Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Should I Get a Japan SIM Card, and What Are the Top Options

Staying connected to the internet in Japan is critical for obvious reasons, such as navigating the complicated train systems and translating menus. Purchasing a Japan SIM card is one of the best ways to access the internet while you explore the amazing country. But before you rush off and order a Japan SIM card for your next exciting adventure, let us go through what you need to know about a Japan SIM card. You will also find information about the top Japan SIM card providers for both short and long-term stays as you read on.

Table of Contents

Should I Get a Japan SIM Card

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

For the SIM card to work on your phone, your device must be unlocked. If you are unsure if your phone is locked by your telecom supplier, enquire beforehand.

Even if your phone is currently locked, the company may be able to unlock your phone! If your device cannot be unlocked by the time you depart for Japan, pre-book a Pocket WiFi.

Compared to a Pocket WiFi, a SIM card is a cheaper option to connect your phone to Japan’s internet network if you travel alone or with one or two companions. But the price isn’t the only factor to be considered when making the decision. Below is a list of reasons for choosing a SIM card over a Japan Pocket WiFi for your next Japan trip.

  • You need a Japanese phone number.
  • You will travel alone or with one or two people.
  • You will travel with a group of people, but you also want to explore attractions separately.
  • You don’t want to carry an extra charger for the Pocket WiFi.
  • You tend to forget or lose things, so leaving the Pocket WiFi behind or even losing it worries you.
  • You are a heavy data user.

Important: Incoming calls may be charged on your roaming. For communications between your family and friends, messaging apps, such as WhatsApp is the best option.

Why Purchasing a Japan SIM Card May Not Be the Best Option for Your Next Japan Trip

You might think once you have a Japan SIM card, your phone can start receiving the local signal. That is NOT the case.

For a Japan SIM card to work on your unlocked phone, prior APN configuration is required. While most people can follow the user manual that comes with the SIM card, some might encounter issues during this process. So, if what we have listed below sounds like you, a Pocket WiFi might be a better option for your next Japan trip.

  • You aren’t confident about completing the APN configuration.
  • You will travel with a group of people, and the occasional separation doesn’t worry you.
  • You have multiple devices that need to be connected to the internet.
  • You need to work remotely.
  • You have a locked phone.

Tip: If you aren’t confident to complete the APN configuration yourself, choose to pick up your SIM card at an airport counter. The staff there will be able to assist you. Most big companies, such as Klook or Sakura Mobile, also have customer support who can help you out.

How Do I Get a Japan SIM Card

Once you have decided which company to go for, the next question is how you receive the SIM card. Depending on the SIM card provider, you may have the option of getting your SIM card delivered to your home address.If you prefer this option, purchase from the below providers.

If you prefer to receive your Japan SIM card at the airport or pick it up from your hotel concierge, consider the below Japan SIM card providers. They all have a counter at Narita, Haneda, and Kansai Airports if you need any assistance to set up your phone.

Is Japan SIM Card Available for Purchase at the Japanese Airport

Of course, you can also purchase a Japan SIM card upon arrival. But this isn’t recommended for the following reasons.

  • Purchasing your Japan SIM card online is usually cheaper.
    • SIM cards from the big players such as DoCoMo are generally more expensive. Smaller players, such as Sakura Mobile, usually provide the best value.
  • Depending on the company you choose, you have the option to receive your SIM card before landing. No time is wasted on deciding which company to purchase from and which plan to go for.
  • During the peak season, there can be a long queue at the Japan SIM card airport counters. This can potentially mean the company can run out of the Japan SIM card that best suits you.
  • By getting your Japan SIM card posted to your hotel/accommodation or your home overseas, you avoid the long queue at the airport counter!

Configuring Your Phone for Japan’s Data or Data + Text + Call SIM Card

After inserting the SIM card you have purchased into your phone, the first thing is to configure the APN (Access Point Name) on your phone to allow it to connect to the internet. The SIM card package comes with a user manual that provides clear steps on how to complete this setup. But if you aren’t confident, choose a service provider that has a counter at the airport so there are staff who can assist you.

Sakura Mobile, Japan Wireless, and Mobal all have counters at the airports in Tokyo and Osaka. If you plan to fly to other airports in Japan, such as the New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Sakura Mobile is your best bet for an airport counter.

