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In the past I've heard about different Japanese IC cards being interoperable, but with some cards only being used on certain networks.

I'm considering traveling to Sapporo in Sept/Oct 2019 and I am rather confused with regards to the Kitaca and Sapica cards. From what I can tell, Kitaca is interoperable with Suica and all of the other JR cards, while Sapica is only usable in Sapporo, but specifically for the subway, tram, and local buses.

My question is whether the subway/bus/tram also take Kitaca in addition to Sapica, or if I need to have both cards when traveling around Sapporo without using cash for public transportation.

Most likely, I will purchase both for souvenir value (with Kitaca of course being usable for future trips), but knowing which ones are supported by which operators will make things much easier once I'm there on the ground.

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All transportation operators in the Sapica network also accept Kitaca, as well as the nine other major cards (Suica et al.). Basically, it's everything except JR Hokkaido, so it includes the city-operated subway and tram, as well as city buses (note, JR Hokkaido and JR Hokkaido Bus are different companies).

That's all. In particular

  • Transportation operators that are not in the Sapica network do not accept Sapica.
  • There is no compatibility for shopping (stores, vending machines, etc.). If a store displays the Sapica logo, it accepts only Sapica unless otherwise stated. If it displays the Kitaca logo, it accepts Kitaca and the eight other major cards (yes, eight, not Pitapa, it's complicated), but not Sapica, unless otherwise stated. (I have no idea whether there are stores that accept both, but it's conceivable.)
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Kitaca (Sapporo city), nimoca (Hakodate city and north-eastern Kyushu region), Suica (Kanto and Tohoku regions, and Niigata prefecture), PASMO (Kanto region), manaka (Nagoya area), TOICA (Tokkai region), PiTaPa (Kinki and Hokuriku regions, and Shizuoka city (apparently?)), ICOCA (Kansai, Chugoku, Hokuriku, and maybe Shikoku regions), はやかけん(Hayakaken) (Fukuoka city), and SUGOCA (Kyushu region) are the cards that can be used nationwide.

However, compatibility issues might exist when using outside of the original region (I heard that charging is a big issue, but I had no problems charging my Suica card in Osaka and Sapporo at all).

The nice thing about the Sapica card is that it has a point system out of the box, and most people in Sapporo only use public transportation within Sapporo, so most people there use a Sapica card. The point system is from what I know by myself, the rest is from what I heard from someone who has lived in many places throughout Japan before, please don't hit me!

Editing my answer to provide a more direct answer to your question, as I realised that while my answer does clarify your worries, it's still not a hard answer to your question.

When I was in Hokkaido I just used my own Suica card, and I was able to use it on both Sapica and Kitaca networks without any problems, same goes for vending machines, I only had 1 store where I couldn't pay with Suica (but only with Sapica), but elsewhere throughout the island was working.

Taking a look at the official websites of both cards, Sapica is strictly for use with the Sapica network only, while Kitaca can be used on both Sapica and Kitaca networks, as well as any other network nationwide. However, stores in Sapporo might accept either both or only one of them, and if a store only supports Sapica, you can't use Kitaca, and vice versa.

  • Most of JR Shikoku does not accept ICOCA. Only stations served by the Express Marine Liner, which is run jointly by JR West and JR Shikoku, accept the ICOCA (see this page). – xuq01 Aug 24 at 4:26
  • Basically, stations between Takamatsu and Tadotsu on the Yosan Line, all of which are in Kagawa Prefecture. – xuq01 Aug 24 at 4:27
  • xuq01, unless you meant a different card, on the page you linked to I don't see Shikoku to be mentioned anywhere. It does say that you can't use an ICOCA on the Shinkansen and you can't use it as electronic money (other than train travels) outside of the ICOCA area. It only lacks a bit of consistency, as a bit later on it says that you only can't use electronic money in the SUICA area and Sapporo. I have a ICOCA card and used it in multiple vending machines in Tokyo and Chiba, so I doubt that it's up to date. – Annonymous is nobody Sep 3 at 3:42
  • I'm not sure what you meant. The page I linked to is on the JR Shikoku website, and the map indicates clearly the stations at which ICOCA is accepted. – xuq01 Sep 3 at 4:41
  • Also, "札幌Suicaエリアでは電子マネーはご利用いただけません" clearly means that you can't use electronic money in the Sapporo Suica area (because the underlying system is actually SAPICA, not Suica), not that you can't use electronic money in Sapporo and the Suica area. – xuq01 Sep 3 at 4:42

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