What is an ICOCA card? its features, usage, and precautions


In recent years, Japan has become increasingly cashless, and e-money, including various types of Pay, is being used in an increasing number of situations.

Among the most well-known are transportation-related E-money, which are used mainly for trains, buses, and other forms of transportation.

Once you get used to it, it is a very convenient card, but for first-time users, you may be asking yourself, “How do I buy something? How do I use it? How can I add on money?” Many people must feel uneasy about it.

This article will answer the above questions about ICOCA, which is highly used in Kansai, especially in Osaka and Kyoto.


What is ICOCA?

Image: taken from ICOCA – How to use JR-West (westjr.co.jp)

JR West’s official website introduces the following

ICOCA is a convenient electronic card that can be used not only for riding trains
but also as electronic money for shopping at various stores.

ICOCA cards can be used all across Japan on railways and buses, and at stores displaying the IC mark.
Simply “recharge” the card by adding funds for continued convenience!

引用元:ICOCA – How to use JR-West (westjr.co.jp)

The most used situation is when using transportation such as trains and buses.

The convenience of being able to pass through an ticket gate by simply touching the card is worth having.

Other convenient features include the ability to make purchases at convenience stores, supermarkets, and vending machines by simply holding up the card.

How to use ICOCA?

Image: taken from West Japan Railway Company – How to use JR-West : How to Use ICOCA (westjr.co.jp)
  1. Purchase ICOCA card
  2. Charging an ICOCA Card(Cash only)
    • Inserting ¥2,000 into the ticket machine when purchasing a card will charge the card with ¥1,500 to be used for train fare or shopping.Return the card to a JR-WEST Ticket Office after use to redeem the ¥500 deposit.
    • If that is still not enough, additional cash is replenished.
  3. Simply touch your ICOCA card to the card recognition area of the ticket gate to board the train!
  4. After getting off the train, touch your card again to the ticket gate. The fare will be automatically deducted.
  5. It can also be used not only for train travel, but also for shopping at merchants at train stations and in town.
  6. When purchasing your merchandise, tell the shop staff that you’d like to pay using ICOCA.
  7. All that remains is to touch the ICOCA card to the device at the cash register. A “beep” will sound twice to indicate that the payment has been completed.
  8. It can also be used at vending machines, coin-operated lockers and so on
Image: taken from West Japan Railway Company – How to use JR-West : How to Use ICOCA (westjr.co.jp)

How to purchase ICOCA

Image: taken from West Japan Railway Company – How to use JR-West : What is ICOCA? (westjr.co.jp)

You can also purchase tickets at the Midori-no Madoguchi (green ticket office) at JR West stations, or from automatic ticket machines marked.

Price: 2,000 yen (including 500 yen deposit)

Cash purchases only

  1. Touch the “Purchase ICOCA” button on the ticket machine
  2. Next, press the purchase amount
  3. The payment screen appears
  4. Cash in
  5. Your card will be issued after the required amount is inserted.

Child ICOCA cannot be purchased from ticket vending machines and can only be purchased at the counter.

In addition, an official certificate of the child is required at that time.

How to replenish money on the card

Image: taken from West Japan Railway Company – How to use JR-West : How to Use ICOCA (westjr.co.jp)

Money can be added at automatic ticket machines or deposit machines with this mark.

They can also be refilled at ticket machines of other transportation systems that are inter-operable (may not be available on some transportation systems’ equipment).

It can also be replenished at ICOCA participating stores.

The remaining balance on the card cannot exceed 20,000 yen.

SMART ICOCA can be “Quick Charged” by credit card. Simply insert the card into the dedicated deposit machine and press the amount.

Available Transportation

It would be difficult to list all the railroad companies in Japan, but if we limit ourselves to Osaka, we can use most of the ones we often hear about, such as JR, SubwayOsaka Metro, Osaka Monorail, Hankyu, Hanshin, Nankai, Keihan, Kintetsu, Kita-Osaka Express, and others.

Travelers often ask, “Can I use JR line? Can I take an express train? Can I transfer to the subway?” We sometimes receive questions.

In places far from the city center, in mountainous areas, and in hot spring resorts, there is basically no need to worry, except for buses and cable cars.

