If you are planning a trip to Tokyo, Japan with children, this post may be for you. Especially if you may be taking a fair bit of train, be it JR or Subway services. If you have a JR pass, then this may not be necessary during the effective period of your pass.
The Suica card is a personal stored value card that can be used for public transportation. It is used similarly to the EZlink card in Singapore, or an Opal card in Sydney. Charge the card with some value, and at each gantry point, tap as you enter, and once more to exit, the deduction will be made automatically from the balance in the card.
The Suica is something I use a lot when I travel in Japan. It allows the convenience for not needing to purchase a train ticket each ride, and also a common means for payment at vending machines, stores and restaurants. Best of all, it can also be added to my iPhone or Apple Watch. (Another post about this next time.)
Now to the topic of Suica for Children. Most child fares (all that I’ve encountered so far) are 50% the price of adults. A child fare is valid for those from 6 till 12 years old. That’s a good amount of savings, and well worth the effort to get one.
Regular Suica for grown ups can be bought at designated vending machines. For child suica however, needs to be bought from the ticket office found at most JR stations in Tokyo city. You’ll need to bring along the child’s passport. I found that the staffs at the ticket office speak sufficient English for the process to be completed easily.
There is a requirement to put ¥500 deposit for each Suica card, which is pretty standard, even with adult Suica cards too.
The child Suica will be printed with the child’s name and with an added character 小, meaning “small”. To prevent abuse of the card, each time it is used, the ticket gantry will emit a bird chirp. So any adult attempting to use a child ticket can be sieved out.
Adding value to the child Suica card is the same as for an adult, can be done at the self service ticket machines, with cash.
One advantage of a registered Suica card is that in case it gets lost, it can be replaced for a reasonable fee of ¥500. Any value that remained available at the time of replacement will be transferred to the new card.
When the child comes of age, I think on the 12th Birthday, the card can no longer be used for child fare. Another quick visit to the ticket office to do a quick “promotion” of the card to a full fare Suica. The process is free and rather quick. You may need to bring the child’s passport along as well. If you don’t do this, the card cannot be used at all. Don’t worry, the stored value is not lost, it can be used again once the card has been “promoted”.
Final note, a Suica card is good for 10 years since it’s last use, so it doesn’t expire so easily. Even if so, you can do a refund anytime for a simple ¥250 fee.