Getting Connected in Japan – 2016
By Bryce Marley-Jarrett
We all try to stay connected when travelling abroad, more so than ever now. Finding the best option for you can sometimes be challenging with language barriers and spotty information when searching from home. Today we have our latest guide for 2016 on the state of providers and the best options for staying connected while travelling Japan.
Travelling has changed over the last decade. We all used to be disconnected, and the only way to talk to home was through a payphone or postcard. Today we are prone to be connected to our phones and the internet 24/7, and one of the first things we do when we land is try to get reconnected.
Today we have the latest information on all the ways you can stay connected, post, and find your way online in Japan when travelling, so let’s take a look at all the options.
The most convenient access point that you will find to get online will typically be through your accommodation, as the majority of hotels in Japan have wireless internet available to guests, and like most of the world they don't charge you for use.
You may still find the odd hotel that is only a wired connection in the room and Wi-Fi in the communal areas. If this is an issue for you (which would be for most now days in our wireless society) your two best bets are:
Make sure when booking accommodations they clearly state in-room Wi-Fi.
If you own an Apple Airport Express, bring that along. Plug the wired access in and turn it into a personal in-room Wi-Fi.
So if you’re happy with spotty connections and being confined to your hotel for getting online, this will work 95% of the time. However if you’re staying in a ryokan or hostel, this may not even be an option for you.
Since our last connection guide, an online behemoth has changed how many of us stay when overseas. Airbnb.com has made it easy for us to get cheaper accommodations around the world, and in more home-style environments. Especially in the last 12 months, Japan has grown rapidly on Airbnb and you can find a affordable rooms or houses around the country for a fraction of the cost of a hotel, read Japlanning’s guide and review of Airbnb’s in Japan here.
Airbnb is great in flagging if a place has Wi-Fi, and many places up in Japan actually offer a Wi-Fi personal hotspot in the apartment/room, and will allow you to take it with you during your stay! This is a great option if you don’t want to rent your own hotspot (an option we will discuss further down.)
So if you are Airbnb-ing Japan, and are wanting a continual online connection, be sure to make this a criteria of booking a pad, it could save you some serious yen!
The landscape of public hotspots is constantly changing in Japan, and seemingly for the better! In the last couple of years there have been vast improvements, especially for foreigners. A little unique (as Japan is) you will find that a lot of hotspots across Japan require a payment or subscription. So we have broken down your options by free and paid.
Your first obvious ones are Starbucks, some fast food chains and airports. Even some of the private railways lines offer free tourist Wi-Fi on the platforms. Look for the Free Wi-Fi signs and log on.
Over the last few years Japan has improved their access to hotspots and Wi-Fi for tourist with some great options:
Free Wi-FI Japan: By far the easiest to use for free and gets you access to many public hotspots across Japan. You can get access to the broad networks via a couple of options.
Before you arrive download the NAVITIME for Japan Travel App and register and it will issue you are Wi-Fi ID and Password for when you arrive (Note – this must be completed outside Japan)
Collect a Login Card from a variety of tourist spots and stores in Japan – List here.
You then need to download the Japan Connected Free Wi-Fi App where you can enter your logins and it will set up your phone to connect to many public Wi-Fi hotspots on your journey. For an in-depth guide, visit the official websites in the link above. Once you are registered with the supplied log in / Wi-Fi Card, you have 14 days of access free!
Another free option to hotspots is Free Wi-Fi Passport by one of the biggest cellular networks in Japan – Softbank. Softbank’s Offering requires you to call a number from your cell phone to get a password, then all you need to do is enter your phone number and password when you see their hotspot logo, and be connected. The service is valid for 2 weeks from sign up. Make sure you don’t have ridiculous global roaming rates, as you need to call from the mobile phone you will be using.
The main paid option for tourists is from NTT DoCoMo, the country’s largest cellular network. DoCoMo Wi-Fi for visitor is 972 Yen for 1 week or 1404 Yen for 3 weeks access to the largest public Wi-Fi network in the country. You apply and pay online through the link above.
Using the network is easy. Simply scan for access through your Wi-Fi on your phone, select the NTT DoCoMo access point and enter the security key provided. Launch your browser on your device and a login screen will come up. Click the link ‘docomo for visitor’ enter your provided username and login and connect. This only needs to be done the first connection. All subsequent connections should happen automatically. You may need to re-enter your username and password when prompted.
