Traditional Obon decoration at Horinouchi Myohoji temple symbolizes the returning souls of departed ancestors.
Tokyo Obon starts today July 13th and lasts until the 15th. Obon of itself is a time for visiting graves and welcoming ancestors back to the family altar, but the actual temple ceremony commonly held during Obon is Osegaki.

The English Wikipedia entry for Osegaki is much less helpful, and less accurate, than the Japanese language entry. Suffice to say that in this day and age of Japanese Buddhism, Osegaki is simply a way for temple members to offer prayers and offerings to their departed loved ones out of respect and gratitude, and the hope that their souls, and the souls of all beings living and departed, are free from suffering.


Apple Pay Japan 8 Months in: Winners and Losers


Japanese IT journalist Junya Suzuki continues his excellent coverage of all things contactless and Apple Pay Japan. In his latest piece for Business Insider Japan he looks at the contactless payment market changes and winners 8 months after the Apple Pay Japan launch.

As indicated before, JCB and their QUICPay network are the clear winners. JCB has been the most aggressive supporter of Apple Pay from the start, QUICPay and JCB card brand member growth has been ‘off the chart’ at 25% and 10% YOY respectively. Suzuki san doesn’t mention VISA but I suspect that many former VISA card users like myself, have switched to JCB as Japanese VISA cards do not fully support Apple Pay.

JCB also paved the way for Apple Pay Japan by rolling out QUICPay+ just before Apple Pay launched. QUICPay+ supports debit and prepaid cards in addition to credit cards, and also removed the 20,000 JPY spending cap of QUICPay.

JCB also shared a very interesting data point with Suzuki san, once Japanese users switch from physical cards, three credit cards on average, to Apple Pay they use it a lot: a 60% monthly usage rate which Suzuki san says is very high for the market.

Apple Pay Japan still faces some challenges. Apple needs to add remaining major transit cards and vendors need to add full Apple Pay support (Suica, QUICPay, iD), not just Suica. With the possibility of FeliCa support going worldwide with the next iPhone, the growing impact of Apple Pay Japan should be very interesting.

The Last Showa Store On Shopping Street

The Showa era was officially over when the Showa Emperor passed away in 1989. Current Showa era nostalgia is post-war baby boom Showa running from the early late Fifties to early Eighties. Real Showa era shops are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate as mom and pop retire and shutter the family store.

One last Showa store still graces the Asagaya Pearl Center Shopping Arcade: Saito Convenience Store. Most days the Saito store is shuttered but when Mr. Saito is in the mood, he opens the store and rolls out an eccentric display of senbei rice crackers and vinyl umbrellas (on rainy days).

The last photo shows Saito Convenience Store in fading Showa glory: stylish multi-color hiragana signage, lonely looking senbei bags on a display cart, vinyl umbrellas and a Honda Super Cub delivery bike parked in front. You can’t get more ‘last Showa standing’ than this. In an era of chain stores sweeping away the last vestiges of mom and pop, I hope Mr. Saito will be around for years to come.

Suica Apple Pay Card Deposit Refunds


When you purchase a physical Suica card from a JR East station ticket machine, the minimum purchase price is ¥1,000. ¥500 goes to the Suica ‘card deposit’, the remaining ¥500 goes into the Suica card SF (Stored Fare) balance. When you add a physical Suica card into Apple Pay, iPhone 7 reads and transfers the SF balance into Suica Apple Pay, your plastic Suica card is no longer usable.

What happened to the ¥500 Suica card deposit? Thanks to Japanese twitter users we now have an answer: when your Suica Apple Pay balance runs down to zero, JR East automatically refunds your ¥500 physical card deposit, charging your Suica Apple Pay balance. Nice.


The Suica That Refreshes

The JR East Suica penguin character is a clever sly cultural reference to pre-war, and post-war, European remarks that Japan is an island full of ‘busy little penguins’. Laughing at oneself instantly disarms negative comments from another. Laughing together cures all. I love the Suica penguin.

QUICPay+ vs. QUICPay


スクリーンショット 2017-07-05 19.46.05
au Wallet PrePaid on the left limits you to the QUICPay+ network, regular au Wallet Credit Cards on the right can be used on both QUICPay and QUICPay+ networks.
The arrival of au Wallet PrePaid in Apple Pay introduces a small wrinkle in the Apple Pay Japan mix for store purchases. The prepaid card exclusively uses the QUICPay+ network. It is almost the same as the regular QUICPay network but adds support for debit and prepaid cards. It also removes the 20,000 JPY spending cap of QUICPay.

Basically you cannot use au Wallet PrePaid for gas stations, taxis, and Don Quijote. Check the full list on the QUICPay site. Look for stores with the little Q+ mark, which covers most of them.