Densha-mo, Bus-mo, Pasmo
Pasmo, a card that you can use to travel on trains and buses in Japan, debuted on March 18 of this year. I tried out the card for the first time on Saturday, and I can say that I am quite pleased with the results.
Pasmo works seamlessly with the Suica network, so you can use this one card to take the Tsukuba Express, any JR trains, the subway, and even (I assume) the bus from Tsukuba to Tokyo. (I’m not sure of the situation with intra- and inter-city buses in Tsukuba. Can any of our readers confirm whether they have been able to use Pasmo on buses in the city?)
You can buy the card with a 500 yen deposit at ticket vending machines along the Tsukuba Express line (and presumably elsewhere). You can embed your name in the card (meaning that only you can use it, and you may be able to get it back if you lose it) or just leave it blank. You can put money on the card at the same vending machines. The machine that I used had English instructions, and the procedure is fairly straightforward.
If you really want to make things easy for yourself, you can associate your Pasmo card with a credit card, so that 3000 yen will be added to the card every time it gets below 2000 yen. This means that you wouldn’t even have to wait in line to add more money to the card. Very convenient!
It is definitely worth getting one of these cards in my opinion because it decreases the amount of time that you have to fiddle with little tickets and it makes your travel go a lot more smoothly. It is especially helpful when you are trying to catch a train at the last minute and don’t have enough time to wait in the line for a ticket. You can even keep the card in your wallet and just slide your wallet across the panel, so you don’t have to go fishing about for the card.
I don’t travel to Tokyo very often, but whenever I have gone in the past, I have been jealous of the people who have Suica cards, since they don’t have to wait in any lines or look up the fares before they board the train. I am glad that that level of convenience has finally spread to Tsukuba.