Japan is an awesome place to spend your vacation and I’m happy you have chosen to go there. With its rich culture, delicious cuisine, and beautiful sights, it’s no wonder you choose it. However, one thing that visitors often worry about is how they will stay connected to the internet while they are traveling, especially in a country where they don’t speak the language.
We were as worried as you were before we left. We were very aware of how different it would be from anything else we have ever seen before, and I can safely tell you it didn’t disappoint. Back then, there weren’t that many options to get internet in Japan for tourists: you could either rent a pocket WiFi or get a SIM card. Fortunately, nowadays Japan has a wide range of internet options available for travelers.
We choose the SIM card, after careful consideration, but you’ll have to analyze your situation as well. In the meantime, we have also used an eSIM for other trips we went on and used our roaming for some trips as well. Having tried so many options is very helpful now when trying to compare them and see what would work best for your upcoming Japan trip.
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Table of Contents
Internet in Japan – Options Overview
For people traveling around Japan, there are several options available for internet access. I’ll describe all of them in short below, and you can find a more detailed description for each of them as well.
Rent a Pocket WiFi
Renting a pocket WiFi device is one of the most popular options for tourists in Japan. It provides fast and unlimited internet access for up to 5 devices at one time. Rental kiosks are located at all major airports and hotels, and the process is quick and easy. The device is battery-powered and can be used on the go, making it convenient for travelers who need to stay connected while exploring the country.
Get an International Pocket Wi-Fi
If you travel often and you always wonder how are you going to manage without internet abroad, then an international pocket Wi-Fi is probably the solution for you. Solis Wi-Fi offers you an internet connection in many areas of the world, and you don’t have to think about this every time you have to go to a new place.
Buy a SIM Card
Another option for travelers is to purchase a SIM card for their mobile device. This is a good option for those who prefer to use their own device and do not need internet access for multiple devices. SIM cards can be purchased at major airports, train stations, convenience stores, vending machines, and online. Some popular providers include Mobal, IIJmio Japan Travel SIM, Bic SIM, and Docomo.
Use an eSIM
The spread of eSIMs is becoming more and more useful lately, as people are starting to realize we can use our phones for way more than WhatsApp and the likes. Hell, I even have a (mostly) online bank account! eSIMs are basically a simpler way to get internet where you need it when you need it. If this option would have been available when we were visiting Japan, it would have been our winner option for sure.
Use Free WiFi Hotspots
Free WiFi hotspots are available in many places in Japan, including airports, train stations, cafes, restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores. Some major providers of free WiFi hotspots include Japan Wi-Fi Autoconnect, Travel Japan Wi-Fi, and Free Wi-Fi Passport. You can connect to these hotspots by registering online or installing a mobile app.
Rent a Phone
For tourists who need a phone in addition to internet access, renting a smartphone is a good option. Rental phones can be found at major airports and hotels, and they typically come with a data plan and a local phone number. Prices vary depending on the provider and the phone model, but they typically start at around ¥1,000 per day. One company that does this is SoftBank, and they provide a wide array of services.
Use your own device and internet
Depending on where you’re coming from, you might have decent connectivity and acceptable prices. As an example, if you’re living within Europe and traveling in the European Union, you sometimes have better options if you just use your national SIM and add a roaming offer on top of it. This applies in Asian countries as well, so check out this option before you decide.
Japanese Pocket WiFi Devices
✅ Supports multiple devices
✅ Unlimited options available
✅ Great speed
Check prices and availability
One of the most popular ways to stay connected in Japan is through Pocket WiFi devices. These devices are portable WiFi routers that allow users to connect to the internet from anywhere in Japan, as long as there is a cellular signal. While the options you can choose from are quite a few, you will probably end up choosing based on price, delivery options, and customer reviews.
How to Rent a Pocket WiFi Device in Japan
There are several companies that offer pocket WiFi rentals in Japan. Some of the most popular ones include Ninja Wi-Fi (I know, this name…), SoftBank, and JR Pass. These companies offer different plans with varying data allowances, rental periods, and prices. Most of them offer unlimited data plans, which are ideal for heavy internet users.
While you can rent a pocket WiFi device from rental kiosks located at major airports in Japan, my advice is to make a reservation online and have the device delivered straight to your hotel or collect it upon arrival. While some of them do offer the option to be delivered to your home, you might have a hard time finding one that does, so be aware that you’ll need to find a way without an internet connection upon landing.
Benefits of Using Pocket WiFi Devices in Japan
Pocket WiFi devices offer several benefits to tourists traveling to Japan. Some of these benefits include:
- Pocket WiFi devices are small and lightweight, making them easy to carry around while traveling.
- Most pocket WiFi devices offer high-speed internet connectivity, allowing users to stream videos, make video calls, and browse the web without any lag.
- Most pocket WiFi devices allow multiple devices to connect to the internet simultaneously, making it ideal for families or groups of friends traveling together.
- Pocket WiFi devices are cost-effective compared to other options like roaming or buying a local SIM card, especially if traveling in a group.
