PASPY vs ICOCA: IC Cards in Hiroshima

ByMichael Stigall
Sep 29, 2021

PASPY vs ICOCA: IC Cards in Hiroshima

When people mention Japan, one of the first things they think of is the fast and efficient means of transportation available for both locals and visitors alike. In addition to Japan’s famous trains and subways, Hiroshima has a network of buses and streetcars that are clean, safe, and always on time. Best of all, mass transportation is relatively cheap compared to many other Western countries.
Arriving as a tourist in Hiroshima, most people take advantage of the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, which grants free passage on the JR system. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for residents, so we need to jump right in and become a ‘local’ by purchasing one of either rechargeable IC cards. The options vary throughout the country, but our choices are between the Paspy and ICOCA cards in Hiroshima. Since this is often more than a little confusing and even quite daunting for the newly arrived, so I’ve put together this guide using my own experiences and those of other local and expat friends. I assure you, after reading this, you will be more than suitably equipped to know which card is the best for your situation.

First off, the local Hiroshima, PASPY, is very popular due to the number of available discounts. One example of this is on the streetcar, which usually costs 160 yen for adults but is only 150 yen for PASPY holders. It might not be a lot, but it does add up over time. If you’re looking to save some extra change or live close to a streetcar line, it’s a good option. PASPY can be used on the streetcar and the Astram line, the bus companies operating within Hiroshima and in cities like Kure, the Miyajima Ropeway, and of course, the trains. One major drawback is that you won’t be able to use it outside of Hiroshima. Yep, folks, that means that you’ll need to buy another card such as ICOCA if you go traveling within Japan. The best place to buy PASPY is at Hiroshima Bus Centre, located on the third floor of the SOGO department store in downtown Hiroshima. The English website also has a complete list of service counters where you can buy your Paspy. According to my friends, the best thing they like about PASPY is that you can choose the color of your card. Yes, apparently that’s very important to some people!

My personal preference is the ICOCA card, simply because you can use it not only within Hiroshima but in the entire JR system. It even works as a form of payment at many stores and with vending machines. This means that if you visit the Kansai area (Osaka and further afield), you don’t need to purchase another card to use during your time there. It also means that your ICOCA card can function similar to a prepaid credit card throughout your day since it is accepted in so many places such as convenience stores, vending machines, and supermarkets. You can purchase ICOCA cards at JR ticket offices and vending machines that display the ICOCA card logo.

Both PASPY and ICOCA are easy to recharge, and you can do this at ticket vending machines, convenience stores, and even on the train, bus, etc., themselves. Just tell the driver you want to “charji onegaishimasu” (チャージお願いします), which means “charge please” and add your money to the machine. Easy peasy!

A final note before you make your choice: remember, PASPY machines everywhere in Hiroshima will accept ICOCA cards, but sadly, the reverse is not true. So while the ICOCA
There you have it… it’s up to you to decide! Good luck!

Electroburper, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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