The Sad State of Apple Pay Suica Guides

Now that tourists are back in Japan it’s time to take a look at the state of Apple Pay Suica English language guides. Since AtaDistance is mostly one big Apple Pay Suica (and Apple Pay PASMO and soon to land Apple Pay ICOCA ) guide site, it’s also helpful to examine other guides in case I’m missing something. My basic stance is one size does not fit all. The more guides that are out there, the better. But with conditions: is the guide accurate, is it up to date, easy to understand, and so on.

You might not realize it but the Apple Pay Suica landscape has changed quite a bit since the 2016 launch on iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2. At the time Suica was limited to Japanese models and plastic Suica card transfer to Wallet. Suica App was the only way to add a digital card. Here’s what has changed:

  • 2017: Global NFC support in all iPhone 8 / Apple Watch Series 3. Any model sold in any country can add and use Suica.
  • 2018: Express Transit Mode Cards with Power Reserve. iPhone XS/XR and later iPhone models all support Express Transit Mode Power Reserve, if the iPhone battery drains too far, Power Reserve mode kicks in and you have up to 5 hours of reserve battery to complete your transit. As regular non-Shinkansen Suica transit is limited to 2 hours from gate entry, 5 hours of Express Transit Power Reserve is more than enough to get you to the exit gate.
  • 2019: iOS 13 Wallet now has direct Suica add card support in Wallet. No more Suica App nonsense.
  • 2021: iOS 15 Wallet now has a region free add Transit Card category. No more device Region switching to Japan to add Suica or PASMO nonsense.

User guides are like underwear and socks, if not changed regularly, they stink. Be wary, most of the Apple Pay Suica guides out there are stinky outdated guides with obsolete and confusing information…road kill you must steer around. Let’s take at look at some and grade them using the trusty old US school report card format (A=excellent, B=good, C=fair, D=poor, F=fail).

  1. Apple Support Add a Suica or PASMO card to Apple Wallet (Grade: A+), the gold standard go to guide for adding Suica and PASMO. Not flashy or fancy but always up to date.
    Apple Support Use Suica or PASMO cards on iPhone or Apple Watch in Japan (Grade: B+), almost great but docked a notch for outdated Suica App information (Suica In App Shinkansen eTickets were eliminated in 2020).
  2. Japan Living Turn Your iPhone or Android into a Mobile Suica/PASMO IC Card (Grade: A-), a good iPhone guide, but as the majority of short term visitors don’t have an Osaifu-Keitai Android device, that part is less guide, more wishful thinking.
  3. GaijinPot How to Use a Mobile IC App (Grade: F), not only obsolete and incorrect when it was created in 2020, a lousy Suica App guide to boot.
  4. Travel Codex How to Add Your Japanese Suica Card to iPhone 8 or iPhone X (Grade: D), outdated plastic only Region changing nonsense, nothing about adding digital Suica.
  5. Tokyo Cheapo Setting up a virtual (mobile) Suica card in Japan (Grade: F), a cheapo worthless guide as the writer had no idea what they were writing about, mashing together Wallet and Suica App into one confusing mess.
  6. GaijinPot YouTube How To Use PASMO & SUICA with an iPhone For Commuting in Japan (Grade: D) decent guide for getting plastic Suica but still serving up confusing mobile information “some iPhones cannot be used” and so on, why not just say iPhone 8 and later? Garbage content creation.
  7. Smart Japan YouTube How to add transit card in your iphone (Grade: D), plastic narrated non-guide for transferring a plastic Suica. Not helpful.
  8. Automation Fixation YouTube Using Suica with iPhone and Apple Watch without Apple Pay (Grade: B+) Well done helpful video that covers all the basics with an unfortunate focus on transferring plastic Suica and cash recharge because the creator only has a VISA card. It’s important to remember that foreign issue VISA cards don’t for recharge because VISA, not JR East, is blocking them, use Mastercard or AMEX instead.

Other blogs with outdated or confusing Suica guidance to avoid: Swiss Mac User, Shutterwhale, Tap Down Under, Kevin Chen, HIS Malaysia, Hiroshi Sensei, and How to ride trains/busses cashless in Kansai that references the long dead SuicaEng app, but since it also references AtaDistance I have your ass covered. Long story short: most Apple Pay Suica guides are one offs that content creators tossed out and forgot about, vacuumed up by search engine bots. Use the Apple Support pages, they are easy to understand, guaranteed up to date and localized in many languages. You can’t go wrong. And if you want a deep dive into the Mobile Suica universe, there’s always my up to date user guides.

