So you’ll be staying in Japan for a month or less and need data for your mobile to use google maps, post to social media, contact local friends on LINE and look up restaurants. Not to mention the added security of not logging onto free shared wifi.
Below are options for the easiest and most affordable ways to get a SIM card in Japan ready.
Before you get to Japan
Before you arrive in Japan, there are.a few things you should check to make sure that the SIM Card can work on your mobile phone.
- Unlocked phone – you need to make sure your phone is unlocked from your local telecommunications provider, so that the Japanese networks will be able to work on your phone. If you don’t know, check with your telecommunications provider or place of purchase.
- SIM Card Type – know which SIM Card is compatible with your phone. Standard, Micro or Nano.
- If you’re staying at an AirBnB or hotel, check if they give you a Pocket Wifi free of charge during your stay. You may not need to read the rest here.
Data Only SIM Card Options
If you’re travelling as a tourist to Japan, most likely all you need is data to get around and message on apps. Fortunately, compared to 10 years ago Japan has made it much easier to get Data SIM Cards. You have quite a few options:
- Short-term Data SIM Card at an electronics store in Japan (Recommended) Jump to Section
- Online Japanese SIM Card Rental – order before you get to Japan (Easiest) Jump to Section
- Short-term Data SIM Card at the airport Jump to Section
- Contract plan at electronics store sign up (Cheapest but most troublesome) Jump to Section
Talking to my foreign friends all these options are straightforward and really easy. I’ve tried out both Online and Electronics store myself to make sure they all work. Let’s go through each one and the good and bad.
Japanese Electronics Store SIM Card (Recommended)
In this case we would recommend visiting a BicCamera or Yodobashi Camera store near where you’ll be staying. They have English and Chinese speaking staff in most locations.
BicCamera and Yodobashi Camera stores are great. So I would recommend hitting up these stores anyway to check out Japanese gadgets, home appliances and various Japanese goods.
- Good selection to suit everyone’s needs (Length of use, amount of data etc).
- Staff can help you with your selection in your language.
- You get the SIM Card in your hands straightaway.
- Reasonable prices.
- If you arrive at an unusual time, the stores might not be open.
- If you go at the wrong time you may need to wait in queue.
- Most SIM Cards cost more for Customer Support to help set up.
Save your heavy data usage for the hotel or AirBnB Wifi, so you can spend less on data plans.
Image from BicCamera (Source)
Online Japanese SIM Card Rental (Easiest)
- Really simple, just order it online before you leave for Japan.
- Multiple pick up options and plans.
- Online ordering is in English and other languages.
- English Customer Support.
- No waiting in queues for SIM Cards filling out information.
- Typically more expensive
- In some cases you need to return the SIM Card via mail, so you can’t use it all the way up to the airport.
- If you choose the wrong rental company, they could be fake and you don’t get your SIM or stealing your information.
Recommendations for Online SIM Cards for Japan
CD Japan Rental
Website in English: https://rental.cdjapan.co.jp/index_en_jpy_10.html
Don’t let the nonsensical, Blockbuster sounding name fool you. You just order the rental SIM on their site and that’s it. They even have a money back guarantee if the SIM card isn’t compatible or doesn’t work in your area. Reliable and Easy.
Website in English: https://www.mobal.com/japan-sim-card/
Mobal has data only plans and data + voice plans for visitors to Japan. Like the one above they also have Money Back guarantee for incompatibility or non-coverage areas.
Airport Data SIM Card
Whether you are flying into Tokyo Haneda Airport or Tokyo Narita Airport, you can find a SIM Card counter at the airport and sign up for a short-term data SIM Card on the spot.
At the airport you can also get your Data SIM Card from vending machines.
- Plenty of options at the airport.
- If you have time before your train or bus at the airport, you have something to do.
- Head from the airport with your data ready and tested.
- After a long flight, I doubt you want to search for a SIM Card.
- Possible queuing to get.a SIM Card.
- Vending Machines may not have all the information readily available in the language you need it in.
Check out the Haneda Airport Floor map here:
Image from TRAICY (Source)
Data SIM Contract (Cheapest)
Without a doubt the cheapest method of getting a data SIM Card but also the most troublesome for you and someone else.
So how cheap are we talking. I was able to get a contract for my friend visiting under my name for one month unlimited data approx. 900円 total (2018). Prices may be slightly different now (hopefully better) and depends on the provider you choose.
So if you have a Japanese friend who doesn’t mind signing up for a contract for you while you’re in Japan you can choose this route. It pays (in money saved) to have friends.
What your Japanese or Japanese residing friend needs to have with them:
- Japanese credit card
- Japanese identification ie. Drivers License (運転免許証) or Insurance Card (保険証)
- Time for you.
- Cheapest option
- If you’re practicing Japanese, it’s a good chance to see how people sign up for contracts in store.
- Troublesome for your friend
- Time consuming – the process can take a while, even up to an hour if you get a shop employee without proper expertise.
Bring a gift for your friend because it’s customary in Japan to give gifts when someone helps you. Just make sure your gift doesn’t outweigh the cost-savings or else you are at a moot point.
The staff’s knowledge can play a big part into how cheap you get the SIM Card. Some staff have absolutely no idea, so find someone who typically works in that section of the store.
Data and Voice SIM Options
If you need a Japanese phone number to contact friends, business associates or for whatever reason. There are basically two options for this.
- Online Order SIM Card – Data + Voice (Easiest) Jump to Section
- Contract – Data + Voice SIM Card (Cheapest) Jump to Section
Unfortunately, majority of options that are available for Data Only SIM Cards for foreign visitors to Japan don’t allow them to get a Japanese phone number. Hopefully this trend will change as Japan opens its borders and reduces restrictions on immigration.
Online Order SIM Card – Data + Voice (Easiest)
The only SIM Card provider which seems to allow visitors to Japan to get a Data + Voice SIM Card is Mobal.
You can check out their page: https://www.mobal.com/japan-sim-card/
Cheapest Data + Voice option available on the page 30 days unlimited data for 7500円.
Contract – Data + Voice SIM Card (Cheapest)
Troublesome but cheap option. How cheap are we talking about here.
Data + Voice contract for 30 days was approx. 3000円. Less than half compared to Mobal but like I’ve mentioned this is very troublesome.
To go through this way, it’s the same as the Data Only SIM through contract described in the section above, but instead of Data Only, your friend will opt for a Data + Voice SIM. Jump to section
Bonus Round – Pocket Wi-fi
Image from eConnect Japan (Source)
If you’re after data only plans and have a large group of friends travelling together or maybe multiple devices you need to connect, it may make sense to get a Pocket wi-fi instead of a SIM Card.
Here are some options for Pocket Wifi.
Online Rental of Pocket Wifi
You order it online and pick it up at the airport counter or where you have specified your pick up location (hotel/residential address).
- CD Japan https://rental.cdjapan.co.jp/index_en_jpy_7.html
- eConnect Japan https://www.econnectjapan.com/
- Japan Wireless https://www.japan-wireless.com/en
Airport Pocket Wifi Rental
Go to the counter and get one, or order online and pick up at the counter.
- AnyFone Japan
- Ninja Wi-fi
- Sakura Mobile
Haneda Airport Floormap: https://tokyo-haneda.com/en/floor/terminal1/index.html
Hope you found this page useful and feel free to share comments about your own experiences.