Icoca (ICOCA)

ICOCA (ikoka) is an IC card, mainly used as a ticket, electronic money and locker key, that West Japan Railway Company (JR West) launched in the Kinki District Urban Network on November 1, 2003. It is also a registered trademark owned by JR West. The card uses the technology of Sony's Contactless IC smart card, FeLiCa. The number of cards issued is approximately 3,680,000 (3 million 680 thousand) as of the end of April 2008.

This is an IC card version of J-Thru, a stored fare (SF) system card, and it also functions as a commuter pass and electronic money. The name "ICOCA" is derived from the abbreviation of IC Operating CArd, but at the same time it's a play on words with the expression 'Ikoka' meaning 'Let's go' in Kansai accent, in order to make the name catchier and more friendly.

The card went into use on November 1, 2003 in the Kinki District Urban Network. Currently, the card can also be used in the following areas: all private and subway lines and some parts of bus lines (PiTaPa area) in the Keihanshin area; the Suica area such as East Japan Railway (JR East); and the TOICA area covered by Central Japan Railway (JR Central). However, when the card is used for other companies' transportation services, such as private lines, subways and JR lines, the card's service is limited to the stored fare (SF) function and the transferable commuter pass to the other lines is not issued.

This card's usage has grown steadily due to its convenience, and more than a million cards were issued in just over five months since the launch. In June 2006, at all shops of two chain convenience stores in the Keihanshin area, 'Heart-in' and 'Daily-in,' ICOCA's electronic money started to be accepted, and the automatic vending machines and coin-operated lockers accepting ICOCA also became available. The shops accepting ICOCA's electronic money have been steadily extended to downtown from kiosks inside and around the station, and in April 2007 some shops in the Porta underground shopping mall located in front of Kyoto Station began accepting the card for the first time.

At major stations, simple rechargers are installed on the platforms and the concourses inside the ticket wicket. Another type issued is the SMART ICOCA, which can be recharged without cash at hand but with a corresponding credit card.

From January 21, 2006, reciprocal usage with PiTaPa became possible, even on the private and subway railway companies in the Keihanshin area, where PiTaPa has been introduced. ICOCA's interoperability with PiTaPa in the SF function started about a year earlier than the same arrangement between Suica and PASMO. Additionally, since PiTaPa was introduced in Kintetsu Railways and the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau on April 1, 2007, ICOCA has enhanced its convenience, being accepted on almost all lines of the major and second-tier private railway companies and public subways. However, the interoperability of the commuter pass with the PiTaPa area is still in the initial stage, where the viability of mutual ticketing is being studied due to certain factors related to the PiTaPa concept.

From September 1, 2007, for the first time, the card became usable at 135 stations located in the urban area of the Chugoku district, except for stations within the Urban Network Area. This is the first introduction of the card in the JR West area except for the Kinki district. However, for riding across the two areas, between the Keihanshin area and the Okayama or Hiroshima area, the card is not accepted for the time being. This is due to the specification of the old-type equipment in the Keihanshin area, and its improvement is projected in accordance with the rehabilitation of the system in that area.

However, there are sections where ICOCA is not accepted even though trains arrive regularly from the Keihanshin Urban Network area (for example: Tsuruga Station, the section to the north of Shimoyamaguchi Station on the Fukuchiyama Line, and the section between Takada Station and Wakayama Station on the Wakayama Line). Currently, there is no announcement regarding the possible introduction of ICOCA in these sections.

The reciprocal usage with Suica started on August 1, 2004. With this, passengers can receive nearly the same services in both the Suica and ICOCA areas, such as recharging in cash, passing through the automatic ticket gate, using the ticket vending machine or fare adjustment machine, and printing the usage details (records). However, some services aren't always interoperable, such as buying a Suica Green ticket for the first-class cars or passing a transfer wicket for other private lines. There are also certain differences: for example, in the Suica area the passenger can't get in through the ticket wicket when his card's stored amount does not reach the base fare. When the mutual application started, only the adult card was issued, so the ICOCA for Children was not admitted; however, with the launch of Suica for children (Suica Card for Kids) on March 18, 2007, ICOCA for Children became interoperable. The shopping services with Suica have been available since March 18, 2008.

The reciprocal usage with TOICA of JR Central started on March 29, 2008. However, for use across the areas of Suica, TOICA and ICOCA aren't accepted.

How to purchase and recharge
There are several ways to purchase or recharge an ICOCA card. As for the purchase of SMART ICOCA, please refer to the corresponding section. In every case, the ICOCA card's maximum rechargeable amount is 20,000 yen and the card is endlessly rechargeable with one of five fixed amounts: 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen per single operation. In the case of Suica, there are some stations where the card can't be recharged by credit cards (the credit cards are accepted only in the JR West ICOCA Area, and in the JR East Suica Area, the View Card issued by JR East is the sole credit card accepted). The purchase or recharge with J-Thru Card or Orange Card is not accepted.

