaid system and insert funds at ticket terminals at the station.

6 thoughts on “JR, Hankyu Smart Tickets Now Mutually Compatible”

  1. PiTaPa works with JR Icoca by, if your saved-up e-money is less than a trigger threshold, next time you go through a PiTaPa gate it automatically debits your real money account by another set sum to top you up. That’s how I understand it anyway!

    I’ve not tried more complicated transactions like seeing if you can use your Icoca to pay the difference at the Hankyu Fare Adjustment machines.

    I’d also love it if I could put a Keihan season ticket onto my Icoca rather than having two cards. I cannot practically have two cards as I already have a Smart Card for my office that interferes with my Icoca; they are on separate sides of my wallet right now, so I’d need a second wallet for a PiTaPa.

    And finally, PiTaPa is Keihan, Hankyu (and some of their affiliated companies) and Osaka City Subway (including the Monorail) only – but hey, isn’t Osaka City technically public then? I’m confused!

    Anyway, since most of my travel on Hankyu is at weekends, I use books of 14-for-the-price-of-10 to get better discounts than the card can offer and stick with my Icoca for commuting only.

  2. No, I would be the confused one. I didn’t realize that PiTaPa included the Osaka city subway or any other local public transit.

  3. Is it difficult to communicate with the People in Japan if you don’t speak Japanese.
    Or do most of them speak english?

  4. Think about how many average people on the street can speak Japanese. I would say that the reverse situation is somewhat better.

    On the other hand, I’d say the average person in Japan speaks less English than in any other country I have ever been too.

  5. All in all, yes it is difficult to communicate with people in Japan if you don’t speak their language. Most of the people don’t speak English. If you’re planning a vacation there, even learning a few words will help you get around and endear you to the locals.

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