Apple Pay Suica Service Mode by Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

Apple Pay Suica Service Mode is a weird function that doesn’t have a counterpart on the Android Suica side. The JR East Apple Pay Suica help page mentions this. The iPhone Service Mode explanation says, “Service Mode will allow station agents and kiosks to help with any issues with your card.” The street reality is that station agents don’t need you to put the device in Service Mode, just fork it over and they can fix any Suica issue for you.
This difference exists because Osaifu Keitai smartphones (and the candy wrapper Google Pay Suica) have a dedicated FeliCa chip. Apple created it’s own custom FeliCa implementation hosted on the iPhone A Series and Apple Watch S Series SOC. But the Apple implementation did not really mature until A12 Bionic and the Express Card (Student ID)/Express Transit cards with power reserve feature. The A12 Bionic Secure Enclave supports limited NFC transactions that bypass iOS. It’s the same way a dedicated FeliCa chip works on Android.
This means that Apple Pay Suica on non-A12 devices requires iOS/watchOS to be up and running for Suica to work. Unfortunately this also means that different iOS versions sometimes have performance issues on non-A12 devices and that iOS occasionally drops the ball. Fortunately iOS 12.3 fixes all issues and has great Apple Pay Suica Express Transit performance. iOS 12.3 is a highly recommended update.
The Dead Suica Notifications/No Suica Balance Update problem happened occasionally and the way to fix it is to turn on Service Mode and leave it until it turns off automatically in 60 seconds or the screen goes dark, whichever comes first.
In this case Service Mode syncs and reconciles iOS with the Suica Stored Fare (SF) balance information from the FeliCa embedded Secure Element implemented inside the A Series/S Series Secure Enclave.
Service Mode seems pretty useless on A12 Bionic devices. I imagine it’s there more for show than actual functionality, although Service Mode is useful for cash recharge on 7-Eleven ATM machines where you have to put the device upside down to capture the ATM NFC antenna hit area.

It’s been odd the last few times I’ve needed assistance that I didn’t need to put my watch or iPhone in service mode. Which is good, because I can never remember how to do it.

The service mode tip could have fixed my last snafu, and I had no idea about 7-11 ATMs!

Joel, keep up the great work!

As expected, more good information from ATADistance:

JR East Suica System Downtime Notice by Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

Mobile Suica maintenance is a regular nightly occurrence from 1am~4am with longer once a month sessions. The July 6~7 and July 20~21 Suica system maintenance work is very unusual for both the time, 9pm~5am on each night, and the reach: both Mobile Suica and JR East station Suica ticket machine services are going offline.
During the offline period you can still use plastic Suica and Apple Pay Suica for transit and purchases as usual, but Apple Pay Suica Recharge will be limited to cash only from 1am~4am. Remember that you can always cash recharge Apple Pay Suica at any convenience store cash register or 7-Eleven ATM machine.
All other operations such as adding Suica to Wallet and all Suica App functions, and corresponding services at JR East station Suica ticket machines, will be offline for the entire maintenance window.
This is heavy system work that JR East is doing in preparation for the new eTicketing system due next April. JR East already had one system meltdown last month. Let’s hope they don’t have another.

Be forewarned.

Pillow fight:

Participants compete during the All Japan Pillow Fighting Championships in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Saturday.

© Reuters

(Via Japan Today)

I love that this exists, but what is that dude with the blanket doing? Is he a target?

Japan folks, please pay attention!

Hackers Access Over 461,000 Accounts in Uniqlo Data Breach:

Fast Retailing, the company behind multiple Japanese retail brands, announced that the UNIQLO Japan and GU Japan online stores have been hacked and third parties accessed 461,091 customer accounts following a credential stuffing attack.

As detailed in the official statement issued Fast Retailing following the security breach, the credential stuffing attack which led to the data breach took place between April 23 and May 10, 2019, with the number of compromised accounts possibly being higher seeing that the investigation has not yet concluded.

“While the number of incidents and circumstances may change during the course of the investigation, Fast Retailing is today providing notice of the facts as determined at the present time, and the company’s response,” says Fast Retailing.

