Japan has 3 networks on 3G and 4G/LTE:
- NTT DoCoMo
- SoftBank (absorbed Y!Mobile [E-mobile, Willcom], also includes WCP)
- au (KDDI, also includes UQ)
- Rakuten Mobile due to launch in 2020
Japan can be a tricky country to buy a local SIM card. It's the only industrial nation (apart of S. Korea, Singapore and Australia) without 2G/GSM coverage and until 2016 didn't allow visitors to buy voice SIM cards by law (see Mobal below), However, for data on 3G or 4G/LTE on a data-only SIM card, you are free to go.
You should first check their frequencies that are quite unusual even for Asian standards:
|Operator||3G HSDPA||4G LTE|
|800, 2100||700*, 800, 1500, 1800TNO, 2100, 3500 (TDD)
Bands: 1, 3TNO,19, 21, 28, 42
|900, 1800, 2100, 2500 (TDD), 3500 (TDD)
Bands: 1, 3, 8, 41, 42
|700*, 800, 1500, 2100, 2500 (TDD), 3500 (TDD)
Bands: 1, 11, 18, 28, 41, 42
|Rakuten||n./a.||1800TNO elsewhere: au|
GSM or CDMA-incompatible WiMAX operators are not mentioned in this survey.
700* = LTE on 700 MHz is on B28 like in Australia and soon in Europe, not on bands 12-17 like in the US. Note that because NTT Docomo and Softbank's Band 28 frequency belong to the Upper Duplex section of the band 28, some phones like Google Nexus 5X that only support the Lower Duplex section of the band 28 will not be able to use the band. Because the 700 MHz Band is shared with some other digital services in some area of Japan, this band is not universally available yet.
TNO = only available in an area around Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. See http://imgur.com/VeMs3qd for legal definition.
The following bands are required if you want to use data in Japan. Note, that some are quite unusual and not covered by every usual handset:
- in 4G: Band 1 (2100 MHz) in most areas, Band 19 (800 MHz) in rural areas, Band 21 (1500 MHz) in all citites and band 3 (1800 MHz) in Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo.
- in 3G: Band 1 (2100 MHz) in most areas, Band 9 (1700 MHz) in Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo and band 19 (800 MHz) in rural areas.
Almost all offers for tourists are hosted on the NTT DoCoMo network. SoftBank only started to open up (or is available through roaming from other countries) and au/KDDI is only accessible to visitors using iPads with Apple SIMs. Having a device from other parts of the world, this normally limits you to 3G on 2100 MHz (B1) in the cities and to 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (B3) in the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka greater area. That's why for Japan WiFi, foreign roaming SIM cards and links to many rental services are mentioned at the bottom as an alternative for more coverage and the country remains greylisted.
Both major CDMA carriers in the US, Verizon and Sprint, have cancelled their special CDMA roaming agreements. If you are roaming from a CDMA carrier in another country, you may still use au's CDMA network for now, but that network is being shut down at the end of March 2022, making au the first of the big 3 to shut down its 3G network. SoftBank has announced plans to shut down its 3G in January 2024 and docomo has set March 2026 as its shutdown date.
E-conglomerate Rakuten was given a 4th network license to build up competition against the three major companies. Rakuten Mobile’s plan stipulates the deployment of 4G/LTE base stations mainly in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka by the end March 2020. Its own network service area will cover the 23 wards of Tokyo, Nagoya City, Osaka City and parts of Hyogo prefecture. They will offer nationwide LTE services to customers from the time of launch through services based on the roaming agreement with KDDI (au) to be provided outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Nagoya City and Osaka City and excluding high-traffic areas. The company currently has 3,490 base stations and plans to expand coverage to all of Japan by end of 2021.
Commercial service started in April 2020. Rakuten is offering a single plan with unlimited monthly data for ¥2,980. The price is less than half the comparable tariffs from market competitors SoftBank, KDDI and NTT docomo. The unlimited data service will be available in TNO areas where the company has installed its own mobile infrastructure. Outside Rakuten's own network, KDDI will carry the traffic, and high-speed data usage will be capped at 5 GB per month, then throttled to 1 Mbps.
This sounds good on the surface, however one of the conditions for signing up as a foreigner is that you have a Japanese residency card valid for a year or more, and it is only compatible with a small selection of phones, so it can't be listed below.
Since 2006 the “Mobile Phone Improper Use Prevention Act” (携帯電話不正利用防止法) requires anyone who intends to buy a voice-call-capable SIM card (prepaid or postpaid) to show proper identification document which indicates that he/she has a residential (permanent) address in Japan. A hotel address is not sufficient for this purpose.
In the vast majority of cases, foreigners must have an alien registration to purchase a voice enabled SIM. As a tourist without a visa which permits to stay for more than 90 days, you won’t get one. So most SIMs capable of voice calls are not available to you. This law is enforced strictly and store managers have been penalized before for not asking for the proper “proof of residence” paper. Mobal and SoftBank are now the only exceptions; SoftBank SIMs must be purchased at an airport service counter in Tokyo (Narita/Haneda), Nagoya, or Osaka (Kansai) while Mobal SIMs can be ordered online in advance.