Disadvantages when using a pocket Wi-Fi
- If in a group, you’ll have to stay together all the time, as the device is proximity based.
- You need to be aware of one more device to keep charged and safe.
- You have to collect and return it right upon arrival and right before leaving. This might make planning a bit challenging, depending on your arrival and departure times.
- If you don’t usually use a lot of data, you might pay more than you need.
Tips for Using Pocket WiFi Devices in Japan
Here are some tips for you when using your pocket WiFi devices in Japan:
- Charge the device regularly: Make sure to charge the device regularly to avoid any interruptions in internet connectivity.
- Carry a power bank: Carry a power bank to charge the device on the go, especially if you plan to use it for extended periods.
- Check the coverage: Check the coverage of the device before renting it to ensure that it covers the areas you plan to visit.
- Return the device on time: Make sure to return the device on time to avoid any additional charges.
Overall, pocket WiFi devices are an excellent option to get internet in Japan for travelers who want to stay connected to the internet. They offer high-speed internet connectivity, portability, and cost-effectiveness. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can easily rent and use pocket WiFi devices in Japan.
One of the most used companies for this is Ninja Wi-Fi, and another one would be JR Pass Wi-Fi. The latter can be booked together with your JR Pass (check out my detailed post about using the train in Japan for more information), and it’s a convenient way to combine two needs in one go. Also, if you book this pocket Wi-Fi or the JR Pass with my link, I’ll send you my Japan Map Collection for free!
International Pocket WiFi Devices
✅ Pay as you go
✅ No pick-up needed
✅ Supports multiple devices
Check prices and availability
For people who prefer to have access to the internet at all times, international pocket WiFi devices are a great option. These devices allow travelers to have their own WiFi hotspot that can be used anywhere in the world, not only in Japan, without having to rely on public WiFi or purchasing a local SIM card.
International pocket WiFi devices can be bought online before arriving in Japan. The most popular provider is Solis Wi-Fi, as it has been on the market for a very long time already. I have a coupon code you can use for a 15% discount, check it out below!
One advantage of using an international pocket Wi-Fi device is that you can pay as you go, so there’s no left-over data at the end of your trip, or you don’t have to estimate before you leave how much data you’re going to need.
Another advantage is that you will have coverage from the moment you leave the aircraft until you go back home. You don’t have to worry about pickup times, finding your way through a crowded airport, or going early enough to return it.
However, it’s important to note that international pocket WiFi devices can be more expensive than other options, such as purchasing a local SIM card. Additionally, the speed and reliability of the internet connection can vary depending on the provider and location. In the end, they’re using the connections available in the cellular network, so they cannot guarantee the best coverage for the whole world really.
In short, international pocket WiFi devices can be a convenient and reliable alternative to Japanese pocket Wi-Fi devices for people who need constant access to the internet during their travels in Japan. It offers a wide range of advantages so you might want to look into it as well.
✅ Calls and text available
✅ Great in case of emergency
✅ Can be used as hotspot
For tourists who need to stay connected via data and voice during their stay in Japan, renting a smartphone is a convenient option. SoftBank Global Rental offers rental smartphones with voice and text capabilities, as well as data plans for internet access. If you’re the kind of person that actually calls instead of texting, this solution might be for you.
The rental fee for a smartphone is ¥550 per day, with an additional fee for data telecommunication that ranges from ¥0 to ¥990 per day, depending on the plan (at the moment of writing this blog post, of course). SoftBank Global Rental’s website offers a variety of smartphone models to choose from, including the latest models from Apple and Samsung, and a detailed overview of their voice and data plans.
I even heard of hotels that offer you this option as part of their services. This is a really cool option, as you won’t have to stress over the pickup and return dates and places, and you can ask the personnel about anything that might be unclear to you. The challenge here is to find these hotels, as there’s really no filter for “offers rental smartphones” on Booking or Agoda. Believe me, I checked.
One advantage of renting a smartphone is that it allows you to stay connected with a real phone number, thus allowing for voice calls as well. This means that you don’t have to change any settings on your phone to use the rental phone.
Another advantage of renting a smartphone is that it provides access to voice and text capabilities, which may be useful in emergency situations or for making reservations at restaurants or hotels that do not accept online bookings.
In summary, renting a smartphone can be a convenient option for people who need to stay connected during their stay in Japan. With a variety of smartphone models and data plans to choose from, renting a smartphone can eliminate the need to purchase a SIM card or rent a pocket WiFi device. It also provides voice and text capabilities for emergency situations or making reservations.
✅ Probably the cheapest option
✅ Various options available
✅ Can be used by 2 people
Check prices and availability
Purchasing a SIM card is one of the best options for staying connected to the internet when heading to Japan. SIM cards offer a reliable and fast internet connection without the hassle of finding Wi-Fi hotspots or renting pocket Wi-Fi devices. They usually offer a cheaper alternative too, as they’re designed to be used by one person only (read more to find out how you can share it).
