Are Japan’s Transportation Cards at Risk of Going Extinct?

Unseen Japan
4 min readJun 8, 2024

IC transportation cards are an easy way to get around Japan. But five companies in Kumamoto say they can no longer afford to accept them.

Picture: yu_photo / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

By Jay Allen

They’re handy and convenient, and you can even buy groceries with them. Japan’s Integrated Circuit (IC) transportation cards are one of the things that make travel anywhere in Japan easy. However, recently, several local bus and transportation companies said they simply can’t afford to continue supporting the system that enables them. What does this mean for the future of IC cards — and for your next trip to Japan?

The IC card system

IC transportation cards started as an electronic system for boarding transit systems such as subways and buses. There are around 50 IC cards throughout Japan, each serving a particular region of Japan. The cards are all powered by the same technology — the FeliCa IC chip developed by Sony Corporation.

However, Japan’s transportation system is a complex network of public and private railway and bus systems. Thus, some level of interoperability among these cards and the networks that…