Note: this post is marked obsolete as construction was completed and remains only for reference
The JR Shibuya station platform and track realignment of the Yamanote Inner Circle line takes place October 23~24 (unless bad weather postpones it to November 20~21). All Yamanote Inner Circle train service between Ikebukuro and Osaki stations is suspended all day, both days.
JR East posted multilingual information in English, Chinese, Korean (deleted after the construction was finished) that includes detour transfer guidance to non-JR lines during the line closure. The English wording is fuzzy because the exact distinctions between mag-strip commuter passes, Suica commuter passes and Suica IC transit fare are not always clear to the reader. It’s also important to understand detour transfer rules.
Detour Transfers Tokyo area transit operators have special detour transfer rules to deal with transit situations when there is an unexpected stoppage and in-transit users suddenly need to use a different transit route from the normal one to reach their destination. Detour transfers have one rule for Suica or PASMO commuter passes, both mobile and plastic: do not use automatic transit gates during the detour portion of the route, go to a station agent window gate instead and use the reader. The station agent checks the validity of the commuter pass and waves you through, the NFC equivalent of visually inspecting printed tickets and passes. Regular non-commuter pass Suica, PASMO and other transit cards are outside of detour transfer rules and are charged normal IC transit fare.
For example, my normal commute route from JR Asagaya to Tokyu Ikegami has a line transfer point at Gotanda. A Gotanda transfer isn’t possible during the service suspension. Instead I plan to transfer at Shibuya to the Tokyu Toyoko line, ride to Jiyugaoka > transfer to Tokyu Ooimachi line > transfer at Hatanodai to Tokyu Ikegami line > exit at Ikegami.
In this case I make 2 automatic gate reads and 2 station agent window reads with my Apple Watch Suica commute pass: the JR Asagaya start point (automatic gate as always), leaving JR Shibuya (JR station agent window reader) transfer to Tokyu Toyoko line (Tokyu station agent window reader), Tokyu Ikegami (automatic gate as always).
This poster at the Tokyu Ikegami station clearly shows the ‘do not use automatic gates during detour rule,’ and which kinds of tickets can be used for detour transfers: Suica and PASMO commuter passes and all mag strip passes and tickets. For Apple Pay Suica and PASMO commuter passes, always use the station agent window reader on the detour portion and you’ll reach your final destination even with a long detour.
Mobile Suica maintenance is a regular nightly occurrence from 1am~4am with longer once a month sessions. The July 6~7 and July 20~21 Suica system maintenance work is very unusual for both the time, 9pm~5am on each night, and the reach: both Mobile Suica and JR East station Suica ticket machine services are going offline.
Notice SuicaEng isobsolete, replaced by Wallet app that gained direct Suica and PASMO card add functionality in iOS 13 with further transit card support added in iOS 15 Wallet. SuicaEng is no longer available on App Store, installed SuicaEng does not launch and should be deleted. See Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Guide to add Suica or PASMO in Wallet app. The original post below remains for reference The original post remains for reference but many of the issues discussed were fixed in the iOS 15 Wallet.
App Store user reviews are not always about the app. They also reveal problems users are dealing with that might not have anything to do with the app itself. The differences between the SuicaEng and Suica app reviews on the US App store are an interesting example of that.
The reviews are less about the apps and more about using Apple Pay Suica and issues they have with it. In retrospect it would have been better if JR East had released SuicaEng app instead of the full Suica app on App stores outside of Japan for people who just wanted to add Suica to Apple Pay. Why didn’t Apple and JR East just put a ‘Create Suica’ option button in Wallet and be done with it? There’s a downside with too many choices.
As the negative Suica App reviews make clear, more choices and functionality confuses users. Good UI design should only show what the user needs to see at any given moment. It’s a design issue covered extensively by Ken Kocienda in his excellent book Creative Selection when he was creating the iPad software keyboard.
In this case it comes back to Apple Pay Region settings, filtering out unnecessary choices and eliminating potential problems. If you live in America and want to add a Hop card on Apple Pay after it becomes available this summer, which Add > Card Type screen is less confusing? A bunch of choices that have nothing to do with the country a user lives in might look cool but are an invitation to trouble, like the negative Suica App reviewer who deleted $150 worth of prepaid balance but doesn’t know how to retrieve it. Clutter means user confusion and potential problems.
China transit cards can created in Wallet without using an app, so why does Suica require one? JR East played it safe by keeping virtual card creation on a separate app the user has to download, even though the feature could have implemented in Wallet. Doing it in an app also has the bonus of less complication by doing away with Region settings. Until Apple Pay Wallet comes up with a better way to add virtual cards from different regions without a Region setting, I think one time use apps like SuicaEng make sense, and keep support issues at a minimum.
I also like weird ‘SuicaEng’ app name. Most people assume that it’s just Japanese using weird English, but it’s a very conscious choice that has nothing to do with English ability. Japanese language loves to condense things and Suica + English = SuicaEng immediately sets the app apart from the full featured Suica app, while playing on the odd similarity: you can guess what the app is about without knowing anything about it. Most of all, the strange name keeps it memorable. After seeing it, you’ll never forget it.
Notice SuicaEng is obsolete, replaced by Wallet app functionality for direct adding of Suica, PASMO and other transit cards in iOS 13, easier than ever in iOS 15 Wallet and later. SuicaEng is no longer available on App Store, installed SuicaEng does not launch and should be deleted. See Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Guide to add Suica or PASMO in Wallet app. The original post remains for historical reference.
After 2 years of waiting for a full blown English version of the Suica App with all the bells and whistles, JR East has done the smart thing and released the SuicaEng app instead as a stopgap.
This simple streamlined app does one thing: add a Suica card to Apple Pay Wallet without a Mobile Suica account or any of the hassle of dealing with the Japanese only Suica App options. It does nothing else but should take care of most immediate inbound needs. It also bypasses with the ‘Region set to Japan’ requirement.
The same Suica restrictions of the full version Japanese language Suica App apply:
Only one Suica can be added, if you already have a Suica in Wallet you cannot add another one with SuicaEng, a second virtual Suica (My Suica/Commuter Suica) requires the full Suica App and free registration of a Mobile Suica account.
Once added, Suica is managed in Wallet or Watch app.
The best thing would be no apps at all and adding virtual Suica directly in Wallet, perhaps Apple and JR East will deliver that eventually. Meanwhile anything more complicated than adding virtual Suica: purchasing e-tickets, commuter pass, Green Seat reservations etc., still requires the Japanese only Suica App.
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