Japan mobile / Japanese cell phones

From Go! Go! Nihon Japan WIKI


Having a cell phone in Japan is crucial to keep in contact with friends and to sign up for services. You just won't get around very well without one. Depending on how long you're staying, you have a few options available to you.


Short term studies

Pre-paid cell phone

SoftBank is the only provider that offers pre-paid phones. To get a Softbank pre-paid phone, all you need to do is walk into an official SoftBank store (not the chain electronic stores that have phones from all providers) and bring your passport. The device usually costs somewhere between 5000 yen and 7000 yen but of course the price varies depending on models and can be more expensive for newer ones. Receiving calls are free, however making calls are not cheap; about 90yen/minute. Unlimited messaging can be added on for a small amount per month.

Here is a link to the pre-paid phone page on Softbanks homepage.

You can recharge your pre-paid phone through the online site, bank transfer, or by purchasing a prepaid card from a Softbank shop or a convenience store. More information here.

There is almost always English-speaking staff available at the Softbank stores in Harajuku/Omotesando, Akihabara/Yurakucho and Roppongi. Location Map

Pre-paid DATA ONLY SIM Cards

B-mobile offers pre-paid SIM cards for eligible unlocked phones. These SIM cards run on the Docomo network, so you need to make sure that your phone supports the appropriate GSM frequencies in order for the SIM card to work. Also, please be advised that these SIM cards are data only, which means, you won't be allowed to make phone calls. This is perfect for a short-term student with an unlocked Iphone or Android smartphone. You can order this online and have it delivered to your accommodation or buy it at the Akihabara Yodobashi Camera store on Friday - Sunday at the B-mobile kiosk located on the first floor. The B-mobile site has all the information and support you'll need to get this going! B-mobile site

Renting a phone

You can also choose to rent a Japanese handset. Usually the best place to do this is the airport just after you've arrived. You'll need your passport and a credit card to be able to rent a phone. Alternatively, you may find a better deal and save some money if you rent one before going to Japan.

Have a look at Fone Rent for rental SIM cards and phones.

However, in most cases renting a pocket wifi is better. You can pick it up when you land in Japan! Here's a list of providers available at Narita airport as an example.

International roaming

You can always bring your current phone and use a roaming plan from the provider in your country, but this is absolutely not recommended since call and data rates are ridiculously expensive.

Long term studies

For long term students, you have all the options of short term students above, but also perhaps the best option when you stay more than 6 months in Japan:

Subscribing for a plan

In Japan, you usually don't pay cash up front for a phone. Instead you subscribe for a 1 or 2-year plan where you get the device and choose a plan that suits your needs.

If the phone is a recent model, you will usually pay the cost of the phone each month (usually 1500~2500 yen per month, for a 2 year contract) and then the amount you are calling and using data for on top of that. If the phone isn't a recent model, you may receive it for free when you sign up for a contract. This isn't something we'd like to recommend to our students because cancelling the contract would mean you have to pay the remaining months fees, which can be quite expensive.

There are many different subscription plans available across all service providers offering a lot of choice depending on how much you're calling, texting, emailing, web surfing and so forth. To apply for a cell phone subscription, you need the following things:

  1. An Alien Registration Card (Or the receipt you get when you apply for one).
  2. An account at a Japanese bank.

Depending on the subscription type, you might need other things as well. In that case, the staff in the store will inform you of what else is required.

Almost all Japanese people and foreign residents sign up for a subscription because:

  1. Calling and data costs are way lower compared to renting a sim or phone with a pre-paid plan.
  2. Pre-paid handsets only have a limited set of features. Smartphones or feature phones are only available together with a subscription.

You should be able to get a handset together with a plan at any electronic store that sells phones. However, they might not have English-speaking staff at all places. For that, you should visit your provider of choice's flagship stores.

Non-contract Plans

If you have your own phone from your home country and it works on the same GSM frequencies as Japan, you might be able to purchase just the sim card from Docomo or Softbank. Another option would be B-mobile, which offers many different choices for long-term residents that want a cheap sim card for both data and voice. Here is a great site that explains the different B-mobile sim cards available Unfortunately the B-mobile site for long-term plans is only in Japanese. We highly recommend you visit their kiosk between Friday and Sunday in Yodobashi Camera Akihabara.

Cell phone service providers in Japan


NTT Docomo, the largest provider in Japan. Frequently regarded as the best provider, but with the most expensive rates.





BIC Sim Iijmio

BIC Sim Iijmio's homepage is all in Japanese but staff at big stores like for example the one in Yurakucho sometimes has english speaking staff.

External links

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