It's time to start helping you with the questions that usually don't come up till it's too late. You land in Japan, and want to post it on Facebook. Perhaps you need directions? Japan is the most technological place on earth, however as an outsider, getting online can be challenging. Don’t stress, Japlanning has all the tips on how to make your vacation an e-cation, and get you back on your tweeting way.
Now, to get online in Japan, you could just activate global roaming on your phone, but be careful as this could result in you racking up thousands of dollars of phone bills for data, when you’re just looking up a map to get to the Imperial Palace.
Japan is the most technologically advanced nation in the world, they have internet speed we only can dream of in Australia, however getting connected to that is another challenge. Lets take a look at your options on getting hooked into the digital world while traveling through Japan.
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 (ahem, Australia, catch up!) they don't charge you for use.
However this isn't always going to be the case, as many hotels have yet to make the upgrade, and only have a wired connection available, which is difficult in our more wireless world where tourists often opt to leave the laptops at home, and travel only with their iPhones and iPads. Some of these hotels may have wireless access available in communal areas, such as the lobby or restaurant.
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.
In many major cities in the world, public wireless is readily available and easy to connect to. In fact many countries’ cellular companies have wireless networks you can buy access to, and this is also true for Japan. Looking at your wireless screen on your phone, you will often find several wireless spots available wherever you go in Japan. Although you may face issues when trying to connecting, as all public wireless spots are in Japanese and the pages for registration and access usually follow suit.
If you’re fluent in Japanese, you shouldn't have any issues being able to get online in many public areas in the major cities. However like most tourists in Japan, if you aren't fluent in the language, unfortunately the public hot spots may not be of great use to you.
Since we posted the guide there have been huge improvements in public hotspot access for foreign visitors!! Major cities are offering up bilingual webapps to get online for free, such as this one by NTTEAST for eastern Japan (includes Tokyo!).
In fact just recently NTT Docomo have announced a new service that will allow access to all foreign visitors to their massive public Wi-Fi service of 150,000 access points across Japan.
With NTT Docomo new offer to foreigners you'll be able to select from very affordable plans, the first just 900 Yen for a week and another for 3 weeks for 13,00 Yen!
Currently it is a trial, until March 31st 2015, for more information on how to connect to NTT Docomo's large service check out their website here.
Don't lose hope! You can easily be connected online 24/7 while in Japan, and you can organise it all before leaving home, in English!
There are quite a few sites online that make it easy for you to organise connectivity for your stay in Japan. These companies will supply you with your chosen items, delivered straight to your first hotel, so when you arrive you can collect your Japanese sim card, or wireless hotspot when you collect your key.
Many sites will organise a sim card with a paid amount of data available and the ability to make local calls. This way does have it's advantages, as you will be able to install it in your phone and only have to carry the one device with you, and you’ll always be able to get online and call local numbers (like your hotel), just like you do back at home.
The pack that is delivered to your hotel will have sim card in it and instructions on installing in your phone. Once set up you will be able to get online and stay connected for your trip (or until your data allowance is all used up!)
Some providers will require you send back the card at the end of your trip, if this is the case, they will provide a return envelope. Just pop the card in it and put in a postbox at the airport.
Softbank, one of Japan's largest mobile carriers offeres a global rantal program, with rental desks at most majore international airports across Japan.
They offere a sim card rental that now has unlimted data! for 1550 yen (about $15.00) per day. They are the only one currently offereing visitors unlimited data for their phone, and with a network that covers almost all corners of Japan you aren't likely to be stuck without a signal.
Check out their full range of rental options on their english rental website here.
Personal Wi-fi Hot Spots (“MiFi”)
Most of these sites will also have the option to organise a handy personal wifi hotspot with data available 24/7. Now these won't let you make calls, however they will let you connect multiple devices to the hotspot at the same time. So when traveling in a group, this is a great device to get, as many of you can be online at the same time.
The package delivered to your hotel will contain the hotspot, manuals, a charger and also a pre-paid return envelope to send it back to the company. So you can use it all the way up to getting to the airport to leave, and pop it in the post box. Most have battery lives of about 10 hours, so if you are a heavy user you may want to look at buying a usb charger.
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.
Now here are a few sites we recommend to use for either a Japanese sim card or wifi hotspot.
Global Advanced Communications
GAC have an efficient service with some great options on wifi hotspots, delivered to your hotel door. They have excellent customer service and troubleshooting. They connect to high speeds and have unlimited packages, so you don't have to worry about data limits.
With a service that cover 98% of metropolitan Japan, you will always be connected.
For their full range and options check - http://www.globaladvancedcomm.com/
b-mobile have a great reputation on customer service and value for money. They don't supply hotspots, however they have Japanese sim cards on offer, geared towards iPhone users with the option of a data limit with higher speeds or a unlimited 14 days data at a lower speed.
They offer an airport pickup service and hotel delivery, so it's an easy setup and quick connection once in Japan. Please do make sure there sim cards work with your phone before purchasing! b-mobile will have you connected on the NTT Docomo network, so you can expect constant data.
For their full range and options check - http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/
When getting ready to head off to Japan, make sure you figure out what is best for you getting connected back to home and around the world before leaving home. It will give you peace of mind and keep you stress free when in a foreign land and stuck, knowing you can jump online and get the answers, translations, or maps you need to get where you need to be!
Have you used a Japanese phone service while in Japan? What is your favourite?
Tell us in the comments below!