Your smartphone can be your greatest ally when visiting Japan. Being able to access apps like Google Maps or reading Accessible Japan reviews will undoubtedly make your stay there even more fantastic. If you’re travelling to Japan and want to stay connected during your visit, here are your options – and everything you need to know about using the Internet in Japan:
According to the law (“Mobile Phone Improper Use Prevention Act”), a tourist or visitor who doesn’t have a residential address in Japan cannot obtain a voice-call-capable SIM card. You can, however, buy a data-only card from one of the four 3G or 4G/LTE vendor companies in Japan – NTT DoCoMo, au (KDDI), SoftBank or Y!Mobile.
The sure-fire way to stay connected during your trip to Japan is to buy a prepaid SIM card. The download speed is around 150Mbps maximum. Different vendors offer various amounts of data and, depending on the length of your stay, you can opt in for a card for 7, 14, 30, or 45+ days.
It’s generally a better idea to buy your prepaid SIM card from Japan, rather than from an international vendor. They are companies that offer SIM cards that can be used in Japan, as well as other countries, but they tend to be more expensive than getting your SIM card directly from Japan. SIM cards can be purchased at the airport, major electronics stores, and even some convenience stores.
Make sure to check the compatibility of your device before buying a SIM card, since you won’t get a refund in case your device is not supported or not unlocked. Also, keep in mind that the download speed is “theoretical”, and in reality it may be much slower. In general, the speed of connection depends largely on the location and the type of device. The top-selling prepaid cards are the IIJmio, and Prepaid SIM for Japan by Docomo.
WiFi (limited, but available)
Of course, you can still use the Internet even if you don’t have a prepaid data SIM card. Wireless Internet is generally limited compared to North America or Europe, but still available at certain places. The government is working with various local organizations to fix this, and free Wi-Fi Hotspots are getting more and more common. As a tourist, you can download the Japan Connected Free Wi-Fi app to find and connect with one of the 130,000 access points located at various airports, train stations and Japan’s major sightseeing spots.
The majority of hotels and some selected coffee shops, fast food chains and convenience stores might also offer free Wi-Fi hotspots. Keep in mind that there are some hotspots that are limited to specific wireless carriers.
Apart from the Japan Connected free Wi-Fi app, there are other products that might make finding a Wi-Fi hotspot easier. Travel Japan Wi-Fi will provide you with two-week long free access to over 60,000 hotspots all around Japan. You can increase the number of hotspots to over 200,000, if you pay for a premium account.
Additionally, all major airports have free Wi-Fi hotspots – these include the Kansai International Airport, Narita Airport, Haneda International Airport and others. You can also pay for Wi-Fi connection at selected hotspots – a one-day pass will typically cost you around 500-800 yen. Keep in mind, however, that most registration interfaces will require a Japanese credit card or address, and will often be available in Japanese only.
While not as convenient as many other countries, if you are willing to pay, you can get internet access while on the go in Japan. In addition to Google Maps and other travel apps, you can use your internet access to find accessible toilets with the Check a Toilet app – which may be worth the cost in a pinch!!
Disclaimer: Things change fast in technology. This information may have changed in the time since it was first published.