Automatic ticket vending machines
How to buy the first card
The first card can be purchased through any automatic ticket vending machine that carries the ICOCA mark. The first card is issued at 2,000 yen, and this amount includes the deposit of 500 yen plus the stored fare of 1,500 yen. A receipt printed on thermal paper can also be issued.

The ICOCA commuter pass can be also purchased from some of the Green Ticket vending machines.

The card is recharged with predetermined amounts (1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 5,000 yen, 10,000 yen) per operation. If you want to recharge an amount other than one of these, you will be asked to do the operation more than twice. A receipt printed on thermal paper is also issued.

JR Ticket Office (Midori-no-madoguchi)
It is possible to purchase a new card as well as recharge the card. The payment is accepted in cash or with a credit card (if you use a credit card to recharge the card, the entry of your security code is required in addition to your signature). ICOCA for Children is also sold. To purchase the ICOCA for Children, it will require some formal documents that evidence the holder's age, such as the health insurance card stating his or her age.

At the JR Ticket office of the JR West, the Suica, PiTaPa and TOICA cards can be recharged with a credit card. However, in the case of a credit-card integrated type, such as a VIEW Suica Card, HANA PLUS Card (STACIA Card) or KOBE PiTaPa, recharging from a credit card is not officially admitted due to the terminal specification. This is because, after inserting a Suica card or a PiTaPa card into the card issuing machine, the card reader terminal should be used to read the credit card. Therefore, the use of either another credit card or cash is required when these cards are recharged. If the card is a separate type, such as e-kenet PiTaPa, Mitsui Sumitomo Card or Ana PiTaPa Card, it is possible to recharge from a credit card. Some JR Ticket Offices, like Osaka Station window No. 10, offer a service of recharging integrated-type cards in a different but specific way.

That might be a reason why J-WEST Card and SMART ICOCA have adopted a separate type design. There are still many areas where the introduction of ICOCA isn't anticipated, including the Sanin and Hokuriku districts, and the fact is that for those who live in these areas but don't travel frequently to the ICOCA area, this function might not be necessary, so a separate type card can be somewhat convenient.

There are two simple types, one for SMART ICOCA only and the other for the other cards.

Insert the ICOCA card into the holder, and after choosing the recharging amount (1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen) by pressing the button, and charge with the cash to finalize the recharging process. In the case of SMART ICOCA, when the button of the amount is pressed the card is automatically recharged. A receipt printed on thermal paper is available, but you're requested to press the Receipt button before inserting the cash.

The printing function of the detailed usage record (on thermal paper) and point-charge function for SMART ICOCA cards are added to the newest type of recharger, as installed in the Okayama and Hiroshima areas.

Fare adjustment machine
The card is rechargeable by cash (old-type machines only accept coins and 1,000 yen bills). A receipt printed on thermal paper can be issued.

The fare-adjustment machines installed at the stations in the Okayama and Hiroshima areas, as well as at Shimamoto Station, Suma-kaihinkoen Station, Harima-Katsuhara Station and the stations on the Osaka Higashi Line, are equipped with the function of recharging 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen, along with the Quick Charge function for SMART ICOCA, in addition to the same functions as the machines installed in the Urban Network Area.

However, it should be noted that at some of the stations in the PiTaPa Area, where reciprocal usage is available, the fare-adjustment machines corresponding to IC cards aren't installed.

The card can be recharged at any AEON Group shop that accepts ICOCA Electric Money, and on the bus that accepts PASPY.

How to use
Because the card is a contactless IC type, you can swish through the automatic ticket checker simply by touching it lightly with the card tacked inside the pass case; it isn't necessary to take the card out of the case each time you go through the checker.
However, to secure data communication between the ICOCA card and the ticket checker, there is a campaign to extend the practice of touching the checker directly with the card, with the wordplay phrase, 'Tacchishite Ikoka (Shall we go touching with ICOCA).'
Of course you can use the card, simply holding it over the checker. When you pass through the checker using the card, the checker indicates the state of your card (expired date of your commuter pass, remaining amount, etc.) by varying the tone of the sound. When your ICOCA card's authenticity is confirmed, the gate opens with an electronic sound; however, if it isn't authenticated correctly or your card is invalid, the gate rapidly closes with an electronic warning sound. When your ICOCA card's stored amount is not sufficient, or the expiration date of the ICOCA commuter pass or ICOCA for children is approaching, an electronic sound reminds you of the situation with a different tone. Generally, if you go through the gate holding a ICOCA card and another IC card over the checker, one atop the other, the gate won't let you pass but will issue an error beep; however, with some of the IC cards such as your IC driver's license, you can pass the gate without a problem.