More on this you find here. However, this law does not apply to data services and data-only SIM cards. If you want to make or receive voice calls in Japan, you will be limited to these choices:
- roam with your national SIM card from another country (may be expensive, check with your carrier regarding pricing)
- use a special Japan roaming offer on an international SIM card (see all countries or articles of other countries in the region)
- rent a device with local SIM card at arrival in Japan (see bottom of this page)
- borrow a local SIM card from a Japanese resident (cheap or possibly free)
- use VoIP with data-only SIM (cheap, see below)
- use SoftBank Simple Style or Mobal (see below).
As we focus on data in this Wiki here, check this link for more voice call options from Japan.
The other legal restriction you should be aware of is the requirement of the Giteki mark (see pic). Officially all electronic devices used in Japan need to be certified and labeled with this sign. It's illegal even using an iPhone without it. While this law is quite outdated and is slowly becoming less relevant as Japan forms Mutual Recognition Agreements to recognize other countries' equivalent marks, be sure to stay responsible and discreet using your own non-Japanese electronics in Japan. More info: here.
According to MIC, visitors with foreign devices that have FCC or CE certification may now use their devices up to 90 days without violation on a local SIM card. More info is here.
Note that in Japan there are now many offers, that can be purchased from places such as airport vending machines, Yodobashi Camera electronic stores, BIC Camera and others. The prices for these cards are set by the retailers and can vary slightly from the given numbers.
NTT DoCoMo has the best network in the country and a market share of almost 50%. A 2G-only phone does not work, because there is simply no 2G.
Its 3G network is called FOMA (stands for "Freedom of Mobile Access") and is on 800 MHz in the countryside, 2100 MHz in the cities and a few 1700 MHz stations scattered about. The 800 MHz and 1700 MHz (not AWS like in the US, but EAWS) are used only in Japan, so are most likely not covered on your phone. A device that works on 800 MHz in 2G or 4G/LTE will not carry 800 MHz in 3G. You can expect to get NTT's 3G only in cities on 2100 MHz with a device bought outside of Japan.
Its 4G/LTE is called Xi on 700 MHz (B28), 800 MHz (B18), 1500 MHz (B11), 1800 MHz (B3) and 2100 MHz (B1). Some of these frequencies are used in other countries too, but the most globally used 1800 MHz is only available in the cities of Nagoya, Tokyo and Osaka.
NTT Communications (OCN)
NTT Communications prepaid SIM for smartphones uses NTT Docomo’s 4G/LTE and 3G networks and comes in standard, micro, and nano sizes. After purchasing the card, there is an additional activation step that needs to be performed before it can be used. You will need to have your address in Japan and a local phone number (this can be your hotel) ready.
Sales of the previous tourist-oriented prepaid product, with English-language instructions and online portals, have ended after March 2021. Existing SIM kits may be activated and used until end of November 2021.
Tourist SIM cards come with English instructions and an option for connecting to the Japan Connected-Free WiFi service. This is a free WiFi hotspot service by NTT-BP, designed for visitors to Japan, which is found at international airports, Shinkansen train stations, major tourist attractions and popular locations across Japan.
Their only remaining prepaid products on the market, not specifically marketed to visitors, can be purchased at major electronics stores, but activation procedures must be completed here in Japanese:
- ¥3,080 (tax incl.) for 50 MB/day for 20 days
- ¥3,520 (tax incl.) for 1 GB for 90 days
The 20-day SIM will throttle data to 200 kbps once 50 MB has been used in a day. The 1 GB SIM will cut off data entirely once 1 GB has been used.
Activation requires the phone number assigned to your SIM, the SIM number (found on the SIM holder under the barcode, starts with two letters), and your address and an existing local phone number in Japan. No credit card or ID is required.
The first SIM can be topped up with an additional 50 days of validity with same allowance each day for ¥2,420, and the second with an additional 1 GB/90 days for ¥2,200. The top-up vouchers can be purchased at major electronics stores or at 7-Eleven.
- PDP type: IP
- APN for 3G devices: 3g-d-2.ocn.ne.jp
- APN for 4G/LTE devices: lte-d.ocn.ne.jp
- Username: mobileid@ocn
- Password: mobile
- Authentication type: CHAP
- Website in English: http://service.ocn.ne.jp/mobile/one/visitor/en/
The prepaid smartphone data SIM cards offered by MVNO B-mobile provide data on NTT Docomo’s 3G/4G network. They used to have voice too, but this has been suspended.
SIM cards must be purchased either at a branch of AEON, Yodobashi Camera or BIC Camera chains (stores list) or online at the b-mobile site or Amazon.co.jp. Cards bought online can be delivered to hotels, post offices at major airports, or any Japanese address in 2–4 days.
They used to have three different products on offer, but this is reduced to one now as the PAYG SIM and PAYG data SIM has been discontinued. They do sell a separate prepaid product running on the SoftBank network called "B-Mobile S Prepaid" but they require calling a special phone number with a Japanese mobile phone and providing the SIM phone number to activate. As of December 2017 download speed is throttled to 1.25 Mbps during the day time.
