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SIM Card vs. Pocket Wifi in Japan

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SIM Card vs. Pocket Wifi Rental in Japan! Where can you buy or rent?

During your stay in Japan, you probably need a smartphone. How do you procure a smartphone? There are six possible choices. First, use roaming service. Second, utilize free Wi-Fi, carry your own smartphone even in Japan. Thirdly, subscribe to a paid Wi-Fi service. Fourth, insert a prepaid SIM card into your smartphone. Fifth, using a rental service in your country or Japan, get a pocket Wi-Fi router - or SIM card, smartphone etc. Sixth, carry a smart phone that your hotel will rent out. Let's organize information on which of these options you should choose.

What is the best choice for your usage?

Sim card vending machine at Kansai airport in Osaka Japan

Sim card vending machine at Kansai airport in Osaka Japan

First of all, how to choose a device in Japan will basically be as follows.

If you can use a cost-effective roaming service, use it

Recently, roaming services which can be used cheaply in foreign countries are increasing. If you can use roaming service very cheaply on your smartphone, you should use it.

Pocket Wi-Fi router is advantageous for group travel

If you travel with your family or friends, it is best to use a pocket Wi-Fi router. With one Wi-Fi router - your group can use the Internet with more than one smartphone at a time. If you have two or more Wi-Fi routers - it is easy for you to keep in contact with each other when you are divided into groups and sightseeing.

In addition, if you want to browse the Internet with not only your smartphone but also your computer or tablet, the Wi-Fi router will be a great success.

If your smartphone supports prepaid SIM, you can use SIM

If you put a prepaid SIM card in your smartphone, you can use your smartphone as usual in Japan.

 When you can use free Wi-Fi such as hotel, use it

If your chosen roaming service or prepaid SIM etc are not available without limitation of communication capacity, free Wi-Fi should also be used wisely to reduce the cost.

In this article, I will introduce a bit more about these things.

Free Wifi in Japan

First let me explain about free Wi-Fi in Japan. Japan's free Wi-Fi service is gradually getting better. You can use free Wi-Fi at airports and stations in Japan, department stores, convenience stores, cafes, hotels, etc. If you install the following application on your smartphone and register it, you will be able to use free Wi - Fi relatively easily in Japan.

Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi

It is an application for foreign visitors to Japan that NTTBP Corporation provides. It supports over 440 kinds of Wi-Fi spots, and it can use more than 150,000 Wi-Fi throughout the country. If you register for Japan Conneted free, you can connect without having to register each use for each Wi-Fi spot very conveniently. It almost covers Wi-Fi spots of transportation systems and tourist attractions. Moreover, it corresponds widely to the city WiFi which the provider company NNTBP is deploying.

Instructions for use

1. Install the application
2. Register for an email address or SNS account
3. Select Wi-Fi within Wi-Fi spot
4. Press connection button
5. Connection completed

You can enter the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi site from the link below.

>> Click here for the official site of "Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi"

Then there is one important thing. You should refrain from entering your personal ID, password, credit card information, etc. while browsing the Internet using free Wi-Fi that does not encrypt.

If you want to use paid Wi-Fi, I recommend the following Wi-Fi service. The first NTT docomo service will be the most stable in the communication situation. However, I think that prepaid SIM cards and pocket Wi - Fi routers can be used in many parts of Japan. Please also consider using these.

>> Click here for the official site of "docomo Wi-Fi for visitors"

>> Click here for the official site of "Wi2 300 Public Wi-Fi"

>> Click here for the official site of "SoftBank Wi-Fi Spot (EX)"

Prepaid SIM Cards

Does your smartphone support Japanese SIM cards?

The SIM card is a small chip that can be inserted into a mobile phone and can store information on the network. This is a quick way for the network to identify the device and allow you to connect to the paid service without taking a long time.

There are SIM card with voice function and SIM card without voice function. Having a voice function means having a Japanese telephone number and making a conventional phone call. Even if you use a SIM card dedicated to data without voice features, you can make phone calls using various Internet applications instead of traditional phone lines.

Almost all prepaid SIM cards are on NTT DoCoMo's wireless network. Docomo is famous for having the most powerful network coverage throughout Japan. There is no big difference in the coverage area of each SIM card. All of the following SIM cards offer nearly 100% population coverage in Japan.

In order to use prepaid SIM, you basically need to be a SIM-free smartphone. Furthermore, it is necessary for SIM-free smartphones to be compatible with the following BAND (band). The main prepaid SIM in Japan functions with the following BAND. If your smartphone does not support these BANDs, the SIM card can not be used.

LTE: Band 1 (2100 MHz) / Band 19 (800 MHz) / Band 21 (1500 MHz)
3 G: Band 1 (2100 MHz) / Band 6/19 (800 MHz)

Just to be sure, I recommend using the website below to check if your smartphone moves with a SIM card before you buy it.

