Every country has its own way of doing things, and Japan is no exception, especially when it comes to a ‘Gaijin’ acquiring a mobile phone connection. (You can’t buy a pre-paid SIM card at stores in Japan unless you are a legal resident). My understanding is that up until recently a SIM only or pay-as-you-go option was not readily available in Japan, thus tourists had to ‘hire’ a mobile phone, charged on a daily basis (and a lot still continue to do so). Some companies spotted this gap in the market and started offering a ‘send a mobile phone to your hotel’ service like this one: www.rentafonejapan.com
However, I am now in the process of finalising my trip to Japan this October and as such found myself in the same predicament as many other tourists who have ventured across the land of the rising sun “how best can I stay connected on the go whilst in Japan without busting the bank?” With very little info online for short term visitors, I decided to put this quick guide together for anyone travelling to Japan in the near future.
I’ll be ordering my visitor SIM card from b-mobile. A subsidiary of Japan Communications Inc (JCI).
First thing is first… Compatibility! Make sure your phone meets the minimum requirements, in order for it to work in Japan:
- Your device must be SIM Lock Free.
Your device must support one of the following frequencies:
- LTE Band 1 (2100MHz), Band 19 (800MHz), Band 21 (1500MHz),
- W-CDMA/HSDPA/HSUPA Band 1 (2100MHz), Band 19 (800MHz)
http://www.gsmarena.com is a good website to check the spec of your phone.
b-mobile offers two types of SIM cards for visitors. To see what they are you will need to visit http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/ and click on “SIM cards for travellers to Japan” on the top of the page.
Here you will see the two different types of SIM cards available for short-term visitors:
The PAYG SIM is restricted to 7 days of use. However, because this SIM allows you to make phone calls (both domestic & international), Japanese law demands the buyer to show his/her passport to the sales person to confirm they have legally entered the country. I went with option B – Visitor SIM, because I will be in Japan for over 14 days and won’t really need to make phone calls (I’ll be using Skype via Wi-Fi). The SIM card you order will depend on how long you will be in Japan, the need to make phone calls etc. All I really need it for is Google Maps and instant messaging.
On the next screen you will be presented with more information. This was reassuring as it addressed all my concerns. I’ve heard from people who have had a tough time trying to register / activate their foreign SIM cards, or issues with network coverage etc. The best thing about the b-mobile Visitor SIM is that it already comes activated, so all you really need to do in theory is to put in the SIM card and you’re ready to go! Another advantage is that, b-mobile uses the popular ‘Docomo’ cellular network which has some of the best coverage in Japan. For an extra service fee of ¥200 you can opt to have the SIM card delivered to the post office in the airport! I took this option, as I want to be able to make my way to the hotel without getting lost!
b-mobile VISITOR SIM 1GB prepaid
SIM size Micro
Delivery Airport Postal office
Service 1GB / 14days / Data service
OK, so once you’re happy with the info (hopefully all the warning notices about no refunds, no redelivery etc. haven’t put you off) Click on ‘Purchase’ on the top right hand corner of the screen.
I’ll be using a Sony Xperia Z2 and would like to collect it from the airport therefore I selected the Airport postal office – Micro as shown below on the following screen.
At the bottom of the page you will just need to click the radio buttons turning them green. Make sure you understand each term and condition and then proceed to the next page.
The rest is self-explanatory; just complete the form by entering your airport and arrival date. Be sure to make a note of the opening/closing hours of the post office, if you have chosen this option. Then at the bottom of the page complete the payment form and proceed by clicking on ‘Confirm your information.
This completes the process. The last page is just a confirmation overview of the order. You will also get an order confirmation email, so check your inbox and spam for an email from Japan Communications Inc. I’ll be printing this and taking it with me just in case I need to show proof of purchase.
I hope this guide has helped you in one way or another. I will write up a follow up post regarding collecting the SIM card, ease of setup and network coverage etc once I’m back from Japan….stay tuned! http://nihontastic.com/2014/11/06/how-to-order-a-japanese-prepaid-sim-card-part-2/