When people mention Japan, one of the first things they think of is the fast and efficient means of transportation that are available for both locals and visitors alike. Trains, subways, buses and in Hiroshima, the streetcars, are clean, safe, always on time and perhaps best of all, relatively cheap compared to many other Western countries.
Arriving as a tourist in Hiroshima, most people take advantage of the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, but for us residents, this isn’t an option. Instead, we need to jump right in and become a ‘local,’ by purchasing one of either the PASPY or the ICOCA rechargeable cards. Now, this is often more than a little confusing 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.
Firstly, the local Hiroshima, PASPY, is very popular due to a number of discounts that are available. One example of this is on the streetcar, which normally costs 160 yen for adults, but is only 150 yen for PASPY holders. It might not be a lot, but I guess it does add up over time. If you’re looking to save some extra change, it’s a good option. PASPY can not only be used on the streetcar, but also 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 travelling within Japan. The best place to buy PASPY is at Hiroshima Bus Centre, which is located on the third floor of SOGO department store in downtown Hiroshima. You can also get it from vending machines. According to my friends, the best thing they like about PASPY is that you can choose the colour 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. This means that if you visit Kansai area (Osaka and further afield), you don’t need to purchase another card to use during your time there. ICOCA cards can be purchased at JR ticket offices and vending machines that display the ICOCA card logo.
Both PASPY and ICOCA are easy to recharge and this can be done 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.
There you have it… it’s up to you to decide! Good luck!
By daichi-ishii via Wikimedia Commons