>> Click here for the official site of "Will My Phone Work"

Which Japanese prepaid SIM card do you use?

Next, let me introduce the recommended prepaid SIM card individually. Before that, there is one thing I want to emphasize. That is the price of the SIM card. Generally, the price of a prepaid SIM card for foreigners visiting Japan is slightly different between the airport and town. Frequently there are high sales at the airport. If you buy a prepaid SIM at the airport, please be careful if the price is not high. At Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya), there is "Air BIC CAMERA" below. SIM cards are sold here at the same price as town, so it is recommended.

>> Click here for the official website of "Air BicCamera"

Below are the recommended prepaid SIM cards.

Japan Welcome SIM

NTT docomo recently started this prepaid SIM service for foreign visitors to Japan. Before you come to Japan you need to complete the procedure on the website. When you arrive in Japan, you can get it at the airport counter. This SIM card needs procedures before coming to Japan, but instead you can easily obtain it at the same price as in the city at the airport. For details, please refer to the link below.


NTT docomo

Useable Period

15 days of unlimited usage (128 kbps).
High speed data communication (Maximum Speeds = 788Mbps) is possible by charging.


c.¥1,080 (High speed data charge = None)
c.¥1,836 (High speed data charge = 500MB+Benefits 100MB)
c.¥2,376 (High speed data charge = 1GB+Benefits 200MB).

⇒ You can also choose to purchase additional high-speed data from the website (100MB =
c.¥216 / 500MB = c.¥756 / 1GB = c.¥1,296).

⇒ You can receive high-speed internet data by watching videos, answering questionnaires, downloading apps and reading articles.

⇒"Free plan" has also begun. This is a limited-time plan that provides you with a free SIM card for high-speed communication throughout Japan. However, the sim card of this plan can be obtained at only a limited number of locations. Please refer to the link below.

>> Click here for official website of "Japan Welcome SIM & Wi-Fi"

b-mobile VISITOR SIM

This prepaid SIM card uses docomo's network line. After arriving in Japan, you can purchase it at Amazon, etc. besides the airport. Since the network line is relatively stable, if you think that the availability period and capacity of this SIM card is the best, you can use it. For details, please refer to the link below.


Japan Communications Inc.

Useable Period

21 Days (Data Amount = 5 GB, Additional 1GB charge )



⇒ You can charge 1GB / 1Day (c.¥500) from Charge page. Please refer to the link below.

>> Click here for official website of "b-mobile VISITOR SIM"

Unlimited Japan Prepaid SIM

If you would like to use a prepaid SIM card that you can use without any limitation without any hesitation, you may purchase with this Japan Airlines affiliate company. This company also sells prepaid SIM with limited capacity in addition. This company also handles pocket Wi - Fi routers - and mobile phone rental, as we will see later.


 JAL ABC, Inc.

Useable Period & Price

7 Days (c.¥4,000) / 15 Days (c.¥5,500)

⇒ This company also sells prepaid SIM card named "Unari-kun SIM" only at Narita airport. "Unari-kun" is a character of Narita. This character is drawn in the package. The inner SIM card is the same as "Unlimited Japan Prepaid SIM". However, there are also plans for 30 days (c.¥6,500) in this "Unari-kun SIM". If you are going to stay for a month, this 30 day plan is recommended.

>> Click here for official website of "Unlimited Japan Prepaid SIM"

Prepaid SIM for Travel

SoftBank, which provides this prepaid SIM card, uses a unique Wi - Fi network as the carrier (MNO) like docomo, so communication is stable. Since SoftBank often conducts campaigns such as data traffic volume, you may be able to get a great SIM card if you are lucky.


SoftBank Corp.

Useable Period

You can use until 3 GB capacity is used up.


Prices vary by dealer. Airport shops are generally expensive. If you want to purchase at the airport, as mentioned above, BIC camera is cheap and recommended.

>> Click here for the official site of "Prepaid SIM for Travel"

Wi-Ho! Prepaid SIM Data & Voice

The majority of Japan's prepaid SIM cards are dedicated to data communication and can not make voice calls. Meanwhile, this "Wi - Ho! Prepaid SIM Data & Voice" sold by Telecom Square, Inc. is a rare SIM card that supports voice calls. This SIM card uses not a Wi - Fi network of DoCoMo but a cheap network called Y-mobile. For this reason, the communication environment is somewhat inferior, but if you strongly want voice calls, this SIM card will come into the candidate. If you use it in the city, you can use it without problems.


Telecom Square, Inc.

Useable Period

15 days


Plan up to 1 GB = c.¥5,500

Plan up to 1 GB = c.¥7,500

⇒ In addition to this, Telecom Square also sells prepaid SIM dedicated to data communication using docomo's network.