That said, even though the Apple Pay Suica side is very hit and miss, there are some fine Transit IC • Suica video guides focused on the plastic side. I highly recommend: SUICA CARD JAPAN | What’s the BEST CARD for TOURISTS? How to BUY-USE-TOP UP? JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDE as it covers the background and basic differences of choosing regular Suica or Welcome Suica.

Another handy guide is How to charge Mobile Suica with coins. Personally I only use Apple Pay Recharge and JR East station recharge kiosks, convenience stores, recharge ATMS only take paper bills. You’ll have to search but most non-JR East stations seem to have a mobile friendly recharge kiosk that takes coins. Handy for keeping your real wallet nice and slim.

JR West announces Apple Pay ICOCA

With the successful launch of Mobile ICOCA (2023-03-22) on Osaifu Keitai Android, it’s time to think about Apple Pay ICOCA that was formally announced today (2023-04-17) as coming ‘this year’, possibly in October to align with iOS 17 though there is no technical reason preventing a launch on iOS 16. It all depends on how quickly Apple tests and qualifies ICOCA for Apple Pay, and how badly JR West wants to launch.

And believe me, Apple Pay ICOCA needs to launch sooner than later because JR West will never achieve their stated goal of 5 million Mobile ICOCA users without Apple Pay. However the ICOCA service menu on Apple Pay will be different than Suica or PASMO. Apple Pay Suica works out of the box without Suica App or registering an account. Apple Pay ICOCA however, will require ICOCA App and a registered WESTER ID. Let’s take a look.

Apple Pay ICOCA Wallet native features or ICOCA app?
The Mobile ICOCA app for Osaifu Keitai Android allows registered WESTER users to add a new ICOCA, transfer a Mobile ICOCA card from another device, reissue a Mobile ICOCA (from a lost or damaged device). The key point is that: only registered WESTER ID users can create and add a Mobile ICOCA card. No plastic card transfers to mobile are allowed because they include unregistered cards bought at a station kiosk. Does this means ICOCA will not have native Apple Wallet add card support like Suica and PASMO? Technically transit cards added natively in Wallet are ‘unregistered’ cards, but in reality they are registered to the Apple ID. A careful reading of JR West’s carefully worded Apple Pay ICOCA announcement states, “you can add your ICOCA card to Wallet.” JR West is playing it carefully, it might be native Wallet add, or transfer plastic card add. We won’t know until service details are released, but releasing a different and more limited service than Apple Pay Suica or PASMO won’t wash well with vocal Kansai area users.

If JR West goes the WESTER only route, we’ll have the Japanese version of HOP or Ventra. When you take a look at the transit card list in Wallet for the United States you’ll notice that Chicago Ventra and Portland HOP are not listed even though they appear on the Apple support page: Where you can ride transit using Apple Pay. This is because even though these cards can be added to Wallet, they have the same limits Mobile ICOCA does: only registered cards can only be added from an app, plastic card transfers to Wallet not supported.

JR West is doing this because they are positioning Mobile ICOCA on Android as part of the JR West WESTER portal service for points, eTickets, and more. You have to have a WESTER ID to add and use Mobile ICOCA. Why? I suspect it has to do with the end of paper ticket coupons, the old reliable buy 10 get one free. These were incredibly popular in the JR West Kansai area and said to be one of the reasons why it took so long for ICOCA to go mobile. Having WESTER and Mobile ICOCA as one package deal means JR West has the mobile equivalent of paper ticket coupons in place using WESTER point rewards.

JR East’s focus on the other hand, is all about growing the Mobile Suica user base with JRE POINT as an option that adds value to being a Mobile Suica user. Yes JRE POINT and Suica offer the mobile equivalent of paper ticket coupons too, but the JR East service ecosystem is messy. Users have to register and juggle separate accounts for Mobile Suica, JRE POINT, Eki-Net, VIEW CARD and so on. JR West is shoehorning all of their services into one WESTER ID to streamline everything and make it easier for users.

Full embrace of Apple Pay drives growth
One of the very nice things about Suica is that anybody can add it to Wallet and recharge it with Apple Pay credit cards. Apple Pay Suica Commuter Pass users can also renew passes in Wallet directly. Will ICOCA have the same? The announcement suggests so, a good sign because if JR West keeps Apple Pay at arms length and restricts all recharge and commuter pass renewal to ICOCA app, there will be no add money button in Wallet and no recharge with Apple Pay. This is what we see with Apple Pay Ventra and Apple Pay HOP: card issue, recharge, commute plan renewal is all restricted to registered account users in the iOS app. This kind of recharge limitation is a huge pain for Apple Watch users. We won’t know for sure until JR West releases clearly outlined service details.

