Tokyo Tips: Mobile phones in Japan

Will my foreign phone work in Japan? There are two main factors to whether your phone will work in Japan;

  1. Is my phone global roaming enabled?
  2. Is my phone compatible with the Japanese cellular network?

Whether your phone is enabled is for global roaming comes down to the service provider that you use. If you plan on using your phone in Japan you shouldn’t assume that global roaming is enabled if you have never used your phone overseas before. Turning global roaming on is as simple as logging into your carriers website and hitting one button, or in some cases it may require a phone call. Be sure to check out the fees your carrier charges for international roaming, it is almost always extremely expensive.

Your phone’s compatibility to the Japanese network will largely be relient of the age of your phone. Almost all 3G and 4G phones will work in Japan. Japan lacks a GSM or 2G network, so these phones will not work. In simple terms, if its a smart phone, it is most likely going to work. Now, if you’re a smart traveler, you’ll do what most people do to avoid roaming fees when you travel… buy the cheapest local prepaid sim and put it in your phone. But, in Japan you’ll run into a small problem…

What’s the best pre-paid sim in Japan? To buy a prepaid sim card in Japan, you must be a Japanese resident. This means that coming as a tourist its near imposable to buy a sim card. This means you must rent in Japan, you can rent a phone, a sim card, a data card or portable wifi.

My personal tip is to rent portable wifi. Prices for portable wifi normally sit around $5 to $10USD a day for the first week with discounts for longer rental periods. There are many different companies offering rentals but personally I’ve always used Global Advanced Communications.

The main advantage of portable Wifi is that the cost for data is lower and can be shared with your party. The distavage is that its another electronic device to be carried around and needs recharging. Additionally you can send or receives calls/texts since you don’t have a phone number (but you can use Facebook or another apps instead!

Have any questions about Japan? Feel free to ask me.


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