Just what is a suica? No, it isn’t the Japanese word for “watermelon.” Although, I am craving a watermelon right now. Anyways, a suica is god’s gift to the Japanese transportation system.
You can use the suica almost anywhere in major cities. I find it very useful to use for the train and bus systems. It basically acts as a prepaid card. There are different kinds of suicas though. You can get the basic suica, where you can refill it when you run low on funds, or you can get a monthly one. However, the monthly card only allows you to travel between certain areas. So, if you’re planning on just visiting, the regular prepaid one would suffice.
Now, where can you purchase a suica? At any ticket machine at any/most stations. Don’t worry if you can’t read Japanese, there’s an English language option. If you still have difficulty, there’s someone always around to help you.
How much should you load into your suica? If you know where you’re going, I’d load enough in for a round trip. Even though would be less of a hassle if you just load a shit ton of cash onto it, keep in mind that you could lose/misplace you suica, especially in large metropolitan cities like Tokyo. I load no more than 6,000 yen whenever I am in Tokyo.
Restrictions? Yes, you can’t use the suica in every city. Some cities have not adopted the system yet unfortunately. Also, certain railway lines (such as the Narita Express or Skyliner) requires a physical ticket to purchase. In that case, you could use the funds on your suica to purchase the ticket.
What else can it be used for? You can use it at cafes/convenience stores/etc. Awesome, right?? Of course, you can’t use it at restaurants per se. That would look tacky, no?
Want an alternative? You can also get a Pasmo, which is similar to a suica.
Bonus Tip: In the case that the gates close on you after you scan your suica, it means that you have insufficient funds and to get your ass over to the nearest machine (usually against the wall) to refill your card.