Having spent a lot of time travelling around Japan, I get asked a lot of questions including “What is the best sim card or portable WiFi for Japan?”, to which my answer is – it depends on what you need. There isn’t any best one, but there is a range of good ones to pick from. In this guide, I’ll cover a range of portable WiFi and sim card options for traveling within Japan so you can choose one that meets your needs. This guide will focus on short-term travel within Japan (3 months or less).
What to know before travelling to Japan.
To rent or buy a sim card, portable WiFi or phone within Japan you’ll need to make sure you have your passport, and a credit card available if you are renting or buying a sim card/device in person. If you’re ordering online, you may be required to submit this information via the companies website before you can access the internet. This is due to Japanese laws, requiring companies keep track of who us using what sim card/wifi.
If you’re planning on getting a sim card, I recommend taking one of the sim card ejecting tools to open the slot on your phone and make sure you know what size sim card your phone needs. While some stores will have these available and can help you install it, it’s better to be safe by having your own. If anything, it’ll be useful to insert your own sim card back in at the end of the trip.
To use a Japanese sim card, you’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked and works with the Japanese phone networks. To be able to connect to the Japanese networks, your phone will need to be able to connect using Band 1 (2100mhz) or Band 19 (800mhz) network bands. Outside of the main cities, you’ll need to be able to use Band 19 or you will suffer from poor network coverage. Luckily, the majority of smartphones made in the last few years, such as iPhones and Samsung Galaxy, do support these network bands, but to be safe, check before travelling.
If your phone is locked or doesn’t support the above bands, then you’ll need to either rent a portable WiFi, a rental phone or buy a different phone. Renting either a portable WiFi or phone is much cheaper, but if you’re going to be travelling a lot it might be worth investing in a new phone that will connect to 4G (or even 5G).
If you’re planning on travelling to more rural areas, I recommend checking the signal coverage available using OpenSignal, one of many apps that come in handy when travelling around Japan. To access the network coverage information, you’ll need to download their app for iPhone or Android. The app displays the coverage areas for the 3 main networks in Japan, that any sim card or portable WiFi listed in this guide will be using. If you happen to be going into an area with poor coverage, then I recommend checking on Google Maps for conbini’s (convenience stores), such as 7/11, Family Mart, and Lawsons. These stores normally to offer free WiFi so you can easily connect for free, and download offline maps, check Facebook etc.
Buying a sim card or portable WiFi at the airport
Before you buy a sim card at the airport, you should be aware that they can be more expensive than those outside of the airport. To make sure you get the best deal, I recommend making use of the free WiFi available in the airport, train stations etc until you get to a store outside of the airport or checking what deals are available from Yodobashi, etc to make sure you’re not being ripped off. I have listed some of these deals further down, which are available as of October 2019.
Which offers are available at the airport will depend on where you’re landing. If you are flying into Tokyo Narita Tokyo Haneda or Kansai International Airport in Osaka, there are tons of sim card stores and vending machines. Smaller airports may have fewer options available.
JAL ABC has sim cards, portable WiFi rentals and phone rentals available at Narita, Haneda, and Kansai airports. An unlimited data sim card from JAL ABC costs 4073 yen for 7 days, 5601yen for 15 days, and 6619yen or 30 days. They also have limited data 30-day sim cards that offer 2GB for 2647yen and 6GB for 4582yen (as of October 2019). Depending on how much data you’ll be using, you could save money by grabbing a 5GB sim card that lasts 30 days from Yodobashi for 3259yen instead.
Japan WiFi has mobile WiFi Hotspots available to rent, offering 500MB data for 759yen (+tax) per day, plus the cost of insurance (or you can either use your own or risk not having any). Japan WiFi is available from the following airports: Narita, Haneda, Kansai, New Chitose, Fukuoka, and Chubu Centair. They can also be ordered online for pick up at the airport.
WiFi Rental Store has mobile WiFi hotspots available for you to rent from Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Centair, New Chitose and Fukuoka airport. You can also collect in store, in Akihabara, Tokyo or have it delivered to your hotel. Rental fees start from 450yen a day or 6750yen per month, plus the cost of pick up or postage. Data plans start at 20GB, and go up to 100GB.
Buying a sim card or portable WiFi in Japan
Buying a sim card in one of the main cities such as Tokyo or Osaka is quite easy. Just head to any BIC Camera store, or Yodobashi Camera Store, and head to their mobile phone section. Here, you’ll find a range of sim cards, most of which offer data-only plans that’ll work for up to 30 days, 40 days or 3 months. Normally the ones available for tourists will be labelled as such with English signage. If you’re in Tokyo, I recommend visiting their Shinjuku store (outside of the west exit at Shinjuku JR station) as they have a lot of signs in English as well as English speaking staff, who will be able to help you select the right sim card.
You may also spot some stores advertising tourist sim cards around Akihabara, Tokyo. These stores normally have English speaking staff who can help you.
Below is an example of some of the Japan travel sim cards available from Yodobashi Camera.
|Sim card||Plan||Cost in yen|
|Yodobashi Camera Prepaid sim||1.5GB data for 31 days||2017yen|
|Yodobashi Camera Prepaid sim||3GB data for 31 days||2699yen|
|Japan Travel SIM||2GB data for 3 months||4160yen|
|Japan Travel SIM||1.5GB data for 30 days||2020yen|
|COMST Prepaid 4G Data SIM||2GB data for 30 days||2750yen|
|COMST Prepaid 4G Data SIM||7GB data fo 30 days||3730yen|
|Softbank 4G LTE Yodobashi Camera Wireless Prepaid Sim||10GB data for 40 Days||4560yen|
|BIGGLOBE NINJA SIM||7GB data for 30 Days||8460yen|
Below is an example of some of the Japan travel sim cards available from BIC Camera.
|Sim card||Plan||Cost in yen|
|BIC Camera Japan Travel Sim||2GB Data for 3 months, recharge available||4150yen|
|BIC Camera Japan Travel Sim||3GB Data for 30 Days||3080yen|
|Japan Communications Visitor Sim||5GB Data fo 10 Days, rechargeable||1980yen|
|Japan Communications||5GB data for 21 days, rechargable||3025yen|
|BIC Mobile||100M/day for 7 days||3278yen|
Buying/renting a sim card or portable WiFi online
If you want to save yourself time at the airport, you can pre-order a sim card or portable WiFi online before you travel to Japan. Some companies will deliver the sim card or portable WiFi to your hotel, others will ask that you collect them from their airport counter, store or tourist information office.
If you’re looking for a sim card, this Docomo 4G Sim Card can be collected from most major airports including Narita, Haneda and Kansai International. Usable for up to 8 days, with 1GB, 3GB and unlimited plans available.
If you’re in Tokyo for more than 8 days, then this sim card has unlimited data for up to 31 days and you can get it delivered to your hotel.
If you’re wanting to use multiple devices, you should get a portable WiFi router as Japanese tourist sim cards do not support hot-spotting. This unlimited portable WiFi router offers delivery to your hotel or hostel and this unlimited data portable WiFi router can be picked up from Haneda airport
Staying in an Airbnb? Most sim card/wifi rental companies do not deliver to AirBnB’s or residential addresses. So you’ll need to collect it from the airport or their store.
If you’re looking for cheap flights to Japan, read my guide on finding cheap flights. If you still need somewhere to stay, check out my guide for finding cheap hotels & hostels. If you’re staying in Tokyo, why not visit Asakusa? If you love cats, make sure to visit Japan’s cat island. If you’re visiting in February, I highly recommend going to the Sapporo snow festival.