JR East achieved 20 million Mobile Suica users because of their full embrace of Apple Pay and unregistered Mobile Suica cards. Users can add and use Suica on iPhone and Apple Watch right out of the box without a Mobile Suica account or an app. It just works. It’s the deal same for Mobile Suica on Garmin, Fitbit and Pixel Watch. The Mobile Suica service ecosystem may be messy, but it works on a huge variety of mobile devices.

The JR West approach is streamlined but does risk reducing the potential Mobile ICOCA user base by restricting it to WESTER ID account holders and ICOCA App. Little details like full Wallet support makes all the difference. It all comes down to business choices: JR West wants WESTER ecosystem users, JR East wants Suica users, but how much does JR West want Mobile ICOCA users? If JR West closes the door to unregistered Mobile ICOCA on Apple Pay and Wallet recharge, Kansai users who don’t need commuter passes or WESTER points will use Mobile Suica. Actually, they already are.

This post was originally uploaded 2023-03-23, it has been updated and reposted with the official Apple Pay ICOCA announcement and will be updated as new service details are released.

Hope Vampires

Now that Tokyo Yamanote line train cars have replaced most of the ad poster spaces with display screens showing endlessly looping silent video commercials, catchy slogans are more important than ever. Most of the ads seem to be plastic surgery for gals and body hair removal for guys. There are also spring seasonal ads serving up companies enticing new university grads to come work and create a future that finally puts to rest the ‘lost 30 years’. Maybe it’s a black joke playing off a cultural trope but the context it references isn’t funny.

Excuse me but the so called Japanese ‘lost decade’ turned into the ‘lost 20 years’, and is now the ‘lost 30 years’. 20 years from now Japan will be dismissed as the country of that ‘lost 50 years’ with no future. Excuse me again for saying this is all bullshit, created and sustained by the media because it’s catchy copy for whatever Japan story they want to write.

Having lived and experienced the Japanese bubble economy firsthand, it was incredibly destructive of culture values. Everything went out the window in the pursuit of money. And when the money went poof, what was destroyed couldn’t be rebuilt. Anybody who thinks the Japanese bubble era is the high bar that Japan can never live down if it can’t live up to that surreal standard…is out of their mind.

So ask yourself something: who benefits when the people of Japan are never allowed to feel good about themselves, their country, or their future, living in a constant barrage of western media messaging, amplified by the domestic media, that says, “you are a nation of has beens”?

It’s a form of mind control that Japanese who fought in the war and witnessed how the game of defeat played out in the postwar world order put in place the GHQ, were intimately familiar with: Japan must be destroyed from the inside so that the people never have the confidence to claim forbidden subjects like the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are war crimes against humanity that the United States must compensate the people of Japan for.

That will never happen of course. The United States is like my older brothers: they never say sorry. More importantly even when they say sorry, they never do sorry. And while the ‘lost XX years’ cultural trope that media uses to define Japan may not appear to be on that level, it is worse: it robs younger generations of hope. To me that’s not only a sin, it’s also self defeating. Like a curse that rebounds and goes back to originator, hope denied in others is denied in you. One of the central teachings of Nichiren Shonin is that if you want peace and prosperity for yourself, you must pray for the peace and prosperity for others first. That’s another way of saying, if others around you are full of hope, hope comes to you too.

Refurbishing classic Japanese text for the digital age

One of my favorite work tasks is bringing classic Nichiren Shu Japanese texts into the digital age so they can be translated easily or republished using the latest print technologies for paper and ebooks. Before a title goes into production there are essential steps of obtaining the basic text in digital format, if any exists, and exploring archives for definitive published Showa era sources to double check digital text integrity. Exploration is spelunking into the past to find people connected with the original production process, however remotely, and tease out helpful details: are there any production materials, was it all analog, is there any digital content to work with, and so on.

When helping to bring Senchu Murano’s wonderful Lotus Sutra English language translation back to life, I was heart broken to learn that after months of searching, the original production materials had been destroyed when the printer closed the business only a year earlier. Fortunately there was already a team working on recreating all the English text (over 120,000 words with lots of transliterated, diacritical heavy Pali vocabulary) in desktop computer word processing software. However, when the project finally entered into the primary layout stage I quickly discovered that Murano, or the kumihan typesetters of the 1974 1st edition, had used a number of non-standard Kanji characters in the glossary section, aka Gaiji.

