Whether you wish to post your fabulous travel photos, get directions, or keep in touch with family and friends back home, internet access is a must when traveling. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, consider the following must-have methods for accessing the internet abroad.
There are a number of ways to access the internet in Japan. These include pocket Wi-fi devices, SIM cards, and providers such as hotels, trains, and cafes.
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Wireless (Wi-fi) hotspots in Japan
Wi-fi for tourists is also provided in many public places, such as at international airports and tourist information desks. The Japan Connected smartphone app will aid you in finding over 150,000 free tourist hotspots. You can also receive a “Wi-fi passport” by calling Softbank’s toll-free number. You will receive a password to access around 400,000 hotspots at cafes, restaurants, train stations, and hotels.
Don’t expect a very fast internet connection or Wi-Fi spots in all the places you visit, but it is free and sometimes it can be useful if you don’t have another way of accessing the internet.
Renting a Pocket Wi-fi
Pocket Wi-fi is a light and portable Wi-fi router device that you can carry with you. It is your personal high-speed Wi-fi hotspot. You can typically connect up to ten devices, including PC and Mac computers, iOS, and Android devices.
You can rent your pocket Wi-fi for a flexible rental period of between five and 30 days. Rental for five days costs $54.00 U.S., or $143.00 U.S. for 30 days. You can pick it up at the airport upon arrival or at your hotel.
Be sure to charge the device regularly. A full charge can be achieved in four hours using a wall socket, or nine hours via a PC USB port.
Returning your device is easy. Simply place the pocket Wi-fi, AC adapter, and USB cable in the provided envelope, and drop it in any mailbox in Japan.
Buying a Data SIM Card
Data SIM Cards allow you to access high-speed internet using your mobile phone. You cannot make or receive phone calls, but you can use video communication apps such as Skype or Whatsapp.
Before making your trip, you must make sure that your phone is unlocked and therefore able to use international carriers. Locked phones – those locked to a specific carrier – will not operate with international SIM cards. If you’re not sure about your phone or need to have a locked phone unlocked, visit a local cell phone retailer or repair shop.
Did you know? You can buy a SIM card directly from the Japan Rail Pass website. Our prepaid SIM cards provide unlimited high-speed internet – up to 225 Mbps – throughout Japan. You can use up to 500 Mb of data per day at high speed; after 500 Mb, you can continue to use the internet at 256 kps. Both Micro and Nano SIM cards are available.
Rental periods are flexible, depending on the length of your travels. For $44.00 U.S., you can rent a SIM card for 15 days. If you are staying for a longer period, you can save money by renting for 30 days at a cost of $51.00 U.S.
You’ll receive your SIM card after arriving in Japan. You can pick it up at the airport, or it can be delivered to your hotel. You will then need to manually configure the APN as per your card provider’s instructions.
You are not required to return your SIM card. You can place it in a trash receptacle or keep it for a future trip to Japan. The SIM card will not work outside of Japan.
Several companies offer the possibility of renting smartphones for limited periods of time, which includes internet access via SIM card. It is a good alternative if your phone is locked and you can’t use a Japanese SIM Card and travel alone or don’t need internet access in several devices, in which case it would not be profitable to rent a Pocket Wifi.
Wi-fi in Hotels and Ryokans
Many hotels offer free Wi-fi to guests. Some charge for Wi-fi per each 24-hour period of use. Internet access may be provided via wireless network or a LAN cable.
Wi-fi access is less common at traditional ryokans. Some provide wireless connectivity or an internet-enabled public computer in the lobby, but not in guest rooms.
Wi-fi in the Shinkansen
Wi-fi access is available in some train stations, including at coin-operated internet kiosks. Wi-fi access is also available on some trains. The system is being updated to include all 131 trains by the end of 2019.
Free Wi-fi Cafes
Internet cafes are called netto cafe or manga kissa in Japanese. You may rent internet-connected computers for an hourly rate.
Many coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants offer free Wi-fi to customers. Starbucks, for example, is an international chain where you can enjoy free internet.
What, though, if your cell phone or pocket Wi-fi is short on power? You can use the app Dengen Cafe to locate cafes that have power outlets. The app is in Japanese but still easy to use, as it is powered by Google Maps.