The card doesn't serve as a platform ticket, so you're obliged to ride on the train and get off at another station within the ICOCA area. When the card's balance is zero, you can't pass the checker.

ICOCA Monitor Test
ICOCA Monitor Test was undertaken at some of the major stations in the Keihanshin area from June 28 to July 26, 2003. Because this is a provisional test prior to the formal introduction, it was carried out with the limited participation of 1,000 persons. The stations where the monitoring test was taken place are the major stations of JR West (22 stations) located in Osaka and its vicinity.

On the Fukuchiyama Line: Tsukaguchi Station, Inadera Station, Itami Station, Kita-Itami Station, Kawanishi-Ikeda Station, Nakayamadera Station and Takarazuka Station
Tokaido Main Line (JR Kyoto Line): Shin-Osaka Station, Higashi-Yodogawa Station, Suita Station, Kishibe Station, Senrioka Station, Ibaraki Station, Settsu-Tonda Station and Takatsuki Station
Tokaido Main Line (JR Kyobe Line): Tsukamoto Station, Amagasaki Station, Tachibana Station, Koshienguchi Station, Nishinomiya Station and Ashiya Station

Transfer to other lines with ICOCA
When you transfer between the JR West lines and the other companies' lines, using an automatic transfer ticket gate, insert your magnetic ticket or magnetic commuter pass and after that touch it with your ICOCA card; the checker will automatically adjust your fare and allow you to pass. This type of ticket checker is installed at the transfer gates to the Kintetsu Railway line at Tsuruhashi Station, as well as at the transfer gate to the Nankai Electric Railway Line at Mikunigaoka Station. To pass the transfer gates, PiTaPa can be used; however, in the case of Suica and TOICA, they can be rejected.

Since PiTaPa was introduced in the Nankai Electric Railway on July 1, 2006, and in the Kintetsu Railway on April 1, 2007, at the stations of both companies you can transfer by passing through the transfer gate, making one touch on the automatic ticket checker with your ICOCA card or, in the case of PiTaPa, as far as your card has previously been recharged. However, at the transfer gates the combined use of two IC cards is not accepted even when they're interoperable; therefore, if you want use different cards such as ICOCA, Suica or TOICA for transfer to the JR Line, or use PiTaPa for Nankai Electric Railway or Kintetsu Railway, you should go out through the normal ticket gate and then go in through the normal ticket gate for the line to which you want to transfer.

Among the railway companies that conclude the reciprocal usage agreement, Kintetsu Railway accepts only ICOCA and PiTaPa (it doesn't interoperate with Suica and TOICA); however, at the transfer gate for the JR Central Railway service at Kintetsu Nagoya Station on the Kintetsu Nagoya Line, you can transfer by placing two of the three cards of ICOCA, PiTaPa and TOICA on top of one another (but in some cases a combination of Suica and PiTaPa doesn't work well). JR Central started the interoperation of TOICA with ICOCA and Suica on March 29, 2008; however, at the transfer gates, ICOCA is recognized as a card interoperable with the Kintetsu lines but not as a card acceptable for the JR lines, and thus a single touch with a ICOCA card doesn't work. Therefore, if you want transfer between the JR Line and the Kintetsu Line with a single ICOCA card at Nagoya Station, you're requested to go out through the normal ticket gate and then go in through the normal gate for the line to which you want to transfer.

Then, at Kuwana Station, which has no transfer gate, the East Entrance/Exit is controlled by JR Central and the West Entrance/Exit by Kintetsu Railway; when you take the Kintetsu Nagoya Line you can use either ICOCA or PiTaPa, and when you take the JR Line you can use either the ICOCA, TOICA or Suica at each automatic ticket checker.

At Kashiwara Station (Osaka Prefecture), when transferring between the JR Line and Kintetsu Domyoji Line, you're requested to touch the light-blue colored simple IC card ticket checker (midway ticket gate) installed on the platform of the Kintetsu Line. Although from this station you take only the Kintetsu Line, you have to touch both the JR's automatic ticket checker and Kintetsu's simple IC card ticket checker. If you fail to touch the simple (IC card) ticket checker, a transportation fare that does not correspond to the actual section you've used will be deducted from the card.

Additionally, in the case of Rinku-Town Station, when you have taken a train from a certain station on the Nankai Line or JR Line using your ICOCA or PiTaPa card and at this station you want transfer from the Nankai Line to the JR Line, or vice versa, you need to touch the card reader, which is installed inside the ticket gate of the station, with your card. This station has automatic ticket checkers for Suica and TOICA installed, but these checkers don't accept ICOCA and PiTaPa.