The glossary from The Lotus Sutra 3rd edition

Fortunately I knew the designers of the Hiragino Japanese macOS system font and they introduced a former apprentice who did outside contract font design work. After a careful review he found 15 gaiji characters, unique regular kanji variations not included in the Hiragino Gothic Pro N extended character set and created them for Lotus Sutra 3rd edition.

The 15 Gaiji characters created for the Lotus Sutra 3rd edition.

One thing I learned from the gaiji creation process is that the line between a quirky Japanese kanji design of a regular character and a real gaiji can be very fine. It’s not always an easy black or white call. There is also the publishing history to consider, what was the original intention? Did latter editions swap out complex kanji with simplified versions due to the transition from analog production, and because the early electronic layout production systems were so limited? These are all important points to consider when porting classic Japanese texts to modern production system software.

I was reminded of this with a new project recreating a 31 day chant book of Nichiren Shonin’s Minobu Letters. Fortunately Okazawa san was available to do another fine comb review of our materials.

We found that the original Showa text kanji, which is considered the definitive source, had been changed in the Heisei version. Upon further investigation I discovered the Heisei text had been reproduced on a proprietary Panasonic electronic typesetting device that had limited character sets, and was obsolete. The Panasonic device Japanese fonts used i the book were also somewhat quirky. They looked different enough to consider them gaiji-like, but in the end after comparing everything to Showa printed books, we realized they were just quirky simplified designs of the Panasonic device. Not the original intention.

The happy end here is that the default macOS Hiragino Gothic Pro N extended character set has all our production needs covered. And it’s a great design that travels very well.

I highly recommend it.

Final frontiers: How Suica 2.0 will solve the IC fare region barrier problem and much more

The Suica cross region problem, no thru transit going from the Suica area to the TOICA area for example, is a well known and criticized shortcoming of the Transit IC system. There has been some recent progress with cross region thru transit commuter passes but barriers remain for regular Suica use, a headache for both local residents and longer distance travelers. Despite all the fancy technology, the cheapest cross region thru transit fare choice is paper tickets.

The entire Suica/PASMO service region is huge but covers less than half of the entire JR East rail network

A lesser known Suica barrier remains on the JR East network: Suica service region gaps. Currently there are 3 Suica regions: Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata. There are also some curious gaps between them illustrated below:

Fortunately this is all about to change for the better.

Filling the Suica gaps
In 2019 JR East CEO Yuji Fukusawa said the company planned to have 100% Suica deployment by March 2022 but that didn’t happen. Why? Transit use killing COVID, the resulting red ink and redeployed resources are a big reason of course, but system development snags certainly contributed to the missed deadline. There was also a shift from a narrow focus of a lower cost Suica system to a wider focus of Suica 2 in 1, Cloud Suica and a cloud based central fare processing system. JR East’s Suica vision is evolving to a wider, transit service platform encompassing a range of technologies, with FeliCa as one component of a larger whole and flexible new system.

In October 2022 JR Central announced that TOICA is expanding to all JR Central lines and stations. The pressure is now on JR East to complete their delayed Suica rollout to all stations first. But there is something else: it’s an open secret that JR East hosts the TOICA system. JR Central would not make such a big TOICA commitment publicly unless JR East had a new system in place to facilitate the expansion. This new system, which I call Suica 2.0, starts operation on May 27 in the Tohoku region.

The launch brings Suica to 45 stations in the Akita, Aomori and Morioka regions but only 9 of these are fully automatic transit gate installations similar to what you find in Tokyo area stations (the same new QR equipped gates shown in the press announcement are installed in Yoyogi station). The rest, 36 in all, are Suica 2.0 validators. Performance is an obvious concern. Suica users are accustomed to the fastest transit gate fare processing speeds on the planet. Will Suica 2.0 performance satisfy an Suica 1.0 experienced customer base with high expectations? To understand how Suica 1.0 fare gates achieve speedy performance apart from FeliCa technology, we need to examine why Suica regions exist and how they relate to transit gate performance.

Suica stands for “Super Urban Intelligent CArd” (but there is also ‘IC’ in the name for integrated chip) and was designed for heavily used urban transit as a smart card recreation of visually inspected paper commuter passes. JNR (pre JR East) researchers wanted to eliminate the time it took urban commuters to pull their magnetic commuter pass out of a wallet or case and feed it into the ticket gate slot. This clogged up major station gates at rush hour. The researchers also wanted a centrally processed card system but the networks and processing power of that time could not deal with the rush hour traffic volume. So the Suica architecture was built around locally transit gate processed stored fare (SF) balance from the card. Instead of centrally processed payments, fares are processed at the station level and synced with the central server, said to be about 6 times a day.

