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Since major electronic money services emerged in 2001, it has become common in Tokyo for people to go through ticket gates by just touching a smart card to electronic readers at train stations and to make small purchases without pulling out their wallets at convenience stores. Japan's cash-based tradition is changing. There are two forms of e-money services. The pre-paid cards such as Suica as well as post-paid cards that are linked to a credit card like Sumitomo's Mitsui card.

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Integrated circuit chips are embedded in smart cards as well as in mobile phones that have the e-wallet ("osaihu keitai") function, allowing customers to pay electronically. In 2007, Pasmo, an IC fare card for trains and buses in the Tokyo metropolitan area, was issued by Pasmo Co., which is a consortium of 23 railways and 32 bus operators in the Kanto region. The card saves people from having to buy tickets. Instead, people can put up to ¥20,000 on their Pasmo card and go through ticket gates by simply touching electronic readers at the gates. The popularity of Pasmo cards surpassed all expectations and they sold out the following month. Although the consortium said in April it would resume issuing the cards in August, a spokesman said this may be delayed.

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The share of electronic money users in two major metropolitan regions has more than doubled from four years ago to 30 percent, a think tank said Tuesday. A rising number of people view quick settlements without small change as attractive, the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living said. "Smart shopping is becoming deep-rooted in Japan," it said in a report based on a survey of consumers in the Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan regions it conducts every two years. 

The latest survey was carried out in May and covered 3,389 people. The rate of people using e-money rose from 12.1 percent in 2006 to 22.0 percent in 2008 and to 30 percent in 2010, it said. The poll also found that the share of respondents who shopped via the Internet in the past year came to 38.3 percent, up 8.1 points from 2008. (The Japan Times)

 


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