Can I complete the APN Configuration Before Departing for Japan?

Depending on the SIM Card providers, you might be able to complete all required APN configurations before you reach Japan. This means as soon as your flight lands at a Japanese airport, you can start surfing the internet!

If that isn’t an option for you, you can always utilize the internet at the airport and/or on bullet trains or limited express trains to complete the setup process.

Important: Make sure your SIM card is activated as soon as you arrive, ideally before leaving the airport. Leaving the activation till you reach the first attraction can mean you are unable to use the internet when you need it.

When Does the Active Number of Days Start Counting

When you receive your Japan SIM card, it is pre-activated. The active number of days only starts counting after your device is connected to a Japanese network. Completing the APN configuration beforehand doesn’t mean you lose the SIM card’s valid number of days.

Important: Cheaper SIM cards usually mean slower speed and/or weaker internet connection, especially outside the big cities. If the SIM card’s APN is jpmob.jp, mobile, or via, it is best to avoid them even if it is cheap!

Sakura Mobile

In addition to Pocket WiFi, Sakura Mobile also has various Japan SIM cards you can purchase.

As Sakura Mobile uses NTT DoCoMo’s network, the reception is exceptional.

Important: Orders must be put through at least 3 days in advance.

Refer to Sakura Mobile’s website HERE for more information and to order your SIM card.

Mobal

Ⓒ Mobal

Mobal is another company where you can purchase a SIM card with data and a phone number to make/receive calls without a residency card. In addition to making phone calls, you can also use the SIM card to send and receive text messages.

Mobal’s SIM cards use both Softbank and DoCoMo’s networks, giving you great call quality, ultra-fast internet speed, and excellent coverage.

Also, no contract is required to sign up for Mobal’s data + voice + text SIM card. You can terminate the service anytime after a 30-day period by clicking the “Cancel service” button on the portal.

And the great news is Mobal can send SIM cards to most countries for free! This allows you to be as prepared as possible. As soon as you land in Japan, you can start using the internet without queueing in front of the service counter!

  • Refer to HERE for more information and order Mobal’s short-term SIM card.
  • Refer to HERE for more information and order Mobal’s long-term SIM card.

Important: Extra charges apply if you want to make phone calls and send text messages. These charges will be billed when Mobal receives your usage information. Incoming phone calls and text messages are free of charge.

Japan Wireless

Japan-Wireless-Pocket-WiFi-1

Although most tourists won’t need a Japanese phone number while traveling in Japan, having a Japanese number can be convenient when you need to make a reservation at a restaurant or even purchase a ticket to live concerts.

So if you want a SIM Card with a Japanese phone number, purchase one of Japan Wireless’s Voice + Data SIM Cards, including phone calls and texting. The company uses NTT DoCoMo’s infrastructure, which is the best in Japan. The SIM Card that will be delivered to you is issued directly by NTT DoCoMo, guaranteeing quality and user experience.

Refer to Japan Wireless’s website HERE for more information and to purchase your Japan SIM Card.

SimsDirect – Australian-Based

SimsDirect is an Australian-based SIM card company that sells reliable but inexpensive SIM cards. As one of the world’s top destinations, Japan is one of the many countries the company covers. And if you plan to travel around Asia, they also have products allowing you to connect to the internet in most Asian countries!

So if you plan to travel soon, consider purchasing a SIM or eSIM card from SimsDirect or SimCorner!

For more information and to get your SIM or eSIM, refer to their official website HERE!

The Best Japan SIM Card Providers for Short-Term Travelers

Similar to Pocket WiFi, you can either purchase a SIM Card with limited or unlimited data. But note unlimited data is subject to the Fair Usage Policy (FUP). If the service provider has determined your usage is excessive on a particular day, the internet speed you will receive is downgraded for a few days.

Our favorite is Japan Wireless (assuming you aren’t a data-heavy user). The company’s product has the best CP value. But if you plan to head into the wild, it is worthwhile to purchase Sakura Moile‘s SIM card to access DoCoMo’s network. It is the best network in Japan. This means the greatest coverage and the fastest speed. In addition, Sakura Mobile‘s customer service is the best. You will usually receive a response within 10 to 20 minutes, even on a weekend.

