Traditional pasteboard rail tickets may soon go the way of Betamax VCRs and telephone rotary dials with the near-nationwide standardization of prepaid IC cards such as JR East's Suica and Tokyo's Pasmo from March 23.

These nearly ubiquitous IC cards, which hold up to ¥20,000 worth of "money," can be used to pay for everything from train fares to items at kiosks and thousands of participating shops. All the complicated calculations, the reading and writing of data, such as deducting the cost of a cross-country train journey or a simple bottle of water, must be done in the blink of an eye, while the card is in contact with the reader, typically for a mere fraction of a second.

This has forced railway companies to completely rethink the way in which passengers enter and exit the rail system.