The company also listed the customer information which got accessed during the attack:

• Customer name (last name and first name)
• Customer address (postal code, address, and apartment number)
• Customer phone number, mobile phone number, email address, gender, date of birth, purchase history, and clothing measurements
• Receiver name (last name and first name), address, and phone number
• Customer partial credit card information (cardholder name, expiration date, and portion of credit card number). The credit card numbers potentially accessed are hidden, other than the first four and last four digits. In addition, the CVV number (credit card security code) is not displayed or stored.

On May 13, Fast Retailing disabled the account passwords of 461,091 UNIQLO Japan and GU Japan online shop customers and started sending emails to all affected individuals to reset their passwords.

Fast Retailing discovered the breach after multiple customers reports of weird account activity and blocked the attackers from accessing the company’s computing systems, while also “strengthening monitoring of other access points.”

“Fast Retailing has also filed a report of damages regarding the unauthorized logins with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police,” states the data breach notification.

The company concludes the data breach notification [EN, JP] by asking all its customers to change their passwords especially if they’re also using them on other online platforms:

Fast Retailing is therefore requesting everyone who uses the same user ID or password with other services, not just the customers who have been contacted individually, to change their passwords immediately. The company recognizes that protecting customer information is a matter of the highest priority, considering this incident extremely serious, and is strengthening monitoring of unauthorized access, as well as taking other steps to further ensure that customers are able to shop with safety.

Customers who want more details regarding the data breach can contact the company’s customer service team using the free of charge 0800-000-1022 support phone line “available 9:00-17:00, including weekends and holidays,” or via e-mail at [email protected]

While the number of Fast Retailing online customers is not public, “Internet sales made up 10% of domestic sales in the first half of the company’s current fiscal year,” as Bloomberg initially reported.

(Via BleepingComputer)

I like how fast this was disclosed. I don’t like that I learned about it from a non-Japanese news source.

However, looking more closely at the data for the students who started learning after the age of 20, there are a lot of late learners who outperformed many native English speakers.

Toshio Suzuki and Ghibli Exhibition: Feel The Powerful Magic of Words by Tiffany:

Toshio Suzuki and Ghibli Exhibition: Feel The Powerful Magic of Words
Any talk about Studio Ghibli will bring to mind the legendary Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, but perhaps some fans may be less familiar with Toshio Suzuki. As the producer and former president, Suzuki is as integral to the studio’s success as Miyazaki and Takahata. Thanks to the dynamic trio of Miyazaki, Suzuki, and Takahata, Ghibli films are critically acclaimed, well-loved hits all over the world.
toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionPhoto by Tiffany Lim
If you’re a Ghibli aficionado and/or you want to know more about Suzuki, you’re in luck! April 20, 2019 marked the launch of a Suzuki-centric exhibition, simply called Toshio Suzuki and Studio Ghibli. Held at the newly opened Edo Culture Complex (EDOCCO) center on the grounds of Kanda Myojin, one of Tokyo’s most famous shrines, the exhibition runs from April 20 (Saturday) to May 12 (Sunday), 2019.

What to expect at the Toshio Suzuki and Ghibli Exhibition

toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionPhoto by Tiffany Lim
In addition to being a co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Suzuki is also a talented calligrapher, so the exhibition features some of his writings. Suzuki is a believer in the power of words, and indeed, as you walk through the venue, you too will feel the magic of words.
toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionPhoto by Tiffany Lim
You’ll see Suzuki’s inspirations–old-school, Showa-era (1926-1989) manga and films–and learn more about the trajectory of his career. While explanations are only in Japanese, and there are sadly no multilingual audio guides as of this writing, there’s more than enough for you to see and enjoy even if you can’t understand Japanese. If you’ve ever wondered what anime magazines from the ’70s looked like, or what a handwritten thesis looks like& well, you’ll wonder no more once you check out this exhibition.
Suzuki’s love for the written word didn’t just stop at calligraphy; his way with words also helped him brilliantly craft the copy for Ghibli films’ promotional materials. Did you know that the taglines for many Ghibli films have the word “live” (ikiro in Japanese) or some variation of it? Thanks to this exhibition, now you know! Be sure to have a look at Suzuki’s documents, notes, sketches, handwritten versions of Ghibli films’ taglines, and more.
Yubaba | Photo by Tiffany Lim
And now for the fun part. Time to have your fortune told. Take your pick from the imposing Yubaba or her twin sister Zeniba, who’s just as imposing. Yubaba’s got luck-related fortunes up her sleeve (er, mouth), while Zeniba has love-related ones. Unfortunately, you can’t line up for both.
toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionZeniba | Photo by Tiffany Lim
Reach into either sister’s mouth, pull out a number, and head to the nearby drawers. Find your number, and take a fortune. Don’t worry; this one’s got English translations. Heed Yubaba’s reminder to take good care of your new “name” (i.e. fortune), and off you go.
toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionPhoto by Tiffany Lim toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionPhoto by Tiffany Lim
Finally, at the end of the exhibition, you’ll find merchandise, in case you want to take home the magic with you. Not only event-exclusive items, but also some popular items from the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, are in store.
toshio suzuki and ghibli exhibitionPhoto by Tiffany Lim
Downstairs, you’ll also find the shrine selling limited-edition Ghibli-themed omamori (charms) and _ema _(prayer tablets). While ema are typically used to write prayers or wishes, and then left on shrine grounds, you can take these tablets home.