Their Visitor SIM card gives access to 4G/LTE and 3G networks Note that the days start with your selected delivery date for online purchases, not on first use or activation in the handset. It comes in two sizes:
- 5 GB for 10 days: ¥1980
- 7 GB for 21 days: ¥2980
The SIM is rechargeable, but only from the handset containing the SIM, which must currently be located in Japan. Recharging must be done within 10 days of the expiry of the previous plan. Recharging uses a credit card and is ¥ 500 for 1 GB per day.
Traffic may be controlled for VoIP, video, and other streaming contents. Every counting day begins at midnight.
The APN must be set manually (see below) and you must fill out an online form with your personal data for SIM cards that have not been bought on their website.
- Name: b-mobile
- APN: bmobile.ne.jp
- Username: bmobile@4g
- Username for 1 GB visitor SIM: bmobile@fr
- Password: bmobile
- Authentication type: CHAP or PAP (if available)
- MVNO type: SPN (if available)
- English speaking help desk 7am-11am: 03-6721-5032
- Website in English: http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/payg_sim/travelers_to_japan.html
Smash Mobile is providing SIM Cards & Mobile Plans for Japan based on NTT Docomo network. At the moment, their prepaid SIM are data only. Customer service is based in English and French as well as their website.
Smash Mobile's SIM Cards can only be purchased online . Delivery can be made throughout Japan and at a list of airports as well. You should order at least 4 days in advance to be picked up in Japan. International delivery for selected countries is also available.
Japan SIM Card - HORIZON
The prepaid SIM card offers a variety of data plans that run 4G/LTE on NTT docomo. Note that the SIM doesn't support voice calls or SMS. Tethering is supported. These plans are offered (excl. 10% tax):
|1 GB||7 days||¥2,000|
|3 GB||15 days||¥2,800|
|6 GB||30 days||¥4,000|
(*): Note that "unlimited" is in fact limited to 1 GB per day in high speed data, before it gets throttled to 200 kbps. This throttle will be reversed every midnight. For all plans add 10% taxes.
For additional data you can add 1 GB at ¥1,400, 2 GB at ¥2,500, 3 GB at ¥3,800 or 5 GB at ¥6,000. The "unlimited" SIM can be extended for ¥500 per day and a 30-day extension is for ¥5,500.
- APN: mvno.net
- Username: smashmobile.jp
- Password: smashingSIMple
- Authentication Type: CHAP or PAP
- Website in English: https://smashmobile.jp/
eConnect Japan Inc.
The Japan Prepaid SIM is offered by eConnect Japan Inc. through SORACOM and provides data-only on NTT Docomo's 3G and 4G/LTE networks (for frequencies and coverage see Basics and NTT Docomo sections above). The SIM is supported by a special app that helps users manage their plan. They additionally provide a 24-hour customer support service.
SIM cards can be purchased on eConnect's website . It can be delivered to hotels, post offices at major airports, or any Japanese postal address (including private apartments) in 2-4 days without additional fees. Accepted payment method is only PayPal. Alternatively, it can be bought at Amazon with further payment options to be delivered worldwide.
Japan Prepaid SIM
The SIM card offers a variety of data plans that run on the 3G (FOMA) and 4G/LTE (Xi) networks of NTT docomo with a max. speed of around 2 Mbps. Note that the SIM doesn't support voice calls or SMS but calls through VoIP and tethering are supported. These plans are offered (excl. tax):
|100 MB per day||7 days||¥2,680||¥1,600|
|100 MB per day||15 days||¥3,380||¥2,220|
|100 MB per day||30 days||¥4,180||¥3,400|
|500 MB||4 days||¥1,980||¥1,200|
|1 GB||7 days||¥3,180||¥1,800|
|3 GB||30 days||¥4,980||¥3,800|
|5 GB||30 days||¥6,680||¥5,800|
|10 GB||30 days||¥9,180|
To all prices add 8% tax. For the 100 MB/day plans, once the user uses up their 100 MB for the day, speed will be slowed down to 128 Kbps. The speed will go back to normal once the clock hits 0:00h JST the following day. Users can optionally choose to make a 'Refill100' to add 100 MB for the rest of the day for ¥300. However, if this data is not all used up, the remaining data will not be rolled over to the following day once the clock hits midnight. For the other plans, once all the data is used up, Internet gets disconnected immediately. You are only able to access the ecoonect website to top up credit. If users cannot make a top-up within the 3 days, the SIM is automatically terminated. Otherwise, the SIM card can be used up to one year, if the user continuously makes top-ups.
Web and mobile app
The special application by eConnect Japan Inc. gives users full control over their SIM. The app allows users to set the SIM, make top-ups, check data usage, and much more. The app is available for both iOS and Android. Users can also use the web application .
- APN: soracom.io
- Username: econnect
- Password: econnect
- Authentication Type: CHAP or PAP
- Website in English: https://www.econnectjapan.com
Japan Travel SIM & Brastel VoIP card
These prepaid SIM cards aimed at visitors to Japan from overseas are made available by internet service provider IIJmio, the first full MVNO of the country in 2017. SIM cards are combined with a Brastel VoIP phone card for calling out and free incoming calls.
You will have access to NTT Docomo's 3G and 4G/LTE networks in up to 786 Mbps speeds.
