Suica Sounds and What They Mean

Mobile Suica and Transit Gate Sounds

When you pass through transit gates in Japan they make a beep. Everybody knows that but did you know the number of beeps have different meanings? There are 5 basic patterns:

  • 1 beep means the transit gate used your Suica Commute Plan
  • 2 beeps means the transit gate used your Suica SF balance (stored fare)
  • 1 long continuous beep is an error that means the Suica SF is insufficient to pay the fare and needs to be recharged, or your Suica commute plan is expired and needs to be renewed
  • 5 very quick beeps means that Apple Pay Suica or Mobile Suica (Android) had a misread and might need to be tapped again (iPhone X Suica problem devices get this a lot)
  • The dreaded bing-bong sound is a full error that requires an attendant: wait for the gate to clear and try again or see the station gate attendant

In my iPhone X Suica problem video you can hear the 1 beep commute plan sound, the 2 beep SF transit sound and the 5 beep misread sound patterns. Listen carefully near the end to catch the 2 beep SF sound as iPhone X finally clears the gate, at the very end a bing-bong error sounds in the background from a nearby gate.

There are 2 extra Suica gate sound notifications that you can set in Suica App > Notification Sounds:

The extra Suica App notification sounds are:

  • 2 long beeps when Suica commute plan validity is less than 14 days and needs to be renewed before expiration (Suica commute plans at the gate are normally single beep)
  • 3 beeps when SF balance is ¥1,000 or less. Store readers support this sound too not just transit gates, and is quite convenient.

Both of these sounds are different from regular gate beeps and catch your attention, which is the whole point. Here is a video with the 2 long beep Suica commute plan expiration warning:

Suica sounds are just one of the many FeliCa feedback sounds used by the different payment networks (iD, QUICPay, WAON, nanaco, etc.). Suica sounds might seem trivial but they are well thought out: the sound itself, light but firm, insistent yet unobtrusive, it carries exceptionally well in noisy station gate areas.

Suica gate sounds provide important feedback for users and station staff, and especially the visually impaired. Tune in and you hear what’s going on with your Apple Pay Suica card. Tune out and the Suica sounds fade seamlessly into the background, yet are there at a moments notice.