Advertising and publicity
ICOCA is advertised on posters at stations operated by the Keihanshin, Okayama and Hiroshima branches as well as on the monitors installed in the cars of JR West Commuter Train Series 321, which are operated on the JR Takarazuka Line, Kyoto Line and Kobe Line in the Keihanshin area. The actress Yukie NAKAMA and a platypus mascot known as Ico the Platypus (Kamonohashi no Ico-chan) are employed as advertising characters.

In the TV commercials and brochures, NAKAMA and Ico the Platypus call for the use of ICOCA under the catchphrase, 'Let's go with ICOCA, let's touch with ICOCA'; and for the use of ICOCA Electronic Money Service under the catchphrase, 'Let's buy with ICOCA, let's buy touching.'

When the interoperation between ICOCA and Suica started, TV commercials and other advertisements were publicized for several months, in which with the appearance of a huge Ico the Platypus in Tokyo, NAKAMA shouted 'In Tokyo...!' and in continuation Ico the Platypus shouted 'ICOCA...! (Let's go...!).'
In the TV commercial NAKAMA made a presentation in front of a set that was supposed to be Tokyo Station, and the real automatic ticket checkers commonly used in JR East were also placed in it; nonetheless, the ticket gate in the commercial looked just like that of Osaka Station.

Types and designs
Ordinary design ICOCA
ICOCA consists of two types--one for adults and for children (ICOCA for Children)--and each costs 2,000 yen. The price includes a returnable deposit of 500 yen and the remaining 1,500 yen can be used for transportation fares, etc. To purchase the ICOCA Commuter Pass, you're requested to pay 500 yen for the returnable deposit in addition to the designated commuter fare.

SMART ICOCA, in addition to the functions of the ordinary ICOCA, has other functions such as cashless recharging and point accrual by using trains. To use the card, you're requested to be a J-WEST Card member, and the commuter pass function can be added to SMART ICOCA.

There is no handling fee to change an ordinary ICOCA to one with the commuter pass function or vice versa.

ICOCA with commemorative designs
As of March 2008, there are five different designs with pictures or patterns printed on the surface of the card. Specifically in regard to this type, the commuter pass function can't be added. Concerning the prepaid function, this type can be used just like an ordinary-design ICOCA. To see whether the commuter pass function can be added to the card or not, simply check the number of notches cut in the lower right of the card (one notch means it can be added, but if there are two notches it can't). When the card is damaged or upgraded, the card is changed and an ordinary design card is reissued.

On November 1, 2003, the commemorative ICOCA for the launch (50,000 copies) went on sale. On August 1, 2004, the commemorative ICOCA for reciprocal usage agreement with Suica (50,000 copies) went on sale. On December 6, 2004, the Santo (three capitals) Collection and Hikari (light) Collection (100,000 copies) went on sale. On September 1, 2007, the commemorative ICOCA for the inauguration of ICOCA service in the Okayama and Hiroshima areas (30,000 copies) went on sale. On March 29, 2008, the commemorative ICOCA for the interoperation with Suica, TOICA and ICOCA (30,000 copies) went on sale.

Validity and Reissuance
An ICOCA card shall expire when it hasn't been used for 10 years since the final date of usage, and the deposit for such card is not refundable.

When your card is lost, the card may be reissued as far as it is one of the types that can prove you're the rightful holder, such as the commuter pass, except for non-personalized ICOCA and ICOCA for Children. In order for the card to be issued, you're required to pay 1,000 yen for the reissuance of 500 yen and a deposit of 500 yen.

Usable areas
ICOCA can be used at the following 281 stations of JR West Kinki district, 135 stations of JR West Chugoku district, the stations of the entities where PiTaPa has been introduced, the five companies in which Suica has been introduced (Tokyo Metropolitan Area, Sendai Area and Niigata Area of JR East; Tokyo Monorail Co., Ltd.; Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit, Inc.; Saitama New Urban Transit Co., Ltd.; Sendai Airport Transit Co., Ltd.), and the stations in the TOICA area of JR Central. ICOCA can be also used in the section between Kita-senju Station and Ayase Station on the Chiyoda Line of Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd., since it's considered a part of the (JR) Joban Kankosen (Joban local line). However, among the entities where Suica is introduced, the JR Bus Kanto doesn't accept ICOCA for its regular route buses.

Present ICOCA Areas

Keihanshin Area (Urban Network Area)
Based on the official denomination of the lines
The name in parentheses is a nickname used in the section.

