Pasmo cards are a type of prepaid train card in Japan. Just like Suica IC cards, they save you time, money, and the hassle of desparately searching for your ticket.

But how do you get one? What about charging them, or worse, what if you lose it? We answer all those questions and more in this comprehensive guide to Pasmo cards in Tokyo.

The latest news on Pasmo cards

So let’s talk about that chip shortage. Basically, at the moment you can’t buy new blank or registered Pasmo cards. But you can still buy commuter passes, virtual Pasmos, and the Pasmo Passport. But the information changes pretty often. We were able to confirm that as of February 2024:

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  • Pasmo Passports can only be bought at ticket offices at Haneda Airport, not at ticket machines
  • The ¥500 issuing fee is currently being waived

What is a Pasmo card?

Pasmo cards are prepaid train cards. You can use them on the Tokyo metropolitan area’s subways, trains, buses, and streetcars. They are easy to use, and their coverage is great: They work on both JR (Japan Railways) and private train lines.

Pasmo Passport: For short-term visitors to Japan

Expires after 28 days

Just visiting Japan, and looking to keep things simple? Then the Pasmo Passport is for you. Literally — it’s a Pasmo card that can only be used by visitors to the country, not residents or citizens. Like a normal Pasmo IC card, the Pasmo Passport can be used on the Kantō area’s subways, trains, and so on. But unlike a normal Pasmo, it also gives users special discounts for some attractions, restaurants, shops, and even accommodation.

The Pasmo Passport is only valid for 28 days, and, unlike the ordinary Pasmo, it can’t be returned for a refund. Happily, the ultra-Japanese design (featuring Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters) means that it makes a sweet souvenir.

How do I buy a Pasmo Passport IC card?

To buy a Pasmo Passport you’ll need to take your passport to a Pasmo sales location. The staff will check for a “temporary visitor” stamp before they sell you a Pasmo Passport.

The Pasmo Passport costs ¥2,000 for adults, and a special children’s version is available for youngsters under the age of 12. Keep in mind that you will have to pay in cash — credit card payments won’t be accepted. After you pay, you’ll get your Pasmo Passport and a Reference Paper. Make sure you keep hold of the Reference Paper — you need to show it if you want to get discounts at participating shops, and restaurants.

Where can I get a Pasmo Passport card?

The Pasmo Passport can be purchased at selected stations, including Tokyo, Ginza, Ueno, and Shibuya, as well as at the Keisei Skyliner kiosks at Narita Terminals 1 and 2, and the Haneda Airport International Terminal’s Keikyu Tourist Information Center. A full list of sales locations for the Pasmo Passport, and their opening times, is available on the Pasmo website.

How to use a Pasmo card

Pasmo cards are quite straightforward to use. Like train cards in many other parts of the world, you tap the card against an IC card reader at the train station ticket gate as you enter. And then, when you’ve reached your destination, tap the card again on your way out of the station.

For flat-fare buses (the most common type in Tokyo), you just need to tap your card once when you leave the bus.

Where can you use Pasmo cards?

You can use your shiny new Pasmo card anywhere in Tokyo, and anywhere where Suica cards are accepted. Pasmo train cards can also be used in popular destinations outside the Tokyo metro area, such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Fukuoka.

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Can I use a Pasmo card on the Shinkansen?

Unfortunately, Pasmo cards aren’t easy to use on the Shinkansen. So if you’re a visitor to Japan, it may be easier to buy a JR Pass or individual Shinkansen tickets instead.

How to top up a Pasmo card

When your balance is getting low, it’s time to charge your Pasmo card. The easiest way to do this is at a ticket machine. You can find them both inside and outside of ticket gates, and you can easily change the machine’s language to English. From there just follow the prompts and you’re done.

Pasmo Recharge Instructions
Loading up Pasmo cards is easy as pie. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

Pasmo cards can also be charged at some shops and on some buses. You can also register for auto-charging with Pasmo; if you do, it will auto-charge as you pass through a gate when it runs out of cash. That’s not recommended for short-term visitors, though.

