Tokyo has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most futuristic and high-tech cities in the world. Case-in-point: IC card readers, nearly omnipresent in train and subway stations, convenience stores, drink and cigarette vending machines, and many restaurants and taxis. These contactless readers utilize NFC (near-field communication) technology, meaning you can pay for goods and services ranging from train tickets to cans of Coke by merely swiping a compatible IC card in front of one without even having to take it out of your wallet. Extremely convenient, especially if you’re a non-Japanese-reading visitor who might run into trouble when trying to figure out fare differences between different public transportation operators when transferring lines.
Note that there are several companies who issue IC cards, not all of which are compatible with one another. For example, while the Suica and Pasmo cards (issued by JR and Tokyo Metro, respectively) can be used interchangeably for train tickets and buying snacks and drinks at kiosks and vending machines in and around stations and some convenience stores, they can’t used in places that only accept Edy, a competing e-money format. And if you’re a smoker and want to buy a pack out of a cigarette vending machine, you’ll need a dedicated age-verified IC card known as Taspo, which can’t be used for anything else. Even high-tech convenience comes at a cost, after all.