Transit gates have very little memory, most of it dedicated to their main task of local processing Suica fare at the exit point. Low overhead is a necessity. They can’t hold massive fare tables, hot card lists, dead card lists and so on. Only the bare minimum information required to do the local processing job is periodically synced with the central server. Limiting fare processing to specific heavy use regions is a necessary strategy in keeping the local fare processing overhead low and speedy. This is why a Tokyo Suica/PASMO region transit exit gate only processes the fare from a Suica or PASMO (or any Transit IC card) that started the journey in the same region. It’s also the reason why Transit IC cards are generally limited to 200 km point to point trips in their respective local regions, though there are some interesting loopholes.

It’s the same situation writ large with different transit IC card regions. Border stations like Atami (Suica and TOICA) have 2 sets of exit gates: one for travelers from the Suica region, one for travelers from the TOICA region. Suica/TOICA cross region thru transit is limited to special cross region commuter passes and those are limited to specific cross region stations, again to keep the local processing overhead low.

It’s important to note however that IC coverage extensions to border stations with 2 sets of different gates and cross region commuter passes, are very recent 2021 developments. This is the JR Group companies laying the foundation to remove IC transit barriers in the near future. Because Suica 2.0 can process any and all Transit IC fare configurations, transit gate memory limits for local processing are no longer a concern. The barriers will come down when gate hardware•firmware is updated and Suica 2.0 cloud servers are in place.

Suica 1.0 local processing vs Suica 2.0 cloud processing
But transit gate performance is a concern. Does this mean that with all Suica fare processing migrating to the cloud users can kiss the good old speedy Suica gate experience goodbye? JR East says no. In fact they say Suica will get even faster with central server processing. Really? Recent comments from JR East suggest a 10ms network overhead. Suica 1.0 is rated at 200ms for fare processing though in reality the performance feels faster thanks to the large NFC RF hit area of Suica gate readers.

Conceptually, Suica 2.0 is simply going back to what the creators of Suica originally envisioned: centralized fare processing. Specifically the Suica fare processing hockey puck is moving from the station level to centralized cloud servers. The Suica card itself is exactly the same as it is now, the transit gates still handle all mutual authentication read~write functions. Hopefully Suica 2.0 performance will be just like it is now:

The original aims of Cloud Suica with lower costs and flexibility are still there, the JR East Suica 2.0 press release builds on those with emphasis on a distributed server processing system for both Suica service expansion (more stations and no region barriers) and service functions (all kinds of cloud linked services). Let’s examine the new kinds of services JR East is promising to deliver with Suica 2.0.

① Barrier Free Suica transit with no more region gaps. A main goal of Suica 2.0 and bigger than it might seem. Eki-Net Shinkansen eTickets are already ‘barrier free’ with Suica, through clever use of Shinkansen transit gates, but Ticketless Limited Express trains are stuck with Suica barriers such as the Tokyo to Sendai Hitachi and Tokiwa Limited Express trains. Suica users have long complained that service gaps forces them to travel with paper tickets, or they are forced to pay in cash at the exit gate because they tapped in with Suica in Tokyo and forgot the Suica barriers. This problem, and many more barrier Suica gap issues will be eliminated.

② Automated Fare Discounts Part 1: Commute Plan Lite. This is similar to the recently launched Off-Peak Commuter Passes, think of it as short term ‘commute plan lite’ with tons of options. You buy a discounted fare option for certain routes, use times or frequency and it’s automatically linked with your Suica. And unlike the current Suica App method, the items are added in the cloud, not written and stored on the card itself.

③ Automated Fare Discounts Part 2: Fare Discount Gift Coupons. In a similar vein, fare discount reward coupons for store purchases with Suica can be automatically gifted with a tap at the payment terminal. Kinda like the old free parking ticket with store purchase gimmick only far more useful.

④ Linked MaaS services. JR East has been experimenting with MaaS programs like RingoPass but linking MaaS services with Suica 1.0 is a real pain. Suica 2.0 should make bundling much easier, it’s also an opportunity to clean up the current mess of apps.

Reality check and missing pieces
Glossy JR East press releases are one thing but reading between the lines of the Suica Service Roadmap there are hints of missing pieces. Suica 2.0 is all about eliminating physical transit barriers but in the mobile app era there are lots of software barriers that need to be addressed too. Right now JR East online services are hosted in a bunch of apps that don’t fit together very well. It’s a maze of walled gardens: lots of service apps each with different accounts and login, making them work together is a real pain. The real problem is there is no one app to see and manage all the services and tickets attached or linked to your Suica.