Can I charge a Pasmo card with a credit card?

No, unfortunately you can’t top up a Pasmo with a credit card.

Can I charge a Pasmo at a convenience store?

Yes, you can charged a Pasmo card at a convenience store. Either use the ATM in the store or top up at the cash register.

Where can I buy a Pasmo card?

You can buy a Pasmo card at almost every private railway station, subway station, or bus depot in Tokyo. You can also buy at Narita Airport or Haneda Airport. Most short-term visitors to Japan can get by with a blank Pasmo card, but if you’re staying for longer consider regitsering your Pasmo card.

Pasmo Purchase Instructions
Buying a Pasmo card is simple and straightforward. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

When you buy a new blank Pasmo IC card in Japan, ¥500 will be taken off your first loaded balance as a deposit. For example, if you load ¥2,000, you’ll only have ¥1,500 available for fares until you reload.

How to register a Pasmo card

If you are planning to stay in Tokyo long term, we recommend registering (or personalizing) your Pasmo card. This basically means that your card is registered to you personally — your name is even printed on the front of the card. This means if it gets lost there’s a higher chance of it finding its way back to you. Or the balance of the lost card can be transfered to a new one.

To register your Pasmo you need to find a ticket machine at a private railway station. Then insert your card and follow the onscreen prompts. Just keep in mind that not all ticket machines can do this, so make sure you find the right one.

How do I return my card?

Pasmo return machine at Narita Station. | Photo by Maria Danuco

If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to take your Pasmo card home as a signifier of your globetrotter status, you can return your Pasmo card at a service desk. There’s no charge, and you’ll get your ¥500 deposit back. There are also special Pasmo return machines at Narita and Haneda airports.

Pasmo cards for children

If you have children, you can get a special children’s Pasmo. The fares for a children’s Pasmo are half of an adults, so it’s definitely worth doing, especially if you’re in Japan long term. To get a children’s Pasmo, you need to take proof of the child’s age to a Keisei Information Center. You can find these at major Keisei stations, and Narita Airport.

Pro tip: In Japan, children under 6 can generally travel on the trains for free, as long as there are only two of them — the third child under 6 will be charged a child’s fare. When passing through ticket gates, simply scan your own pass and walk through together. While the odds of being asked are low, it is worth carrying a proof of age document — like a passport — to avoid any awkward conversations with the train and metro staff.

Can I get a virtual Pasmo card?

Apple users can set up their iPhones for virtual Pasmo cards. The process is fairly easy to follow and here’s also a dedicated guide on their website if you get stuck.

You can also add a Pasmo card to your Google Wallet, but only if your phone is compatible with osaifu keitai. Basically, osaifu keitai is a mobile payment system that’s only available on phones issued in Japan.

Frequently asked questions

Can foreigners use Pasmo IC cards?

Yes, foreigners can buy and use Pasmo cards.

Can you use Pasmo train cards outside of Tokyo?

Yes, you can use your Pasmo outside of Tokyo, like Osaka. But you still need to tap in and out within the same area. For example, if you’re traveling from Tokyo to Osaka on local lines with your Pasmo card, you’ll have to awkwardly tap out and in again at some stations.

Can I use my Pasmo cards on JR lines?

Yes, you can your Pasmo card on JR Lines all over Japan.

Is Pasmo better than Suica?

To be honest, both cards are pretty similar. If you live in Tokyo and have a commuter pass, then you’ll be forced to have one or the other depending on your travel route but otherwise there aren’t any major differences.

But if you want to see the nitty-gritty details on how Pasmo stacks up against Suica, see our handy comparison guide. You can also find more information on the official Pasmo site.

This post was written in November, 2018 and last updated in February 2024. Information was correct at the time; however, it is subject to change without notice. The article was a joint effort with Lily Crossley-Baxter.

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