  • Especially if you’re visiting on a weekend or holiday, be prepared to wait in line just to get into the gallery. While not tiny, it’s not huge enough to accommodate too many people, either.
  • Save time by buying tickers from Loppi, Lawson’s ticketing service (link in Japanese only).
  • If you don’t want to spend too much time in line waiting for your fortune, the line for Zeniba’s love fortunes is shorter.
  • Are you a merch hound? If so, check out not only the shop at the end of the exhibition, but also the first floor of EDOCCO and the shrine’s stand for lucky items. Each area has its own merch related to the exhibition.
    Can’t make it to the exhibition? Check out the permanent Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.

Tl;dr: The takeaway here is to install the SuicaEng app on your iPhone. Use the regular Suica app if you read Japanese and/or need advanced features.

Region Settings and Apple Pay – Ata Distance:

The iOS Region Setting and Apple Pay are linked together in interesting ways that has changed with iOS versions. Up through iOS 10, devices needed to have the Region match the country they wanted to add and use cards in: iPhone had to be set to Japan to add and use Japanese credit cards in Apple Pay, and so on.

This was a pain when I first came to Japan.

This changed in iOS 11 with global FeliCa iPhone and NFC switching. The Region setting only needed to be changed to add a card for any particular country and had nothing to do with using it. This is because Apple Pay Wallet only displays the card options that match the Region setting and acts like a filter …

After adding a card, the Region setting can be anything as Apple Pay ignores it and takes care of the rest.

This was wildly unintuitive. I discovered it on accident when I set up my new iPhone.

Many inbound users don’t realize this and have avoided adding Suica to Apple Pay under the misconception that the iPhone/Apple Watch Region has to be set to Japan to use it.

…as one would expect.

Wallet behavior is the same in iOS 12, even with the iOS 12.2 UI tweaks, but the Region setting can be completely ignored when adding cards to Apple Pay with an app like SuicaEng. SuicaEng simply adds Suica no matter what the iPhone Region setting is, a nice time saver because changing the iPhone Region is a mini restart.

The SuicaEng app is almost perfect. It provides just enough functionality for 95% of Western travelers if they read English – and they don’t need to be able to read much at that.

Another small change from iOS 11 is that if you have a Suica card deleted from Wallet that is parked on iCloud, Wallet will show you the Add Suica option no matter what the iPhone Region setting is. It’s a nice touch and reminder in case you ever forgot you had one.

This is valuable when swapping devices or when troubleshooting issues.

I hope there is either more advanced functionality coming in the SuicaEng app or English language support in the full Suica app. As it is, with a little help from my friends I can get what I need out of the Suica Two-Step.

Too rich, too comfortable: Why Japan is so resistant to change even as disaster looms:

Note: I edited the question and answer section for clarity. See the original article for higher fidelity.

Under the leadership of Shinzo Abe, it can feel as if Japan is enjoying a revolution of sorts. Sweeping economic reforms are finally shaking up its long-stagnant economy, while more foreign workers are entering the country than ever before. Soaring tourist numbers and major sporting events, like this year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics, are also keeping “Cool Japan,” well, cool.

