After months of planning and excitement you’re finally here in Japan. You pick-your bags up, go through customs and are greeted by a throng of people rushing to catch the next train. As you look around you suddenly realize you don’t know what to do next. Everything is written in Japanese. The staff you ask for help speaks broken English and you can’t understand what they are trying to tell you. Instinctively you grab for your cell phone to search the internet for the answer you so desperately need. That’s when you realize you don’t have the internet, you don’t have that support.
We have become so dependent on our phones. I live in Japan and I use my phone all the time to help my get by when I don’t understand something, or need to look something up. Google maps to search for that shop I can’t find. Google translate to help me understand what I can’t read. The communication divide that exists in Japan can be quite daunting. Unless you have spent years of study you literally can’t read what’s on the signs in front of you. That’s why staying connected is so important while you are in Japan.
How To Stay Connected in Japan
Staying connected used to be a much bigger problem for travellers in Japan, but things have changed. Instead of having to pay daily roaming fees to keep you connected there are now Pocket Wifi devices or Japanese SIM cards or even Free Japanese HotSpots.
Japanese SIM Cards
Japanese Sim cards work exactly like the SIM card in your current phone (the little card they put into your phone when you bought it at the store). Your Sim card is what tells the phone company which phone is which when you are connecting to the internet. By taking out your Sim card and putting in a Japanese SIM card your phone will use the Japanese internet and phone network.
Is a Japanese SIM card best for me?
If you’re looking for a way to use your current phone with the least amount of hassle this is the best deal. It’s a great price and allows you to use your phone as if you were in your home country.
Will a Japanese Sim Card work in my phone?
You can use a Japanese SIM card in any unlocked phone that supports the 3G Band 1 (2100MHz) or 4G Band 1 (2100MHz) frequency.
What does “unlocked” mean?
If your device is “unlocked”, it means that it can work with a SIM card from any network. If your device is “locked”, it is restricted to work only on your regular carrier’s network. Your device must be “unlocked” to work with the Japan Unlimited SIM.
How do you know if your phone is unlocked?
If you purchased your device as an “unlocked” or “SIM Free” device from a retailer such as Amazon, then your device is almost certainly already unlocked. This means that it will work with our SIM card. If you’re still not sure whether or not your device is unlocked, simply contact the store where you purchased your device from.
My device is locked. What can I do?
If your device is locked, it may be possible to get it unlocked – simply ask your provider.
Where do I get a Japanese SIM Card
The good news is that you can purchase a japanese SIM card online and have it shipped directly to you before you even leave home.
We recommend Japan SIM Cards they have great rates, unlimited data and you get a local Japanese phone number which makes it easy for the hotel or other local businesses to get in touch with you.
Pocket Wifi is the next best option when travelling in Japan. Pocket wifi is a wi-fi router in your pocket that connects to the internet through the cellular network. Think of it like connecting to the internet at home, but instead of connecting to the router plugged into the wall it connects to the pocket wifi in your …. Pocket…. (hence the name).
Pocket Wifi Does have some disadvantages though.
- The pocket wifi needs to be charged to work so you have one more device to think about
- If you are sharing a pocket wifi, you all have to be near it to use the internet.
- You won’t get a local phone number which means no phone calls and no texts.
That means that your late-night taxi call might be international roaming and very expensive
The biggest advantage to pocket wifi is that if you are travelling as a group you can all use the pocket wifi to access the internet. For a group travelling together all the time this makes it a great option. If you plan to separate though, be aware that only the people close to the pocket wifi will stay connected.
There are a number of Pocket wifi companies available. You can pre-purchase online or at the airport when you get off the plane.
Free Japan Wifi Hotspots
Like many things in Japan, free wifi doesn’t quite work the same as it does in the Western world. Many of you are probably used to walking into a coffee shop and jumping on to the wifi at the store. Although it’s not uncommon for stores to provide wifi, quite often in Japan you have to register to use the free Wifi. To make matters even more challenging, often this requires you to provide your email address and to accept the terms of service on your email before activating said Wifi. Now this doesn’t seem too hard, but when you don’t have wifi in the first place, how are you supposed to open the email and accept the terms of service. This can be a bit of a conundrum for the uninitiated in Japanese Wifi. Most of these hotspots are meant for the Japanese market where people already have internet through their service provider and simply want to reduce the amount of data they use.
Do not fear there is a solution. The Japan Free Wifi App gives you access to a large number of hotspots across Japan. The app logs in for you so you aren’t required to register for each individual service.
This sounds great, free internet access in Japan sweet. But be aware you get what you pay for. If you are in heavily populated areas for the majority of your trip, you won’t have any major issues. Outside of the populated centers though, hotspots can be limited.
Of the three options, this is the most limited, but also the cheapest (free).
If you are going to use this option make sure to download the app before you leave.
Continuous access to the internet has become a necessity and is an important safety net when traveling in Japan. While you are here we want to make sure you have the tools to enjoy your trip to the fullest. Whether you decide to use a Japanese Sim Card, a Pocket Wifi, Japanese Free Wifi or a combination we want you to stay connected and have the best trip you possibly can.
Hi there! I’m Mike, I love the mountains and the outdoors. I’m lucky enough to live in Hakuba, Japan where, in the winter you will find me out skiing or snowboarding and in the summer hiking the local mountain peaks.