>> Click here for official website of "Wi-Ho! Prepaid SIM Data & Voice"

Rent a pocket Wi-Fi router

Sometimes it can not be used in buildings and rural areas

Wi-Fi routers can share with family and friends. In addition to smartphones it is convenient to use a PC or tablet. Perhaps it may be possible to borrow a router in your country before coming to Japan. In that case, let's consider whether to borrow in your country or borrow in Japan.

In Japan, services to lend Wi - Fi routers for foreigners visiting Japan are increasing little by little. Please refer to the external link below.

First of all, before you come to Japan you need to apply at the website. When you arrive in Japan, let's get a Wi - Fi router at the airport counter. You can also have the service provider deliver the router to the hotel etc. When you return to your country, you can easily return it at the airport counter. You can also return using home delivery.

It's very convenient if you have a Wi-Fi router. However, Wi-Fi routers can not be used anywhere. Unfortunately, in Japan, Wi-Fi routers are often unusable in buildings and rural areas. If you want to use it anytime and anywhere, it would be better to use a prepaid SIM card or a rental mobile phone than a Wi - Fi router. On the website below, mobile phones are also available for rent, so please check it.

Recommended rental service

I recommend you the following three rental services.

NINJA WiFi  Powered by GLOBAL WiFi

Vision Inc., a Tokyo-based rental service provider, has started rental service named "NINJA WiFi" for foreign visitors to Japan. This company mainly handles rental service named "Global Wi-Fi" for Japanese travelers. Since this company has counters at major airports, you can receive Wi - Fi router, mobile phone, SIM card etc in there.

This company also rents mobile automatic translators. I have borrowed them a couple of times. If you are interested in automatic translator, please check this company's site. There are two types of automatic translators. It is "ili" and "POCKETALK". "Ili" is slightly shrill sound, so I'm using "POCKETALK" more.

>> Click here for official website of "NINJA WiFi"


JAL ABC, Inc., a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, handles rental Wi-Fi routers and mobile phones as well as prepaid SIM cards. There are counters at major airports so you may receive them at those counters.

>> Click here for official website of "JAL ABC"

Telecom Square

It is a rental service handled by Telecom Square, Inc. headquartered in Tokyo. There are counters at major airports. You can borrow pocket Wi - Fi routers and smartphones here as well.

>> Click here for the official website of "Telecom Square"

SoftBank Global Reantal

It is a rental service handled by SOFTBANK, a Japanese telecommunications carrier alongside NTT docomo. You can borrow Wi-Fi routers and smartphones here as well. Please refer to the external link below for details.

>> Click here for the official site of "SoftBank Global Reantal"

There are many other Wi - Fi router rental services in Japan. Some of them handle NTT docomo's Wi-Fi router. Unfortunately, they can apply only in Japanese. I hope that rental services for foreigners visiting Japan will be improved sooner and later.

Use the hotel's smart rental service

Recently, even in Japan, hotels that rent smartphones to guests are increasing little by little. It is the following hotel that is going to start renting out as a large scale. If you plan to stay at these hotels, why not contact the hotel if you can use the smartphone.

Main hotels scheduled to start smartphone rental service

Hotel Monterey Group
Hotel Live Max
Hotel WBF Group
Richmond Hotels
Okinawa Marriott Resort & Spa
Kawagoe Prince Hotel
Kyoto Century Hotel
Keio Plaza Hotel
Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo
The Capitol Hotel Tokyu
The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa
Sunshine City Prince Hotel
Shinjuku Prince Hotel
Shin Yokohama Prince Hotel
Swissotel Nankai Osaka
Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
Namba Oriental Hotel
Henn na hotel Laguna Ten Bosch
Hotel Chinzan-so Tokyo
Holiday Inn Osaka Namba
Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu
Royal Park Hotel

After all, which device should you use ?

I am sorry that this time too much information is included. After all, what device should you use? It depends on how many people you travel or where you go. Please consider carefully.

If I were traveling in Japan, I might prepare it by the following strategy.

· Utilizing the already introduced application "Japan Connected - free Wi-Fi", I will make use of free Wi-Fi in all areas. Of course, I will also use free Wi-Fi at the hotel.
· In areas where free Wi-Fi can not be used, I will use "Japan Welcome SIM" provided by NTT docomo. This prepaid SIM can also be charged again.

Well, what kind of strategy would you make?  I hope that you can make a wonderful trip !

I appreciate you reading to the end.


About me

Bon KUROSAWA  I have long worked as a senior editor for Nihon Keizai Shimbun (NIKKEI) and currently work as an independent web writer. At NIKKEI, I was the editor-in-chief of the media on Japanese culture. Let me introduce a lot of fun and interesting things about Japan. Please refer to this article for more details.

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