If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know that the train stations are massive, especially the ones around the Yamanote line. Today JR East made the announcement that they will be making some changes to the way they handle non-passengers who want to gain access to the interior of the station. This could be for a number of reasons, most commonly being able to use the restroom or to purchase something from one of the stores inside of the station. For these reasons, JR East has announced the new Touch de Ekinaka service.
Previously, if you wanted to go into a station to use the restroom, you had to go to one of the staff at the ticket counter and ask permission to go inside. Even then, your time within the station was limited to thirty minutes. With JR East’s new Touch de Ekinaka service, anyone that has a Suica or Pasmo card can enter for reasons other than riding a train and will be granted two hours inside the station. This could be anything from using the restroom to going to a restaurant. Doing so will not be free, however, and will cost ¥140 for standard stations and ¥150 for larger or ‘main’ stations. Either way, this is a great step forward in making things easier for everyone around.
The Touch de Ekinaka service kicks off on 13 March 2021 and will be available at all JR East stations. The service is available only at automatic ticket gates (gate type) for conventional lines, not at simple ticket gates or Shinkansen ticket gates. There are also some stations and routes that are not covered by the system, such as transfer gates for private railways and subways. As someone who uses the train daily, I am interested to see if this will expand to other companies such as Keio and Odakyu.