Japan Travel SIM cards can be purchased from all Yodobashi Camera stores, along with selected branches of Bic Camera, Kojima, and Sofmap, as well as from the Tourist Information Center Tokyo (at the Nihonbashi exit of Tokyo Station), and from Khaosan hostels in Tokyo and Kyoto and more: points of sale .
The package also includes a Brastel prepaid IP phone card, which can be charged by credit card or PayPal via Brastel website and enables domestic and international calls.
eSIM rolling contracts can be applied for online using this link. You will need to know your name in katakana, your address in Japan, and have a credit or debit card ready (not all international cards work, but many do; tested working with a US issued American Express card). As part of the sign-up process you will be asked to create a mioID account; this allows you to access an online portal to keep track of your usage as well as cancel service when you're done. When sign-up is complete, wait a few minutes, and you will receive an e-mail containing a link directing you to your eSIM QR code.
Price for physical prepaid SIMs is set by the vendor and may vary depending on location. Their new SIM cards (referred to as "Full MVNO SIMs") released in 2018 feature lower prices (prices at Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera provided for reference):
- 1.5 GB for 30 days: ¥1,990 at Yodobashi and ¥1,998 at Bic Camera (tax incl.)
- 3 GB for 30 days: ¥3,020 at Yodobashi and ¥3,020 at Bic Camera (tax incl.)
Additional data can be purchased at a rate of ¥1,500 for 500 MB and ¥3,000 for 2 GB (both including tax) directly with IIJmio. Additionally, larger top-ups of ¥5,400 for 5 GB and ¥9,400 for 10 GB can be purchased from 7-Eleven stores. Each top-up extends the validity of your SIM to 3 months from the date of the last top-up, so keeping the same SIM alive for later use may not be practical; a rolling contract may actually be more practical in such a case (see below).
eSIM (rolling contract only)
If you need an eSIM instead of a physical SIM, IIJMio's "Data Plan Zero" and "Giga Plan" rolling contracts are the only Japanese eSIM available to visitors. Signup is entirely in Japanese, but no identification is required as it is data-only, and some foreign credit cards are accepted (use your card details combined with the address in Japan you are staying at). Data Plan Zero is a hybrid of prepaid and postpaid, as there is a monthly fee, but data is purchased in 1 GB blocks on your online account as you need it; if you do not purchase data or if you have run out of your purchased allowance, it will simply not function. Cost of service for Data Plan Zero is below (tax excl.):
- Activation fee: ¥3,000
- Basic monthly fee: ¥150
- First 1 GB: ¥300
- Extra data (per 1 GB): ¥450
Extra data can be purchased up to 9 times a month. Once 10 GB has been purchased and used, no more can be purchased or used that month.
The Giga Plan is a more traditional, fully postpaid rolling contract. You will be charged for the amount of data you have chosen every month. Unused data will carry over to the following month, data from multiple people can be pooled into one shared allowance (provided all users are signed up for under the same mioID), and when the available high-speed data is used up, data will be throttled to 300 kbps, or additional high-speed data in a month can be purchased for ¥200 (tax excl) per GB, or if you're near the end of a calendar month, you can submit a request to move up to a higher tier in the online portal. Any request submitted by the last day of a calendar month will come into effect on the following calendar month. Additionally, billing for the first month of service is also prorated by calendar month.
For Giga Plan:
- Activation fee: ¥3,000 (sometimes reduced to ¥1 in promotions, or can be reduced to ¥350 with the use of an "entry code" from Amazon)
- 2 GB: ¥400
- 4 GB: ¥600
- 8 GB: ¥1,000
- 15 GB: ¥1,300
- 20 GB: ¥1,500
For both, there is an eSIM profile reissue fee of ¥200 if you need to change devices.
When you no longer need your plan, cancellation can be performed online here. The minimum contract period is the end of the calendar month following the one you signed up in. This means your commitment can be as short as 29 days (31 Jan to 28 Feb) or as long as 61 days (1 May to 30 June).
The minimum commitment makes it more useful for longer trips to Japan, but with an activation fee promotion or Amazon entry code, the eSIM rolling contracts are significantly cheaper than a fully prepaid physical SIM.
- APN: iijmio.jp
- Username: mio@iij
- Password: iij
- Authentication type: PAP or CHAP
- customer support in English 9am-7pm: Tel: 03-5205-4999
- Website in English for IIJmio: http://t.iijmio.jp/en/index.html
- Website in English for Brastel: http://www.brastel.com/pages/eng/spc/fromjapan.html
Nuromobile was called so-net before and is another MVNO that sells prepaid SIMs on the NTT DoCoMo network on 3G and 4G/LTE. It's managed by Sony Corp.
This product may not be officially available anymore; it is recommended to search for other options first.
SIM cards were previously able to be purchased from machines at Kansai International, Naha, and Sendai airports, Mobile Center outlets at Narita airport, Haneda terminal, and New Chitose airport, Kyoto City Bus and Subway Information Center, Yodobashi Camera stores in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, and Lawson convenience stores in Naha, among others. The Nuromobile website has removed these stores from its listing and only shows them as available on Amazon, however on that site they are out of stock and specifically indicate "no plans to restock". The SIM kit currently available on Amazon when you search for "Nuromobile" (see image) is a starter kit for rolling contracts only.