Georgetown University Press

And all the while, Japan remains the world’s third-largest economy and one of its wealthiest countries; most people there want for nothing, and some of the major societal schisms fracturing Western societies seem to be absent in Japan.

But none of these advantages will help the country tackle its serious economic and demographic problems. That’s according to Brad Glosserman, a 27-year resident of Japan and author of a new book, Peak Japan: The End of Great Ambitions (Georgetown University Press, 2019). Glosserman, now deputy director of the Center for Rule-Making Strategies at Tama University in Tokyo, decided to write the book after the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011. He wondered whether those calamities would be enough to shake Japan out of its comfortable, familiar stupor. His conclusion? Not so much.

Glosserman spoke with Quartz ahead of his book’s publication next month. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Q: Your book says that we’re now at Peak Japan, which is peculiar as many people may associate that with the years of its economic boom in the 1980s. Could you explain that? 

A: In some ways you could say the peak years were in the 90s, but for a more complete picture, the Japanese are a more well-rounded, globally present country now. They’ve recovered in some ways and risen again, having restored political stability after a period of time when they didn’t have that. The economy, too, in some respects has recovered. You have to credit Abe in changing the trajectory of the country and giving it new impetus, and assuming a new leadership role on the international stage, including resurrecting the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). He didn’t solve Japan’s problems, but he’s put the floor on some of these issues that other people couldn’t have done.

Q: Why isn’t Abe’s leadership enough to solve Japan’s problems? 

A: “We like what we have, we’re a small ‘c’ conservative country.”

The nature of the challenges facing Japan, and the need to reverse those trends that everybody acknowledges are bad, requires structural shifts. And the Japanese are not prepared to do that. “We like what we have, we’re a small ‘c’ conservative country, we are not prepared to adopt a system that somebody else thinks we need when we’re not sure of it ourselves,” they say. Japan is not like a society trapped in the amber—of course it’s changing and evolving, but these are evolutionary, not revolutionary changes. What the Japanese are is very Japanese. This is a country that believes in law, resilience, stoicism, sucking it up and getting through it. That, as one politician put it to me, is an absolute brake on change in this country.

The fact is that Abe isn’t representative of Japan. I do not see the forces for sustained change in Japan.

Anecdotally in general in my circle, this is true. Few have strong opinions one way or another about Abe, but none think he is representative.

Q: What about Abe’s stated commitment to issues such as female labor participation? That’s enjoyed some success in lifting the number of working women in Japan. 

A: For those on the right who seek reforms to realize their dream of a more powerful and influential Japan, they must balance their impact on social norms and idealized social structures. With women, the tension here is between what the government knows it has to do to unleash their economic potential in society, but there’s also the notion of a woman’s place in the household—I think Abe really does believe in that. There’s been all sorts of policy nudges that the government could have done, but they haven’t, like making childcare widely available. That tension has resulted in begrudging changes that are too late.

“They don’t like working women… I don’t like my choices. I haven’t gotten married because I feel that I would have to give up my career.”

Japanese women in response don’t have fervent protests like the suffragettes, but they do choose to act within their rights, like choosing not to get married or have children, and taking jobs that allows them to afford the lifestyle that they choose. One woman, an associate professor at a university, told me: “The LDP (Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party) really likes the traditional family system. They don’t like working women… I don’t like my choices. I haven’t gotten married because I feel that I would have to give up my career.” Now not only is Japan’s population shrinking, but preferences may have permanently shifted, making it impossible for fertility rates to reach or surpass replacement no matter what incentives are offered.

My view on this is biased by working for an American company where there are a lot of women throughout all levels of the organization – and of course by having a penis. However, looking at the crowds of “freshman” employees flocking around Tokyo I don’t see a government discouraging working women. The bigger issues are around child care, housing, and marriage in general.

Q: So where does that leave Japan in terms of tackling its demographic crisis? 

A: To me, it’s extraordinarily revealing that the Japanese government has made a conscious decision to give up one-fifth of its population, and say, “We’re going to hold the line at 100 million people.”

[I]t’s extraordinarily revealing that the Japanese government has made a conscious decision to give up one-fifth of its population.

