IC cards are everywhere. And they're great. You charge up your card with money and use it to ride along public transport, purchase hot green team from vending machines or to buy an umbrella at Family Mart. Good stuff. Most of the cards used for public transport are all interchangeable these days, allowing you to use a Tokyo Pasmo card in Fukuoka and a Nagoya Manaca card in Osaka. They even have pretty awesome names – the JR East (a railway company) one is called SUICA, short for Super Urban Intelligent Card. Yes.
The easiest way to get hold of one of these cards is to use a ticket machine in a train or subway station. The machines are actually a pretty good representative of Japanese thechnology in public settings. It's kind of like the original Star Wars. The tech is crazy futuristic but it's been around forever with heavy signs of being used, the plastic is turning yellow and everything has this simple, grungy look to it. Lovely.
Getting hold of a card
[work in progress] Go to the train or subway station of your choice, and find one of these: // Photo: pasmo machine //
Here's a video I stumbled across on youtube explaining everything in a crystal clear kind of way.
Different places, different cards
Tokyo – Pasmo
Nagoya – Manaca
Kyushu – Sugoca
JR East – Suica