Nuro prepaid SIM cards provide visitors to Japan with speeds up to 300 Mbps on 4G/LTE. Prices are variable. Below are the recommended retail prices as given by Sony (tax excl.):
- ¥3,704: Unlimited data for 10 days
- ¥2,315: 2.1 GB data for 10 days
- ¥3,241: 1.2 GB data for 30 days
- ¥4,167: 2.4 GB data for 30 days
- ¥5.093: 3.2 GB data for 60 days
Extra data can be purchased for ¥2,838 for 1 GB, which has a 60 day limit. All prices exclude tax. Refills require a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, JCB, American Express or Diners Club).
Cards are available in standard, micro, and nano sizes.
- Certain phone models are not supported, check this site: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/prepaid/unavailable.html
- If you have an iPhone, you must install the APN profile from the following website beforehand via a WLAN or other Internet connection: http://www.mobile.nuro.jp/prepaid/r/profile/ Visit the page using Safari on your iPhone.
- No initial PIN, not even 0000!
- If used in a portable router, some insist on a phone number to dial. That would be *99#
- APN: prepaid.fun
- Username: 123
- Password: 123
- Authentication type: CHAP or PAP
- Contact number (in English) 10am-6pm: 0570-099-112
- Website in English: https://mobile.nuro.jp/prepaid/en/
Wi-Fi provider and MVNO Wirelessgate offers a prepaid smartphone SIM card aimed at visitors to Japan. The card offers both connection to NTT Docomo’s 4G and 3G networks, as well as the use of 40,000 WiFi hotspots, the biggest WiFi network nationwide.
As of 2015, these cards are only available at Yodobashi Camera electronic chain (shop list see above). The cards come in three sizes: standard, micro, and nano. You can adjust your settings, check how much data you have left, search for WIFI hotspots and take advantage of automatic login using the Wirelessgate portal. Max speed is 150 Mbps. They have "unlimited" plans:
- For 8 days: ¥4,860
- For 31 days: ¥8,430
As well as data-limited plans:
- 1.5 GB for 31 days: ¥2,010
- 3 GB for 31 days: ¥2,690
- 5 GB for 31 days: ¥3,250
- 10 GB for 40 days: ¥4,560
Users who have reached their data-transmission limit can purchase an extra 1 GB to be used in a 14 day period, priced at ¥1,000 (including tax). Additionally, all SIMs include fine print in the terms and conditions that state that they reserve the right to throttle to 250kbps if they detect "large-volume downloads occurring in a short time" as well as "excessive usage, such as sustained P2P file transfer or video usage".
- APN for 4G/LTE: psim.jp
- Username: japan@psim
- Password: japan
- Authentication type: CHAP or PAP
- The 10 GB/40 days SIM uses the same settings as other SoftBank prepaid SIMs, see "SoftBank" below
- Helpline in English 10am-6pm: 03-4577-9053
- Website: http://www.wirelessgate.co.jp/presim/en/index.html
Wi-Ho! by Telecom Square used to be a rental agency for overseas visitors. Since 2016 they offer a data-only and a data & voice SIM card to visitors. The data & voice SIM operates on the former Y!Mobile network that has been absorbed into Softbank. For 3G you need a device on 900 and 2100 MHz which is very usual in Europe or Asia, for their 4G/LTE 900 MHz (band 8), 1800 (band 3) and 2100 (band 1) to be added by the rare 2500 MHz (band 45 on TD-LTE), but not required. The data-only SIM is on the NTT/DoCoMo network (see above). The validity of their SIM cannot be extended.
Their data & voice SIM is one of the few offers that include regular voice transmission (not only VoIP) as this is normally banned for foreigners.
Both SIM cards are sold only at the Telecom Square airport counters in New Chitose, Narita, Handeda, Kansai and Fukoka airports (exact locations here). Visa, Mastercard, JCB, AmEx and Diners Club are accepted. Micro and nano SIM sizes are available. You can check your consumption online.
Their data-only SIM comes in 3G/4G speed on the NTT DoCoMo network with speeds up to 788 Mbit/s.
- Unlimited for 7+1 days: ¥4,980 plus tax
- Unlimited for 15+1 days: ¥5,980 plus tax
- Unlimited for 30+1 days: ¥6,980 plus tax
- Settings for Unlimited Data SIM
- APN: ppsim.jp
- Username: pp@sim password: jpn
- MCC: 440, MNC: 03, Authentication: PAP or CHAP
- Website in English: https://sim.telecomsquare.co.jp/
E-conglomerate Rakuten offered prepaid SIM cards for visitors in the past on NTT docomo's reliable network in 4G/LTE only, but sales of prepaid starter packs and data top-ups have ended on April 7, 2020 across all channels. Existing SIMs are valid until data runs out or the expiry date. They have not yet announced a replacement prepaid product on their own network, so they are being taken down for now.
Biglobe (Ninja SIM)
BIGLOBE NINJA SIM is using NTT docomo's network in 3G and 4G/LTE up to 778 Mbps.
You can order from the web and pick up the product at the designated airport post office or hotel, and stores that sell them are available in the arrivals halls of Nagoya Centrair and Osaka Kansai airports, as well as some Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, and Don Quijote stores.