Even in terms of immigration, you have to look at what types of jobs the government is looking to fill. What they really want is people like me—advanced, educated folks who will contribute high value-add to society. Then there’s the second group of people—younger, low-skilled workers doing jobs that most of Japanese don’t want to do. But they don’t want these people to come and stay. They want them to contribute and then go home. The discussion over allowing “integrated resorts” (casino) (paywall) is similar. It’s classic Japanese, and based on the Singapore model. They want foreigners to come in to this small area and spend all their money, but charge locals a lot of money to get in. That way, you don’t worry about contamination and having to integrate them into the larger society.

This is a succinct summary of what I’ve been saying.

Q: What about at the corporate level?

A: This isn’t a country that forgives mistakes terribly well. So what does that encourage you to do? Put your head down. That discourages entrepreneurialism. So does the shrinking population. Steady jobs at many companies are basically readily available for you, so you just don’t screw up and keep your head down and go along with it. There isn’t the same hunger and chip on your shoulder that people have in South Korea to prove themselves, and you don’t have the fearsome competitiveness of China.


Don’t get me wrong, the Japanese are incredibly smart and can be very innovative, but they’re very good at process innovation. When they can see something in front of them and they’ve got a goal to work towards. But they historically have had a problem with coming up with the idea of what to do next themselves. Now, they’re looking back to “Cool Japan” and traditional Japanese values and marketing that aesthetic, for example.

Q: As Japan approaches a new era with the abdication of emperor Akihito, how do you think people will look back on his reign? 

A: People will look back at the emperor and think that he was an extraordinary man in so many ways. He was a voice of reason, a voice of calm and serenity. He encapsulated the very best of Japan. There’s even speculation that he actually decided to abdicate as one way of stopping the prime minister from getting his constitutional revision to Article 9.

I hope the Emperor instilled many of his core values in the Crown Prince. If so, the future is bright. They make for a stark contrast with the ruling family in the US.

Q: Going back to the starting point for your book—the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011—where do things stand with that area today? 

A: [I]n Japan, people are supposed to suffer in silence.

It’s lagging. Nobody is happy with what’s going on, and there were extraordinary tensions in how Japan was dealing with Fukushima. In some ways, people say that the disaster broke Japan apart. The idea that all Japanese were connected to each other—a powerful trope in modern Japan—was revealed as fiction. Young people felt little connection to the people in Tohoku (northeast), even as politicians kept talking about the idea of kizuna (bonds). Meanwhile, people in Tohoku feel as if they’ve been forgotten. Many are still living in temporary homes, there are still no-go zones, and the reactors are still radioactive. They’ll never go back to their old lives. But in Japan, people are supposed to suffer in silence.

The flip side of this is that they are not anchored in disaster, what I call misery porn. Misery porn describes people not directly impacted by a tragic event yet make it the cornerstone of their life.

Q: Why is it important for people to pay attention to Japan’s decline?

A: Anyone with an interest in Asian regional dynamics should be concerned about a gap between expectations of Japan and what the country can and will deliver. Unfulfilled expectations could lead to a rupture in a crisis. My concern is that we, meaning Americans who have a deep commitment to an important partnership, don’t have our expectations out of line.

(Via Quartz)

I know what book I’ll go hunting for before my abdication lengthened Golden Week holiday.

天ぷら酒場 上ル商店 門前仲町本店

The Suica English App by Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

  • SuicaEng App
  • Add Suica
  • Add a balance
  • Use
    Finally! After 2 years of waiting for a full blown English version of the Suica App with all the bells and whistles, JR East has done the smart thing and released the SuicaEng app instead. This simple streamlined English app does one thing: add a virtual Suica card to Apple Pay without a Mobile Suica account or any of the hassle of dealing with the Japanese only Suica App options. It does nothing else but should take care of most immediate inbound needs. The same virtual Suica restrictions of Suica App apply:
  • Only one Suica can be added, if you already have a Suica in Wallet you cannot add another one with SuicaEng, a second virtual Suica requires the full Suica App and free registration of a Mobile Suica account.
  • Once added, Suica is managed in Wallet or Watch app.
    The best thing would be adding virtual Suica directly in Wallet without the need for an app, perhaps Apple and JR East will deliver that eventually. Meanwhile anything more complicated than adding virtual Suica: purchasing e-tickets, commuter pass, Green Seat reservations etc., still requires the Japanese only Suica App.


I still need the Japanese one, but this is huge for me!