Japan Short-Term SIM Card ProviderNetwork UsedDaily Cost for 7/8 DaysDaily Cost for 15/16-DaysDaily Cost for 30/31 DaysFUPShipping Overseas?
Sakura MobileNTT DoCoMo619 Yen/Day477 Yen/Day330 Yen/Day2GBNo
Japan WirelessNTT DoCoMo541 Yen/Day295 Yen/Day168 Yen/Day500MBNo
MobalNTT DoCoMo and Softbank591 Yen/Day433 Yen/Day255 Yen/Day3GBYes, free shipping
A comparison of Japan’s top short-term SIM card providers

The Best Japan SIM Card Providers for Long-Term Travelers

If you plan to stay for more than a month in Japan, you will get a long-term discount.

Japan Long-Term SIM Card ProviderNetwork UsedLong-Term Japan SIM Card CostMinimum Contractual Period
Sakura MobileNTT DoCoMo4GB Plan: 2,728 Yen/Month
25GB Plan: 3,828 Yen
3 months. You have to pay for the full three months even if you terminate the contract within the 3-month period.
MobalNTT DoCoMo and Softbank1GB Plan: 1,650 Yen/Month
5GB Plan: 3,190 Yen
10GB Plan: 3,630 Yen
30GB Plan: 4,378 Yen
3 Months. A small early termination will be incurred if you end the contract early
A comparison of Japan’s top long-term SIM card providers

Purchasing a Japan SIM Card from klook

In addition to the above-mentioned Japan SIM Card providers, you can also order your Japan SIM Card via klook if you are based in the below list of countries:

Purchasing a Japan SIM Card from Amazon

The links above are affiliate links that give me a small commission for purchases made through them.

Japan Voice + Text + Data SIM

While a Japanese phone number is not necessary, if you need one to be able to contact your accommodation providers or make a concert/event booking, overseas travelers can now get a Japanese phone number.

Note the price stated below excludes charges for SMS and phone calls.

Japan Voice + Text + Data SIM Card ProviderNetwork UsedMonthly CostMinimum Contract PeriodShipping Overseas?
Sakura MobileNTT DoCoMo4GB Plan: 3,278 Yen/Month
25GB Plan: 4,378 Yen
3 monthsNo
MobalNTT DoCoMo and Softbank7GB 30-Day Plan: 7,920 Yen/Month
7GB 60-Day Plan: 12,870 Yen
7GB 90-Day Plan: 17,820 Yen
Depending on the plan you choose.Yes, free shipping
Japan WirelessNTT DoCoMo☛ 7GB 30-Day Plan: 3,480 Yen/Month
☛ 10GB 60-Day Plan: 3,828 Yen
☛ 25GB 90-Day Plan: 4,378 Yen
N/A, No termination fee is chargedNo
A comparison of Japan’s top Voice + Text + Data SIM card providers

Tips for a Better Experience of Using a Japan SIM Card

  • Charge your device(s) fully each night. This includes any power banks you may have.
  • Download offline maps and language packs.
    • Google Maps allows you to download an area’s map when you are connected to a WiFi hotspot. Utilize this feature to save valuable data.
    • Translation apps, such as Papago, also have a similar feature. Download your native language pack and the Japanese language pack beforehand to ensure the translator can still function without an internet connection.
  • Enable auto-sync selectively to conserve data.
  • Reach out to your service provider for help when needed. Many offer customer support through online chat, email, or phone.

Buying a SIM Card in Japan

If you have forgotten to purchase a Japan SIM card or have used up all the data, the fastest way to get a Japan SIM card is by visiting a BIC Camera Store or Yodobashi Camera Store. The electronics retailer chains have stores across the country. Simply search the nearest BIC Camera or Yodobashi Camera store on Google Maps, and your SIM card is sorted!

Is Pocket WiFi or an eSIM Card a Better Option for Your Next Japan Trip?

Japan-Wireless-Pocket-WiFi
Click the photo for information that will help you decide whether to get a Pocket WiFi, a SIM card or an eSIM.

If a Japan SIM card doesn’t sound like the best internet solution for your next Japan trip, consider purchasing an eSIM or renting a Pocket WiFi.

Refer to our SIM Card, eSIM, or Pocket WiFi: Which One to Use in Japan article that answers all your questions about how to stay connected to the internet when you are in Japan!