Three data-limited plans are available under the Ninja SIM name (tax included):
- 3 GB for 30 days: ¥3,300
- 5 GB for 30 days: ¥4,400
- 7 GB for 30 days: ¥5,500
For add-ons you can add 1 GB at ¥2,200. This extends valdity to another 31 days. There are also two unlimited plans:
- For 3 days: ¥3,850
- For 7 days: ¥5,500
- APN: biglobe.jp
- Username: user
- Password: 0000
- Authentication: CHAP or PAP
- Website in English: http://ninjasim.jp/en/
MAYASystem provides unlimited data prepaid SIM cards for short trips and long-term visitors to Japan on NTT Docomo 4G/LTE area.
The instruction support is for multiple languages: Chinese, Korean, English and Thai. Their help center is available in 11 languages, and works for 365 days.
Their SIM cards are available at many stores like Yodobashi Camera, Big Camera, Nojima, OIOI (called Marui in Japanese) or online from Amazon.co.jp.
Their plans offer unlimited data (tax included):
- for 8 days: ¥5378
- for 31 days: ¥8618
- Technical settings: see multi-lingual brochure
- Website: https://mayass.com/prepaid/
- 24 hrs English hotline: 050-5835-2190
JPSIM (Travel for Japan)
JPSIM is another MVNO working mostly over the NTT docomo network in 3G and 4G, but offers some Softbank products too. It's generally harder to find on local streets as they market it mostly online.
JPSIM sells its SIM cards in a few redistributors stores in Japan, but mostly online on Amazon.co.jp or Rakuten.co.jp. Foreign visitors who try to pre-purchase a SIM before arrival should head to Rakuten's Global Market: https://global.rakuten.com . They come in different series and have a max. speed of 375 Mbps:
Under the JP SIM label these plans are offered:
- 220 MB per day for 7 days: ¥2180
- 220 MB per day for 15 days: ¥2980
- 220 MB per day for 30 days: ¥3980
- 3 GB for 8 days: ¥2380
- "unlimited" for 8 days: ¥3980
Under the very similar JP Air SIM label some larger packs with included unlimited WIFI pass:
- 500 MB per day for 7 days: ¥2180
- 500 MB per day for 15 days: ¥3280
- 500 MB per day for 30 days: ¥4280
- 1 GB for 7 days: ¥1680
- 2 GB for 7 days: ¥1880
- 3 GB for 15 days: ¥2980
- 5 GB for 30 days: ¥3980
- "unlimited" for 15 days: ¥3580
- "unlimited" for 30 days: ¥4580
On Softbank network (see specifics at Basics above and details below):
- 3 GB for 15 days: ¥2280
- 10 GB for 15 days: ¥3480
All these plans don't seem to be extendable in size or time.
- APN: for JP: dm.jplat.net for JPAir: dm.jplat.net
- Username: for JP: pocket@sim for JPAir: japan@psim
- Authentication: CHAP or PAP
- PDP: IP
- Website: https://jpwifi.co.jp/
SoftBank as 2nd network in the country (check frequencies at Basics section) has recently opened up its services to prepaid subscribers. Under very limited conditions prepaid subscriptions to foreigners on short-term are now possible. In 2016 it started to market a Tourist SIM for inbound visitors too, that is much more accessible for foreigners.
Simple Style prepaid plan
Foreigners visiting Japan short-term can sign up for prepaid SoftBank service only at airport counters in Narita, Haneda, Centrair (Nagoya), and Kansai showing a passport. In addition, certain SoftBank stores can handle upgrades from voice/mail only prepaid to smartphone service with data. When purchasing SoftBank's prepaid service, you have two options:
- buy a SIM & phone package: Only this package has an extendable validity period, but it currently costs ¥15,000 for a phone and ¥10,000 airtime credit. This is a very steep start-up cost, intended for those who plan to visit frequently.
- buy a stand-alone SIM: This SIM is cheaper, costing only the preloaded ¥3000, ¥5000, and ¥8000 credit, but only lasts for 14 days and is not extendable in validity. You must buy a new SIM when the 14 days are over and you'll lose any remaining credit on the SIM. This can be a great inconvenience, if you are not near an airport SoftBank counter when it expires.
Data is priced as follows for Simple Style:
- 200 MB for 2 days: ¥900
- 700 MB for 7 days: ¥2700
- 3 GB for 30 days: ¥4980
These rates also include flat-rate use of all SoftBank WiFi hotspots in Japan.
These plans don't have so good rates as the data-only SIMs. In part you are paying for the convenience of not having to buy a new SIM every time when you return, in part you are paying for having the voice service with a domestic number. If you sign up with a 4G device, there will be a hard cap, if you sign up with a 3G device, there will be a throttle instead. There is a frequent user discount: the 30-day plan drops in price to ¥3980 for the life of the account once it has been signed up for 12 times (not necessarily consecutive periods).
Recharge vouchers can be purchased with cash at any SoftBank store, any convenience store, or certain discount ticket shops (locations vary by city) for a ¥100-200 discount off face value. If you have a renewable SIM+phone package, both ¥3000 and ¥5,000 vouchers will extend validity for 60 days, after which the number itself is valid for another year and can be reactivated at any time by depositing more funds after arriving in Japan.