Osaka Loop Line: all stations on the entire line
Sakurajima Line (JR Yumesaki Line): all stations on the entire line
Tokaido Main Line (Biwako Line, JR Kyoto Line, JR Kobe Line) : Maibara Station -Kyoto Station - Kobe Station
Hokuriku (Main) Line (Biwako Line): Maibara Station - Omi-Shiotsu Station
Sanyo Main Line (JR Kobe Line, Wadamisaki Line): Kobe Station - Aioi Station, Hyogo Station - Wadamisaki Station
Fukuchiyama Line (JR Takarazuka Line): Amagasaki Station - Shinoyamaguchi Station
JR Tozai Line: all stations on the line
Ako Line: Aioi Station -Banshu-Ako Station
Kansai Main Line (Yamatoji Line): JR Nanba Station -Kamo Station
Katamachi Line (Gakkentoshi Line): all stations on the line
Nara Line: all stations on the line
Kosei Line: all stations on the line
Kansai-Airport Line: all stations on the line
Hanwa Line: all stations on the line
Wakayama Line: Oji Station -Takada Station
Sakurai Line: all stations on the line
Kusatsu Line: Kusatsu Station - Kibugawa Station
Sanin Main Line (Sagano Line): Kyoto StationSonobe Station
Osaka Higashi Line: all stations on the line

Okayama/Hiroshima Area
Sanyo Main Line: Wake Station - Minami-Iwakuni Station
Kabe Line: all stations on the line
Kure Line (Setouchi-Sazanami Line): all stations on the line
Geibi Line: Hiroshima Station - Karuga Station
Fukuen Line: Fukuyama Station - Kannabe Station
Hakubi Line: Kurashiki Station - Bitchu-Takahashi Station
Kibi Line: all stations on the line
Uno Line (Seto-Ohashi Line): Okayama Station - Chayamachi Station
Honshi-Bisan Line (Seto-Ohashi Line): Chayamachi Station - Kojima Station
Tsuyama Line: Okayama Station - Houkaiin Station
Ako Line: Nagafune Station - Higashi-Okayama Station

One ICOCA card can be used for a divided-section commuter pass.
For example, if you purchase a commuter pass between Namase Station and Osaka Station at Takarazuka, on the surface of the ICOCA commuter pass the two sections are printed as 'Namase Station↔Takarazuka Station/ Takarazuka Station↔Osaka Station.'

Because the interoperable PiTaPa card is a post-paid system, before using it in the Urban Network Area it's necessary to recharge it via an automated ticket vending machine, etc. When one of the family that has a PiTaPa Family Membership uses the Kid's Card in the JR West Area, the users can enjoy the same functions as a holder of ICOCA for Children; and when he/she uses its Junior Card the same functions as an adult holder of ICOCA apply.

In the mutual usage of the cards, the holder can take limited express trains on the local lines, although a limited express ticket is separately required.

Reciprocal usage
Based on the reciprocal usage agreement, ICOCA can be used in the following interoperable areas with Suica, TOICA and PiTaPa. In these areas the card can be recharged by the automatic ticket vending machines, automatic fare adjustment machines, simple rechargers for Suica, (TOICA) or PiTaPa. When you recharge your card (Suica, TOICA or PiTaPa), the automatic ticket vending machines, automatic fare-adjustment machines and simple rechargers are available in the ICOCA area.

Suica Area
East Japan Railway (JR East)
Suburbs of Big Cities-Tokyo Area (except Kairakuen Station)
Sendai Urban Area
Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit: entire line
Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit: entire line
Tokyo Monorail: entire line
Saitama New Urban Transit: entire line
Sendai Airport Transit: entire line
Tokyo Metro: only between Ayase Station and Kita-senju Station on the Chiyoda Line

The usage of the ICOCA card within the Suica area has the following restrictions:

Depending on the station, automatic ticket gates for transferring to other lines don't accept the card, such as those for Seibu Railway at Takadano-baba Station. On these automatic ticket gates or ticket vending machines, for transferring to other lines, a reminder sticker that states, 'ICOCA cannot be used, ' or 'The cards other than Suica and PASMO cannot be used,' is in place. Concerning the ticket vending machines, there are also some machines that don't accept ICOCA, such as the vending machines of JR East installed at Shinjuku Station's Keio gate, and sometimes such a remark isn't made for those machines.

Neither is the card accepted by the automatic transfer ticket checker installed at Nishi-Funabashi Station. Therefore, when transferring from the Tozai Line of Tokyo Metro to another JR East line at Nishi-Funabashi Station, you can't go through the automatic transfer ticket checker with ICOCA.

Green Car's Suica System isn't available for the purchase of a Suica Green Ticket.

With the automatic card vending machines that accept a View Card to recharge other IC cards, ICOCA should be recharged in cash because the View Card isn't usable for ICOCA. Also, ICOCA can't be recharged by VIEW ALTTE (JR East ATM).

Even when you touch the automatic ticket checker with ICOCA, on the screen the word "Suica" is displayed.

Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central)
Nagoya/Shizuoka Area

PiTaPa Area
Hankyu Railway
Nose Electric Railway (except the cable line)
Keihan Electric railway (same as the above)
Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau (subway only)
Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau (subway, New Tram and bus)
Hanshin Electric Railway (railway lines only)
Osaka Monorail
Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway
Kintetsu Railways (Except some parts)
Nankai Electric Railway
Osaka Prefectural Urban Development Co., Ltd. (Semboku Rapid Railway)
Kobe Rapid Transit Railway
Sanyo Electric Railway (Railway lines only)
Kobe Electric Railway
Kobe New Transit (KNT/Port Island Line, KNT/Rokko Island Line)
Osaka Monorail
Hokushinkyuko Railway
Hankyu Bus (gradually extended by route and service office)
Hankyu Denen Bus
Keihan Bus (gradually extended by route and service office)
Keihan Kyoto Kotsu (except a part of the route)
Osaka Airport Transport Co., Ltd. (limousines that are directly operated by the company and arrive at and depart from Osaka International Airport: all limousines heading toward the Himeji direction and the Nara direction). ICOCA isn't accepted for the limousines that arrive at and depart from Kansai International Airport, including those that are operated between Hotarugaike Station, Osaka International Airport and Kansai International Airport, even if they're equipped with card readers.

Takatsuki City Transportation Division
In the PiTaPa area, except for a few machines, when the balance of the card isn't sufficient you can't adjust the fare in cash or with KANSAI THRU PASS. Recharging is possible.

ICOCA's one-way operation (ICOCA has one-way operability in the following areas):
CI-CA area
Nara Kotsu Bus Lines (gradually extended by route and service office)
NC Bus
NicoPa area
Shinki Bus
Shinki Zone Bus
Hareca area
Okayama Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. (all lines of Okaden Tramway, all routes of Okaden route bus, Okayama Airport limousine bus (Okayama-Okayama Airport Line))
Ryobi Holdings (all routes of the route bus)
Shimotsui Dentetsu (Okayama Airport limousine bus (Kurashiki-Okayama Airport Line), all routes of the route bus)
Chutetsu Bus (some routes of the route bus, introduced in July 2008)

LuLuCa area
Shizuoka Railway
Shizutetsu Justline (within Shizuoka City; excluding the entire line of the Tokkyu Shizuoka-Sagara Line and the Chubu-Kokudo Line, as well as a portion of the Kokudo Shizuoka-Shimizu Line and the Shizuoka-Nihondaira Line)

PASPY area
Hiroshima Electric Railway: Hiroshima Electric Railway Hakushima Line (tramline) (introduced on March 1, 2008).
Hiroshima Electric Railway (tramline): partially introduced
Hiroshima Bus: partially introduced
Hiroshima Kotsu: partially introduced
Geiyo Bus: partially introduced
Chugoku JR Bus: partially introduced
Bihoku Traffic Company: partially introduced
Tomo Tetsudo: partially introduced
Kure City Transportation Bureau: partially introduced
HD Nishi-Hiroshima (Bon-Bus): operable on the entire line
Hiroshima Rapid Transit (Astramline): scheduled to be introduced in spring 2009.

The itappy area
Itami City Transportation Bureau

Since each of the areas of CI-CA, NicoPa and LuLuCa overlaps the PiTaPa area, their mutual operability enables the usage of ICOCA. However, these cards aren't operable in the ICOCA area nor are they accepted for recharging a ICOCA card.

PASPY isn't accepted in the ICOCA area, either. However, ICOCA can be recharged on the buses where PASPY is accepted.

The machines at the stations on the Shizuoka Shimizu Line (Shizutetsu Densha) of the Shizuoka Railway and the trains of Shizutetsu Justline, where LuLuCa is accepted, aren't prepared to recharge ICOCA; consequently, ICOCA's recharging is only possible at the Shin-Shizuoka Bus Center. If you find that the card is short of balance when you get off the Shizuoka Railway train, you'll be asked to adjust the whole amount of the fare in cash (however, given the interoperation with TOICA, ICOCA can be recharged at JR Central stations in the vicinity).

Detailed usage display and printing
Because the record of usage made in the Suica area is displayed or printed on the card in an abbreviated manner such as '(JR東)' or JR-East, '(東臨)' or Tky-Mono., '(東臨)' or Tkyo-WF. (waterfront), '(埼新)' or Sai-New, '(仙空)' or Sen-Airp., when you need a detailed record of usage you have to check the display or print it with the machines in the Suica area.
When Suica is used in the PASMO area, or when ICOCA is used in the section between Kita-senju and Ayase or in the simple ticket checker at Hatcho-nawate Station, Atsugi Station or Ogawamachi Station, the usage record of the section is indicated as 'a line of another company.'

On the other hand, when the ICOCA's usage registered in the Kinki District (281 stations) and in the Chugoku district (135 stations), or when the usage registered in the PiTaPa area is displayed or printed by a machine in the Suica area, the record is indicated (more concretely), such as 'JR West,' 'Hanshin Railway,' 'Hankyu Railway' or 'Bus, etc.'

