Touch and Go Shinkansen for Suica

Touch and Go Shinkansen service is limited to certain routes and destinations

One of the current limitations of Japanese IC transit cards like Suica is they have a daily storage limit of  ¥20,000. Suica will not accept more than that. Transit cards were conceived way before the arrival of smart connected devices and were designed for local area transportation.


This is part of the reason why systems like Mobile Suica and smartEX have a separate Shinkansen e-ticket that piggybacks on Apple Pay Suica and Mobile Suica. Wouldn’t it be nice to just touch and go Apple Pay Suica for Shinkansen travel just like regular trains with no special ticket purchase?

This is exactly what JR East is doing with their new “Touch and Go Shinkansen” service starting April 1, 2018. Touch and Go Shinkansen for Japanese transit IC cards still has to deal with the ¥20,000 balance limit and only offers certain routes and destinations from Tokyo that fit within that limit, and is only good for non-reserve seats.

This is convenient but the real test will be how much of a discount stingy JR East will offer. Pricing is still being cooked but the example Touch and Go fare discount from Tokyo to Utsunomiya was a measly ¥200. If JR East wants people to use Touch and Go on a regular basis they’ll have to do better than that.

On the plus side, JR East said they are working with the other transit card partners to remove the ¥20,000 limit by April 1, 2019 when JR East plans to unveil their own smartEX like service. It would be very nice to have real Touch and Go Shinkansen with Apple Pay Suica  without limits, and better discounts.


Samsung Pay Nabs HK FeliCa Smart Octopus with December 14 Launch (U)

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There were many rumors recently that Apple was in discussions with the Hong Kong Octopus Cards Limited (OCL) operator to bring the Octopus smart transit card to Apple Pay. Octopus is based on FeliCa technology and a natural fit with Global FeliCa built into iPhone X, iPhone 8 and Apple Watch Series 3 for an Apple Pay Suica-like service in the Hong Kong market.

However the latest unconfirmed report today says that Samsung has inked an exclusive deal to bring Octopus to Samsung Pay starting in January 2018 on Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and S8. Hopefully we’ll find out details soon.

However Samsung Pay has beaten Apple Pay to the punch, South China Morning Post has the details:

the minimum amount to add through the so-called Smart Octopus system will be HK$300 and there will be a 2.5 per cent service fee. The service will be available from December 14 for users of Samsung’s latest smartphones, Note 8, S8 and S8+.

The official Smart Octopus press release says service starts 9 am local time.

It will be interesting to see what exactly Samsung is bringing to the party and if they are providing any backend cloud services for a fast rollout. An independent locally operated cloud backend for Smart Octopus will be important for providing the same service to other Android phones and Apple Pay at a later time.

That said it’s great that Hong Kong transit is finally getting mobile smart card service that Japan has had since 2008. Hopefully it will rapidly expand to include other Android devices and Apple Pay.

Update: Hong Kong readers are saying that local reports are true. Looks like Apple Pay lost out on Hong Kong transit. A video announcement says Smart Octopus on Samsung Pay starts December 14.

egword Universal 2.1 Open Alpha v304


Monokakido‘s Hirose san is busy cranking out egword Universal 2.1 updates with new versions coming every few days, now up to v304.

It’s a great tool for beautiful Japanese vertical text layout. My only wish is for an iOS iPad version with robust iCloud Drive support so I can easily move from device to device. I’m pretty sure Hirose san is planning to add that as soon as he can.

Give it a test if you have time and send feedback.

Suica App EX Reservation

Chi-san finally rides the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Okayama with just Apple Pay Suica on Apple WatchMy smartEX quick review explained the differences between smartEX and EXReservation services and noted:

An interesting point is that JR Central has spent extra time and resources working with JR East to make EX interoperable with Apple Pay Suica and Suica App. This is strange when you consider that neither JR Central’s own transit card TOICA, nor JR West’s ICOCA have a Mobile Suica-like smartphone version ready to deploy on Apple Pay.

EXPress Reservation-Suica App chartI breezed past the October 23 Suica App update that added Apple Pay Suica – EX Reservation interoperability and assumed it was the same EX-IC + Transit IC Card arrangement used by JR Central EX users .

That was a mistake. I should have paid more attention because there were far too many Japanese twitter users celebrating the arrival of Apple Pay Suica – EX Reservation interoperability. Then I stumbled across an excellent post on Another Dimension by Chi.

Chi waited 10 years for the October 23 Apple Pay Suica – EX interoperability startup and his post outlines the long winding road up to his maiden Okayama ~ Tokyo Shinkansen trip with just Apple Pay Suica. Without a EX-IC card. That is what Apple Pay Suica users were all excited about, parity with Android Mobile Suica – EX Reservation interoperability that has been in place for years.

EXPress Reservation with Mobile Suica/Apple Pay Suica
Register Apple Pay Suica in the Suica App EXPress Reservation menu as your “EX-IC” card

Joining the EX Reservation via Suica App registers Apple Pay Suica as the “EX-IC” card for travel on JR Central and JR West Shinkansen lines with just Apple Pay Suica. This is exactly the same as smartEX but with the much bigger EX Reservation discounts. A single Shinkansen trip with EX Reservation discounts pretty much covers the annual ¥1,080 membership fee.

Suica App Sign Up
The Suica App sign up process is not difficult but requires decent Japanese reading ability, patience and a JR East View Card already registered in Suica App. With that in place and your 4 digit View Card PIN number on hand, tap the Suica App View Express menu, then tap View Express Register.

The View Express Register section will instruct you to enter 3 digits of your PIN number in a random order.

Once View Express Register is successfully completed wait 2 weeks for JR Central to send your View Epresss EX Reservation IC card.

JR Central IC
EX IC Card for View Card

After receiving your View Express IC go to Suica App and tap EXPress Reservation. Every time you tap this menu you are bumped to Safari and have to tap the agree-service connect button near the bottom. After tapping the button you are taken to the mobile EXPress Reservation login site.

Tap the text line just below the orange login banner that reads: “Mobile Suica users accessing EXPress Reservation for the first time touch here.”

This takes you through a quick registration process where you enter an email address and receive a mail with a special smartphone registration link. Tap that then enter your View Card number/expiration date and a password. When completed you receive an EXPress Reservation member ID.

Smarter than smartEX
An interesting and important difference from smartEX is that registration via Suica App automatically enters your Apple Pay Suica ID with the EX system and updating is easy if your Suica ID changes from a re-install, etc. smartEX requires a manual update if the Suica ID changes and is easy to forget.

Once registration is complete use the EX App for JR Central – JR West Shinkansen ticket reservation and purchase. Be sure to login EX App with your Express Reservation member ID and password via the Express Card option.

If you ride JR Central – JR West Shinkansen lines more than 1~2 times a year and have a View Card, EX ticket discounts are worth registration via Suica App EXPress Reservation.

iOS 11.2 Suica Notification Bug

Many more Japanese users are tweeting about the iOS 11.2 Apple Pay Suica Notification bug mentioned yesterday and appears to be widespread. Suica “gate flicker”, a momentary bad gate read or complete re-read, is also a problem for iPhone X users.

Here’s what I have found so far.

  • Not Working: Suica Notifications for Transit, Recharge, Transactions
  • Working: User set Suica Reminders for low balance and commuter pass renewal
  • Suica Help Mode, device restart, deleting and re-adding Suica in Wallet does not solve the problem
  • Apple Pay Suica works normally with all transactions correctly logged in Wallet.

I’ll post any updates and workarounds here.