Prepaid SIM for Travel
SoftBank started their new product called Prepaid SIM for Travel aimed at inbound travelers to Japan back in 2016.
Two different SIM card designs are available: Mt.Fuji and "Hello Kitty". Only design differs, both cards come with same terms and conditions.
You can read more at the official website (available in English).
Before use, you are required to run an online registration process, where you will be ask for your personal identity and to get your passport photographed or scanned. This process is only possible from 9:00am to 9:00pm.
SoftBank has recently also opened up sign-ups for its data service to iPad users with Apple SIMs. Unlike au, when signing up, you have to provide the address in Japan you are staying at, not the billing address of the credit card you want to charge the plan to. Foreign Visa, MasterCard, and JCB cards are accepted. Further refills are also ¥1620 per GB.
Availability and pricing
The SIM cards are available at Softbank shops, electronic shops and the Softbank rental counter at airport. It has an open price meaning the seller is flexible about it. At the Softbank rental center in Haneda airport ¥4,500 is charged. The SIM comes with 3 GB data.
The top-up charge is a fixed 500 MB for 31 day validity extension at ¥1,620 tax included. Top-ups can be purchased only online by credit card.
- APN: plus.4g
- Username: plus
- Password: 4g
- Website for the Softbank prepaid travel SIM: https://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/special/prepaid-sim-for-travel/en/
- Website for the airport rental shops: https://www.softbank-rental.jp/en/prepaid/
Mobal is known for their international (made for roaming) cellphone and SIM service, however in 2017 they have started offering SIM options for visitors to Japan and short-term residents. They are one of only a few companies to provide combined voice + data SIM cards to foreigners without the strict need of Japanese ID documents. They are an MVNO utilizing the SoftBank network in Japan. So check SoftBank's rather unusual frequencies at our Basics chapter before purchase.
SIM cards are only sold online. Mobal offers a free collection service at Narita, Haneda airports and some downtown Tokyo locations also. Standard method of shipping is free to most countries worldwide. It's recommended to order in advance and have it shipped to your home country before you depart.
Data SIMs are shipped or collected already activated and iOS users just need to insert them to use. Android users need to enter the APN too. In the case of voice SIMs once the SIM card is received, the card must be activated online prior to being used in Japan, however the activation date can be chosen so the process can be done several days in advance. An international debit/credit card is needed to be kept on file for any accrued charges, such as plan extensions (see below) as well as calls and texts. For the activation you need to upload a scan of your passport. After the initial payment it's possible to change payment method to include payment in cash at Japanese convenience stores, etc.
Data-only SIM card
In 2018 Mobal launched Softbank Prepaid Data SIMs for visitors to Japan with real unlimited data:
- for 8 days: ¥3,990
- for 16 days: ¥5,990
- for 31 days: ¥7,490
Voice and data SIM card
The Mobal Japan Unlimited SIM offers both Voice & Data on a non-contractual basis. Visitors to Japan can avail of the 30, 60 or 90 day plans. Long-term visitors can choose an ongoing plan. Note that with initial purchases of a voice SIM a fee of ¥3,000 is charged with each SIM card purchased.
- Fixed Length Plans: service will be disconnected after the chosen period:
- Voice, text & "unlimited data" for 30 days: ¥7,500
- Voice, text & "unlimited data" for 60 days: ¥12,000
- Voice, text &" unlimited data" for 90 days: ¥16,500
- Variable Length Plans: service continues on a monthly basis, can be suspended at any time. The same card can be reused with the same assigned Japanese cellphone number and service can be suspended for any chosen length at no additional cost:
- "unlimited data" for 30 days: ¥4,500
- without data for 30 days: ¥1,000 (an additional ¥4,500 is charged, if any data is used) plus ¥3,000 for the SIM card
Texting and calling are not included and are charged as the indicated price on the website. Tethering (aka personal hotspot use) and international roaming is not available, VoIP calls are allowed.
Note that "unlimited" data in their voice and data plans is capped at 7 GB per month. Beyond data speed is throttled to 128 kbps. However, the 7 GB limit resets at the end of a calendar month, so if your 30 day period of choice stretches across two months, you will have 7 GB of high speed data per calendar month.
- APN: smile.world
- Username: dna1trop
- Password: so2t3k3m2a
- Website in English: https://www.mobal.com/japan-sim-card/
au (by KDDI)
au is Japan's 3rd mobile operator, and for most tourists will be of no use, both because of its CDMA network type and because they normally don't sell to short-term visitors. However, those with an iPad and an Apple SIM may prefer it to other providers since it won't require purchase of a separate SIM, and for 1 GB data it's competitively priced.
Note that you may receive a letter from au in Japanese at home after you return. Do not be concerned, it is simply a written confirmation of the service you signed up for.
Only if you have an iPad with an Apple SIM, you can sign up. au does not otherwise sell service to tourists. You can only sign up between 9am and 9pm (but if you are already registered, you can perform the refill at all hours). and instructions are given here and foreign credit cards and billing addresses are accepted.
au sells data to visitors using Apple SIMs at one price only: 1 GB for 30 days at ¥1620 (tax incl.). It can be set to auto-refill with another 1 GB once you have run low or once 30 days are over. Tethering is allowed on this plan.