However, when riding an express train, you must purchase an express ticket in addition to the ICOCA.

Kansai airport shuttle bus also supports IC cards, and of course ICOCA can be used.

Usage Area

ICOCA is a card widely used mainly in western Japan and the Kansai region, but in fact, it can be used at all marked railroads, buses, and stores in Japan.

There are many types of transportation IC cards in Japan, each handled by several railroad operators.

Among them, the following 10 types are covered by the National Mutual Use Service, which allows you to use trains and buses throughout Japan.

Some of the pages are only available in Japanese. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.

Card NameRailroad companyAvailable Area
ICOCAJR(Japan Railway)WestICOCA area
KitacaJR HokkaidoKitaca area
PASMOTokyo Metro, Keikyu, etc.PASMO area
SuicaJR East, Sapporo City Transportation Bureau, etc.Sapporo, Sendai, Niigata, Tokyo metropolitan area
Suica Area
manacaMeitetsu, Nagoya City Subway, etc.manaca area(Japanese only)
TOICAJR Tokai, etc.TOICA area(Japanese only)
PiTaPaHankyu line, Hanshin line, Subway, Keihan line, Kintetsu line, Nankai line, etc.PiTaPa area(Japanese only)
HayakakenFukuoka City SubwayHayakaken area(Japanese only)
nimocaNishitetsu, etc.Hakodate, Miyazaki, Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto, Saga
nimoca area
SUGOCAJR Kyushu, etc.Fukuoka, Saga, Oita, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Kagoshima
(Japanese only)
List of major transportation IC cards in Japan

In other words, as long as you have an ICOCA, you can use trains and buses not only in ICOCA areas but also in Kitaca, PASMO, Suica, manaca, TOICA, PiTaPa, Hayakaken, nimoca, and SUGOCA areas.
Children’s fares apply to all areas when riding with the Children’s ICOCA.


ICOCA cannot be used across areas

General ICOCA can only be used within each area.

It is not possible to use ICOCA across each area.

If you wish to use ICOCA across an area, please purchase a ticket to your destination at the boarding station in advance.

If you cross an area by mistake, please notify the station staff and pay the fare from the boarding station or the fare incurred outside the area in cash.

Only cash can be added

ICOCA does not support automatic deposit, so you need to add money on your ICOCA at a ticket machine each time your balance runs low.

If the amount of money is not enough when you exit the gate, you can simply top up the missing amount at the ticket adjustment machine before passing through the gate.

Credit cards and E-money are not accepted for general ICOCA, only cash.

SMART ICOCA, on the other hand, can be added by credit card.

Only ICOCA can be purchased locally in the Kansai area

Suica is a particularly major transportation IC card, but only ICOCA can be purchased in Osaka.

Types of ICOCA


General ICOCA card. Anyone can use it. 2,000 yen (including 500 yen deposit).


This card is for children.
The card can be used until March 31 of the year in which the child turns 12 years old, provided that the cardholder is the person indicated on the face of the card.


This card allows you to add balances with a credit card.

Only the cardholder may use the card.

Price:2,000 yen (including 500 yen deposit)

Mobile ICOCA

An application that allows you to use ICOCA on your smartphone.

It can be used by registering a WESTER ID and a credit card.

However, as of 2023.5, only Android is supported.
There is no issuance fee or usage fee.

ICOCA commuter pass

The ICOCA commuter pass card combines the functions of both a commuter pass and a ticket.

By charging cash, you can automatically pay the fare for the section you ride by simply touching the ticket gate, even if it is not a commuter pass section.

Child ICOCA commuter pass for children only and SMART ICOCA commuter pass that can be charged from credit cards are also available.

ICOCA is easy to use

Image: taken from West Japan Railway Company – How to use JR-West : How to Use ICOCA (westjr.co.jp)

For those accustomed to using paper tickets, IC cards and electronic money may seem intimidating.

However, in reality, they can be easily purchased at ticket machines. If you put cash in the ticket machine before using the card, you can smoothly go through the ticket gate and avoid the hassle of buying a ticket each time you change trains.

Since there is no need to wait in line at a ticket machine, you can use your time effectively even when traveling.

For travelers, it could be a memento of their trip.