The record displayed and printed when getting on or off the train at a station in the PiTaPa area contains detailed information on the name of the railway company and the station used, like 'OC Umeda' or 'KC Kyoto,' and in the case of a streetcar or a bus the company's name is indicated (except for Shizuoka Railway, which is abbreviated as 'Shizutetsu'). However, from the beginning of the interoperation with PiTaPa to March 18, 2007, the usage records of the PiTaPa area were only indicated and printed on the card with an abbreviated name of the company, like 'Han-kyu' 'Kei-han' 'O-shi-kou' or 'Han-shin,' and if you needed the details including the names of the stations it was necessary to use a machine in the PiTaPa area to get the record indicated and printed. If you take a train at one of the stations of Keihan Railway or Nankai Railway located within the designated area where you can get a discount when transferring to the JR lines, such as Tofukuji Station, Tenmabashi Station and Mikunigaoka Station, the records indicated and printed contain the name of the company and the station used, such as 'KH Tofuku,' 'KH Tenma' or 'NK Mikuni,' from the beginning of the usage-record service.
When a streetcars or a bus was used, it was printed as 'Bus, etc.'
In the case of Okaden, the words 'Train Okaden' were printed by the purple-colored vending machines of what was then the newest model on the Hankyu Railway.

When displayed and printed in the PiTaPa area, the name of the companies and stations used are placed as 'JR West Kyoto' or 'Hankyu Umeda,' except for some railway companies such as Keihan and Nankai.
However, the usages registered in the Suica area are printed without specifying the name of a station such as 'JR East ***.'
When you use the card at Sakura-Shukugawa Station, which opened in March 2007, and the stations in the Okayama and Hiroshima areas, where ICOCA became operable from September 2007, the record is printed as 'JR West ***' but the station name isn't specified. At Nishinomiya Station, the letter printed in Kanji hasn't been changed even though the written name of the station was changed from '西ノ宮' to '西宮' concurrently with the opening of Sakura-Shukugawa Station.

The card normally admits 20 registers, but if you request an enhanced record the card can register up to the 50 most recent usages. Regarding the record registered on the card, it can be repeatedly printed without limit.

Future projects, etc. ICOCA can't be used in the PASMO area because its interoperation with PASMO isn't currently projected for private railways, route buses and public transportations of the metropolitan area.

Currently, ICOCA's introduction is being studied not only in other railway services but also in the ferry service to Miyajima Island.

However, the plan and prospects on the mutual usage with other JR-group IC cards--Kitaca, which Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido) is planning to issue, and SUGOCA, which Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) is planning to issue--haven't been officially announced by these companies. However, from the JR-Kyushu side, the president, Susumu ISHIHARA, has expressed his will to realize the reciprocal usage with ICOCA in a press conference (because JR Kyushu's lines have connections with the usable area of ICOCA through Tokaido Shinkansen and Sanyo Shinkansen).

Now that the usage rate of ICOCA at the ticket gate has exceeded 50%, in the future there is a possibility of installing the automatic ticket checkers exclusive to ICOCA. Before ICOCA became interoperable with PiTaPa, for a while there was a checker of exclusive use at Rinku-Town Station. At some of the stations in the Keihanshin area, one or two checkers are arranged for ICOCA only by halting the function for checking magnetic tickets.

Number of cards issued
The number of ICOCA cards issued exceeded one million in just over five months since the service began in November 2003. As of March 2008, more than 3,540,000 (3 million 540 thousand) cards have been issued. Consequently, the usage ratio of ICOCA to the number of times the automatic ticket checkers used in the Keihanshin area has reached approximately 50%.

Electronic Money function
For details, please refer to the section on ICOCA Electronic Money.

In a crowded station, by using ICOCA Electric Money to the payment of the items, you can enjoy quick shopping and save the trouble of giving and taking change. JR West first introduced it in Osaka Station from February 1, 2005, and as it proved to be popular, the number of shops accepting the card was extended to the entire Heart-in convenience-store chain in the Keihanshin area. On February 1, 2007, the coin-operated lockers accepting ICOCA Electric Money became available. A catchy illustration with the phrase 'ICOCA has become a key…' is depicted on these coin-operated lockers.

Crimes using ICOCA
There was a scandal in which 59 station employees and 10 temporary workers of JR West, who once took a train using their ICOCA card, erased the riding record of the card using the ticket processors installed in the wickets and repeatedly practiced illegal riding (an act akin to stealing a ride), and it is said that they had committed this act since November 2003, when the service was just introduced, till August 2004. The illegal use amounted to a total of 104,630 yen. Among these manipulators, a total of 15 persons, 10 station employees and five temporary workers were dismissed on disciplinary grounds.