One registration is good for 365 days. Every refill extends the registration validity to 365 days from that refill. After 365 days, you will need to register once again.
- Website in English: https://www.au.com/english/
Free Wi-Fi Passport (by SoftBank)
SoftBank who runs about 400,000 WiFi access points in the country is giving out FREE WI-FI passports to anyone who visits Japan for business, vacation and other reasons from 2015.
You need to roam on the SoftBank network with your home SIM card in your phone. For this you need to have a 3G phone on the frequencies mentioned in the Basics chapter roaming on Softbank network. Users simply dial a dedicated number with their mobile phones at no charge to complete registration. For English dial *8180. They will send you the password rightaway. This password is valid for 2 weeks and can be renewed thereafter. In order to use this service, you must provide your mobile phone number, password, gender and age group.
You have to look for the SSID ".FREE_Wi-Fi_PASSPORT" (starts with a dot) from your list of available Wi-Fi hotspots. Pick this Wi-Fi, give your country code + phone number as ID and enter the sent password. Up to 5 devices can be connected but some SoftBank hotspot locations cannot be used with this service.
Normally Wi-Fi schemes are not a part in this Wiki, but given the situation in Japan, they might give a good alternative for mobile data. This free program seems to be extended now indefinitely. Their Wi-Fi service is not encrypted. Use this service after taking into consideration the security risk.
- Website in English: https://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/special/freewifi/en/
Other free WiFi networks
There is much free WiFi in Japan by other companies too. All major airport have free WiFi, most major towns (but not Tokyo), many trains and stations, all Starbucks and Seven Spots outlets, hotels and shopping malls. Furthermore there are these free networks:
- Freespot with more than 50,000 hotspots: http://www.freespot.com
- NTT East Free with 40,000 hotspots in the East: http://flets.com/freewifi/index.html
- Japan Connected by NTT with 19,000 hotspots through an app: http://www.ntt-bp.net/jcfw/en.html
- Travel Japan WiFi with 60,000 hotspots through an app too: http://japanfreewifi.com/
MINEO is an MVNO on all of the big three providers, but its travel prepaid data SIMs were sold as Docomo plans. For compatibility see NTT Docomo above. They have mostly stopped distributing new travel data SIMs and only officially sell one prepaid package, which may be helpful to those with low data use. The current prepaid pack is available for use on both au and Docomo networks (note that there is no 3G access on the au pack; because their 3G shutdown date is approaching, they are prohibititng new customers from using it).
The "travel" prepaid SIMs can still be found at some vending machines (e.g. at Narita and Kansai airports) and some stores. If you have one of these SIMs, here's how it works:
You need to activate your SIM at webpage: my.mineo.jp/travel
They sell these two unlimited plans (communication speed is limited to 200 kbps from 12:15am to 12:45am):
- for 6 days: ¥3564
- for 11 days: ¥5940
1 day extension ¥1000, 2 days ¥1500 and 3 days ¥2000
and these regular packages:
- 1 GB for 15 days: ¥3564
- 3 GB for 30 days: ¥4500
- 5 GB for 45 days: ¥5940
Additional 200 MB ¥700, 500 MB ¥1000 and 1 GB ¥1800.
Current "Prepaid Pack"
Currently, Mineo only sells one "prepaid pack" for ¥200 with 200 MB data valid for 2 months. There are three types of starter packs depending on what network you want to use- separate micro-SIM and nano-SIM starter packs for au, and a triple-cut starter pack for NTT Docomo. Activation for this pack is done by phone:
- Dial 186-0120-984-696 from any phone that will properly send Caller ID data (any Japanese mobile, VoIP, or landline number, no payphones).
- Enter SIM Card ID number, then passcode when prompted.
- Wait for the call to finish and hang up. Your SIM is ready to use.
No top-ups are available for this SIM; once you run out of the included 200 MB you must purchase another pack entirely, convert the SIM to a "rolling contract" (which are reasonably priced, with 3 GB costing only ¥900/month, but the only foreign credit cards accepted are AmEx/JCB, and cancellation procedure is entirely in Japanese), or buy a SIM from another provider. While it is less convenient to activate than the other prepaid SIMs available and offers less data, this is by far the cheapest SIM to use if 200 MB is enough for your stay in Japan.
These are the correct APN settings:
- APN: mineo-d.jp (docomo network) or mineo.jp (au network)
- Username: email@example.com
- Password: mineo
- Authentication type: CHAP
Rental services for SIM cards and mobile Wi-Fi devices
As there are incompatibilities with non-Japanese devices and legal restrictions, many visitors may choose to use a rental service to hire a mobile device (Wi-Fi router, or hotspot) together with a SIM card or a SIM card only. There are more than a dozen agencies available offering such services. You should book in advance if you are looking for a particular kind of service or device. Mobile routers can be picked up airport counters or post offices, or arrangements can be made for delivery to your accommodation in Japan. Some agencies also offer insurance for a surcharge. The agencies below are listed in alphabetical order with links to their pages all in English:
eConnect Japan Inc.
Global Advanced Communications
Japan Wi-Fi Rental Service
JCR Corporation - Japan Cell Phone Rentals
- http://www.sakuramobile.jp with SIM card rental!