|According to the report distributed at the JR East annual shareholder’s meeting held in June 2008,
a total of 24.15 million Suica IC cards had been issued by the end of March 2008. Dividing Japan’s
population of 128 million by the total cards shows that one in every five or so people in Japan has
a Suica card. Since Suica use is limited to the Kanto, Koshinetsu, and Tohoku regions, we can
assume that one in two people in JR East’s business region has a Suica card. Therefore, it is no
exaggeration to say that nearly everyone in the public-transport-using age bracket is a Suica user.
There are many reasons why Suica has become so popular and widespread. From my
viewpoint as a Tokyo resident, three major factors impacted my decision to use Suica. First, I am
often pressed for time when riding the train. Just travelling a simple route takes time. But when
transferring between multiple lines of different operators, finding the right fare from complicated
fare tables at every connection is even more time consuming. Moreover, queuing at a ticket
machine means more wasted time. Being able to eliminate ticket purchase eliminates this stress.
Second, railway fares are in units of ¥10. So, if I purchase a ¥210 ticket with a ¥1000 note, I get
¥790 yen in change. That makes for up to 12 coins—16 if there are no ¥50 coins in the machine—
pouring into the change tray like hitting the jackpot at a slot machine. This loose change easily
fills a coin wallet or pocket and makes for extra weight to carry around. Suica is extremely helpful
because it eliminates the need to handle loose change. Third, I always end up putting my train
ticket in one of various places, such as my jacket, shirt, or trouser pockets, or even in my briefcase.
Sometimes, I cannot find the ticket when it is time to exit through the ticket gate, because I put it
somewhere unusual while thinking about something else. It is embarrassing to be rifling through my
pockets in front of the ticket gate, and infuriating when pressed for time. Suica solves the problem
of misplacing the small slip of the old magnetic cardboard ticket.
These are the reasons I am so attached to my Suica card and why I am looking forward to trying
out Mobile Suica on my mobile phone.