The Mobile Suica user agreement shopping rules section states that the card can be ‘locked’ if not used for set period of time “as determined by the company (JR East).” Although the period of time is not stated this means that if you do not use Apple Pay Suica for 6 months it locks and cannot be used for shopping and transit until you unlock it.
This is inconvenient for occasional inbound visitors to Japan who might not know about the 6 month Suica lockout and try to use it. There are 2 ways to unlock a Suica that has not been used for 6 months.
- Recharge Suica with Apple Pay (any small amount will suffice)
- Ask a station agent to unlock your Suica: put your iPhone in Service Mode then hand it to the agent
From the Apple Using Suica page :
You might need to have a station agent service your Suica card in Apple Pay. If you do, put your device into Service Mode before you hand it to the station agent:
On your iPhone, open Wallet, tap info icon, then open Service Mode.
For your Apple Watch, remove it from your wrist, enter the passcode to unlock it, and double-click the side button. Then, select your Suica card, firmly press the screen, tap Service Mode, and ask the station agent to hold your Watch with the display facing down.
Update: a reader reports says that you do not have to put the device in Service Mode, just hand it to the JR East station agent and they’ll unlock your Suica.