A few things need to happen to make Suica 2.0 truly useful.

  • My JR East ID 2.0
  • Cloud savvy Suica App with plug-in services
    • The current version of Suica App lives a double life: one half pulls things off the Mobile Suica cloud, one half does local housekeeping attaching Commute Plans, Green Car Seat Tickets and recharges to Suica card. Meanwhile Shinkansen eTickets, MaaS and other online services live in different apps with different accounts IDs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all these services living in one cloud savvy Suica App that shows and manages everything attached to your Suica? Absolutely yes please.
  • Local Processing Fail-Safe?
    • We all know that cloud and mobile services fail. Stuff happens. Safe railroad operation requires fail-safe design. Japanese IT journalists like to pooh-pooh FeliCa and Suica reliability, heaping praise on how ‘fail-safe’ the Transit for London open loop Oyster system is. But London transit doesn’t have to deal with major earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons, torrential rain and flooding, train communication cable arsonists, communication cable damaging trackside fire disasters, not to mention sarin gas and cable cutting terrorists. Japanese tend to take safety and security for granted but these infrastructure risks are very real. They have all happened. Suica 2.0 will be a highly centralized system, the higher the centralization, the higher the associated risks when it fails.

      Does Suica 2.0 have a fail-safe backup? Here’s a possible, and from emerging details, likely scenario. We all know programmers don’t like using a new API for mission-critical programs unless they have to. They like to stick with what they already have for compatibility with a smooth gradual transition strategy to the new API. Same for Suica 2.0. Automatic Suica transit gates could be upgraded with both the Suica 1.0 ‘Suica Region local processing API’ and the new Suica 2.0 ‘Region-Free central processing API’. If something goes wrong with the Suica 2.0 central servers, the exit gates switch to reliable local processing Suica 1.0 API mode to keep passengers moving with station level fare processing or perhaps regional level fare processing depending on the JR East distributed server setup. Long story short, If this backup is not in place we can expect this to happen.

Suica 2.0 rollout and the QR Eki-Net Connection
We’ll find out how well Suica 2.0 works on May 27…hopefully it will be a happy marriage of ‘truth in the card’ Suica Stored Fare balance + central fare processing. The important point is that all Transit IC card barriers will eventually go away when Suica 2.0 is deployed across the entire JR East system. People can travel anywhere on the transit IC network not having to think about barrier nonsense, just like paper tickets. Sounds great but when does it happen?

JR East says the Suica region barriers will drop by 2026, at the latest, when Suica 2.0 is rolled out across the entire JR East network. Suica 2.0 starts in Tohoku May 27, Tokyo gets the Suica 2.0 update this summer (2023), Sendai is next, followed by Niigata. At the same time all Suica gaps will be filled, all stations currently without Suica will be wired. We will find out if Suica 2.0 is really faster than Suica 1.0 but the 3 year rollout, roughly 1 year per current Suica region, certainly looks like a lot of system optimization work is padded into the schedule.

An interesting point here is that QR Eki-Net service starts in the very same Suica 2.0 Tohoku launch region which means that QR Eki-Net uses the same Suica 2.0 fare validation system. Suica 2.0 does QR too. When Suica 2.0 goes wide, so does QR. It’s one package with 2 parts as shown in the Suica Service Roadmap: the Suica 2.0 Platform and a ‘new’ (and unnamed) Ticketing system, which might be the venerable (and earthquake hardened) JR Group MARS system updated for the mobile transit era.

And when does seamless cross region IC transit for Suica, TOICA, et al. happen? Hopefully the JR Group is coordinating so that the Suica 2.0 rollout is mirrored by the other JR Group companies. The JR Central TOICA announcement certainly suggests so. Slight differences are already apparent: JR East prefers cloud connected Suica 2.0 validators at unmanned stations. JR Central and JR West prefer the bus style approach of having on board enter and exit validators for rural lines with unmanned stations. Either way is fine, just get it done as quickly as possible. Let the Transit IC barriers drop away into the past where they belong. Because with Suica 2.0 in place and barriers gone, the way is also cleared for fare capping, automated discounts, specialty ticketing and lots of new cloud based transit services.

This post was originally published 2023-02-27 and was reposted with the latest information from JR East on 2023-04-04.

Related post: Thoughts on Suica 2.0