June 28 to July 26, 2003: The ICOCA monitoring test was carried out at 22 stations in the sections between Osaka and Ashiya on the JR Kobe Line, between Osaka and Takarazuka on the Fukuchiyama Line and between Osaka and Takatsuki on the JR Kyoto Line, with the limited participation of 1,000 persons.

November 1, 2003: The ICOCA service was formally launched in the Urban Network Area.

March 2004: The number of cards issued exceeded a million.

August 1, 2004: ICOCA and Suica started the interoperation. ICOCA became accepted in the Suica area of JR East. The service called ICOCA for Children simultaneously started, and children of primary school age and under became able to use ICOCA as well; however, at the time this type wasn't interoperable with Suica.

March 1, 2005: The usable area was extended, and the card became accepted on the entire Sakurai Line.

June 2005: The number of the cards issued exceeded two million.

October 1, 2005: The ICOCA Electric Money Service started. With this, shopping becomes possible with ICOCA.

November 10, 2005: The interoperation with PiTaPa was officially announced.

January 21, 2006: ICOCA and PiTaPa became interoperable. Since then, ICOCA has been accepted in the private railway companies of the Kinki district. With the introduction of Suica service in some parts of the Niigata suburban section of JR East, ICOCA also became usable in some parts of the Niigata suburban section.

January 28, 2006: Mobile Suica Service started. The service became available in the ICOCA area due to the interoperability with Suica. However, in the ICOCA area only the ticket function is available so the functions of commuter pass and electric money can't be used. To apply for the service, you must purchase a corresponding cell phone and sign up for the 'View Card' credit card.

February 1, 2006: The issuance of SMART ICOCA started. This card is sold in a set with J-WEST Card, and it allows quick recharging from chargers, etc., without paying in cash but paying by card. ICOCA started one-way operation with NicoPa.

June 2006: The shops accepting ICOCA Electronic Money were extended to the entire chain of Heart-in and Daily-in convenience stores located in and around the stations in the Keihanshin area.

October 1, 2006: The ICOCA started one-way operation with Hareca.

October 21, 2006: The operable area was extended and the card became accepted at all stations on the Kosei Line as well as at some stations on the Hokuriku Line (Omi-Shiotsu Station and to the south). At these stations simple ticket checkers for IC cards were introduced.

February 1, 2007: A new service of ICOCA Electronic Money, 'ICOCA Coin-Operated Locker Service,' was launched. With this service the usage of the coin-operated lockers can be settled with ICOCA, and the key has been replaced by ICOCA.

March 18, 2007: The ICOCA for Children and Suica card for Kids became interoperable.

April 1, 2007: ICOCA started one-way operation with CI-CA.

July 2007: The number of the cards issued exceeded three million.

September 1, 2007: The usable area was extended and 135 stations in the Okayama and Hiroshima areas began to accept the card (at some stations simple IC card checkers were introduced). ICOCA started one-way operation with LuLuCa.

October 16, 2007: The interoperability with Suica was introduced in the building security management system in order to control people's entries and departures.

December 10, 2007: ICOCA was introduced in some shops of the Family Mart convenience-store chain in the Kansai district (JR Minami-Tanabe Station, etc.).

March 1, 2008: ICOCA started one-way operation with PASPY.

March 18, 2008: The interoperability with Suica was introduced in the electronic money function.

March 18, 2008: The recharging service to ICOCA started in the Kinki district, a part of Mie Prefecture, and the sales floors directly operated by AEON (Company Ltd.) in commercial facilities located in the Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi areas.

March 29, 2008: ICOCA started interoperation with TOICA.

April 1, 2008: ICOCA started one-way operation with itappy.

Interoperation with Suica through Mobile Suica Service
Mobile Suica is a service in operation since January 28, 2006, by JR East, and it consists of a mobile wallet that can be added with the functions of Suica Commuter Pass, Suica Ticket and Suica Shopping Service. Its ticket function and Suica Shopping Service can be used without problems in the ICOCA area.

Although the service that allows you to use ICOCA through cell phones hasn't been announced as of March 2008, if you make use of the Mobile Suica service you can get on and off the train with your cell phone in the ICOCA area, as well as do your shopping at stores that accept ICOCA Electronic Money. To confirm the registered usages, the information is displayed on the application software of the mobile wallet, such as JW OO Station for all stations when you've logged in, but if you have not logged in, it's displayed as **** for all stations. Because the application software is available with cell-phones, you can ask for the usage record as well as recharging everywhere in Japan. For details, please see the section on Mobile Suica.

In the ICOCA area, even when you're using the stored fare (SF) of another IC card, the ICOCA Transfer Service to another means of transport is available, although Mobile Suica is excluded from the service.

Although it isn't officially confirmed, within the Hiroshima area the Mobile Suica can be recharged using the charging machines for ICOCA (strictly speaking, the cell phone should be thin enough to use the charger).

[Original Japanese]