For many, hotel access and access through hotspots may be enough for your stay in Japan. If so the above options should keep you covered.
First things first: DO NOT USE GLOBAL ROAMING. You will spend a fortune on it, and the bill you get when you go home will induce a mild stroke (that is, unless you have T-Mobile in the USA and have taken their great international roaming at no extra charge add-on).
Before you leave the country, make sure your phone is unlocked - otherwise a sim card is no use to you! (Japlanning Tip - If you’re from Australia, our laws require your mobile provider unlock your phone on request!)
Japan has upped their travel sim card game in the last 2 years, and there is now a vast array of choices for you on the market. Below we have a table of the best value ones you can get, showing the amount of data included, the network it uses, the speed you will get (3G/4G) and the length of validity it offers.
|Travel Sim Cards Japan|
|Name||Company||Data||Validity||Speeds||Rechargable||Perks / Restrictions||Purchase||Cost + Tax|
|Japan Travel Sim||NTT DoCoMo||1/2GB||1 Mth/2 Mth||4G LTE||Yes||+ Rechargable - English Phone Support in Japan||NA Online. Airports, Yodobashi/Bic Camera & Tourist centres||¥2650 / ¥4090|
|b-mobile||NTT DoCoMo||Unlimited||14 Days||No||- Speed restricted to snail pace if more than 120mb a day||Online - Shipped to Airport PO or Hotel or Yodobashi/Bic Camera||¥2204|
|ninjasim||NTT DoCoMo||1/2/3GB||30 Days||4G LTE||Yes||+ Rechargable - Avalibile across Japan||Online - Shipped to Airport PO or Hotel||¥2700 / ¥4500 / ¥7300|
|Freetel||NTT DoCoMo||1/2GB||7 Days/30 Days||4G LTE||Yes||+ Free Data Apps - Don't count towards data usage. Like||NA Online. Yodobashi/Bic Camera/Yamada||¥1780 / ¥2780|
|sakura mobile||NTT DoCoMo||3/5/7GB||45 Days||4G LTE||No||- Rental - must return to sakura at depature, Daily rental fee.||Online - Shipped to Airport Post Office||¥3500 / ¥4500 / ¥5500|
|prepaid sim for Japan||NTT DoCoMo||100mb
|7days/14Days||4G LTE||No||- 100mb daily limit||Online, Airports, - Delivery to Anywhere in Japan||¥3218 / ¥3780|
|Softbank||Softbank||Unlimited||Nill||4G LTE||N/A||- Rental - must return Sim, Large depoist hold on creditcard (returned at end)||Book Online collect at Airpot Softbank stand||¥1080 per day
(inc rental fee)
|Yokoso Prepaid||NTT DoCoMo||3/3.5/4/5GB||8/15/31/91 Days||4G LTE||No||- Purchased only via 3rd party sites||Buy Online - AUS/USA/JP/ Links on site||AUD$35 / $40 / $45 / $55|
|cdJapan||NTT DoCoMo||Unlimited*||5 Days -
|4G LTE||No||- Rental - must return Sim. Speed dropped to 220kps after 110mb in a day||Buy Online - Delivery to Airport PO or Hotel in Japan||¥1700 - ¥22000|
Your best choices would be the Japan Travel Sim, Freetel and Ninjasim. We recently used Ninjasim recently on a quick trip to Japan and the service and product was easy to use, and the data speeds were great. Freetel may edge out in front thanks to their Free data access to several major apps like: Facebook, Line, Whatsapp, and more. Use of these apps do not count towards your data allowance!
Mobile hotspots were quite big when travelling to Japan a few years back, however we find them less useful now with the ease of putting a sim card in your phone and turning that into a hotspot if needed. However if you're stuck with a locked phone, this might be your best bet.
These devices are easy to use, just turn it on and pick it from the wireless points on your phone, and enter the password which is on the back of the device. These are usually either picked up at the airport or delivered to your hotel with charger, instructions and a return envelope for you to send back when you are leaving Japan.
Here are a few sites we recommend to use for either a Japanese sim card or wifi hotspot.
Alternatively, you will find plenty of shops at the airport with a rental service of these hotspots as well. But if you want to be organised you can book one from any of the following:
- Global Advanced Communications - Starting at ¥870 per day
Softbank - Starting at ¥1550 per day
Sakura Mobile - Starting at ¥750 per day (+¥3000 activation fee)