There are several providers of SIM cards in Japan, including Mobal, IIJmio Japan Travel SIM, Bic SIM, and Docomo. Mobal offers SIM cards for short stays of 8, 16, or 31 days with an unlimited data plan. They also offer voice and data plans, and you can even have the SIM delivered to you before leaving. They deliver in quite a lot of countries, a really cool feature to rely on if you’re worried about arriving at the destination and feeling lost without internet availability.
It is important to note that not all smartphones are compatible with Japanese SIM cards, so you should check with your phone provider or manufacturer to ensure the device is compatible before purchasing a SIM card. If buying online, you can of course ask the provider before you make a decision.
One advantage of using Japanese SIM cards, apart from the price, is that you don’t have to carry a separate device with you, and you don’t have to worry about returning it. Once you buy it, from either a store or a vending machine, you have it set up for the rest of your trip.
On the other side, you won’t be able to use your phone for WhatsApp or calls if you use it for this SIM. What we did was to use an older phone of ours to make a hotspot with this SIM, but this way we had to keep one more device with us anyway. The device used as a hotspot will need recharging often, so have a power bank with you at all times.
One more disadvantage is that usually SIM cards have limited data of about 2-4 Gb, which might not be enough for some people. For us, it was OK, as we mostly used it for navigation, translating texts here and there, and limited usage for messages and similar communication. We didn’t use it to scroll on Instagram or watch Youtube videos, but only for necessities.
Another reason why this might not be a good fit for you is if you’re traveling in a bigger group. In this case, your speed will be really diminished, as a mobile device transformed into a hotspot cannot really hold too many connections. You’ll also have to stay together at all times, as you’ll depend on this single point of contact.
Overall, purchasing a SIM card in Japan is a great option for people who need a reliable and fast internet connection, travel in a small group or alone, and are a bit on a budget. It is important to research providers and pricing options prior to purchasing a SIM card, but you will probably get a better deal than other options in any case.
✅ Very good pricing
✅ Various options available
✅ Easy setup before you leave
Check prices and availability
As I said, this was not really an option when we went there, as we would have chosen it for sure otherwise. We did use this option on our last trip to Dubai though, so I can speak from experience that it was extremely easy and convenient to use, and we’ll probably use this option more often in the future.
eSIMs are a newer technology that allows you to download a virtual SIM card onto your phone, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card. So without having to find a store, open your phone, and tinker with the settings (OK, there’s some tinkering involved, but not a lot really), you’ll have an internet connection on your phone right upon landing.
There are several eSIM providers on the market right now, AirAlo and DrimSIM being two of them. We used AirAlo in the Emirates and it was extremely easy to use and affordable. Plus, by the time we reached the immigration offices, we had already managed to have it running. This was extremely helpful as we landed at 10 PM, and we didn’t have to spend hours researching for the best SIM card from all the options available on the market.
It’s important to note that not all phones are compatible with eSIM technology. Before purchasing an eSIM plan, make sure that your phone is eSIM compatible. Both sites offer a list of devices that are compatible, and you can find their detailed coverage as well. Both cover Japan and many other options, so check them out and decide what’s best for you.
When comparing SIMs and eSIMs, I would say that SIMs are probably cheaper, but this depends greatly on the plans you manage to find for the destination. Otherwise, having the eSIM already set up before you leave will give you peace of mind, as you’ll know you’ll be ready to enjoy your vacation right upon landing.
One other thing to keep in mind: if you’re traveling in a group and you might want to split from time to time, both SIMs and eSIMs are the best solutions you have. In very rare cases 2 SIMs or eSIMs will cost more than a pocket Wi-Fi, and buying 2 pocket Wi-Fi routers for these cases is not cost-effective at all.
Overall, eSIMs are a convenient and cost-effective option for tourists visiting Japan. With several providers to choose from (and probably many more to come) and a range of pricing options, it’s easy to find a plan that suits your needs.
Roaming from Your Home Country
✅ You keep your phone number
✅ Various options available
✅ Easy setup before you leave
I know, this is rarely a good option, but I had to mention it. Especially if you’re coming from other Asian countries, talk to your provider about the roaming offers they can make. You might be surprised by what they can manage to offer you. And in the end, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to take it. You can always choose one of the other options listed here.
If you manage to pull this off, it’s easy to see that you’ll have an easy life. You’ll just use your phone as you would at home, making your trip quite relaxing really. In addition, you can try a few of the tips I’ll mention below to reduce the data consumption, so you don’t end up being overcharged by your provider either.
Free WiFi Hotspots
Free WiFi Hotspots
✅ Decent coverage in tourist areas
✅ Easy to use
Yes, there’s also a free option. Fortunately, Japan offers many free WiFi hotspots across the country, and if you’re really on a shoestring budget, this can be a realistic option for you as well. In addition to the obviously free options you have at your hotel, at Starbucks, or in train stations and malls, you also have some hotspots available only in Japan.
One of the most popular options is the Free WiFi Passport offered by SoftBank. The other 2 most commonly used are Japan Wi-Fi Autoconnect and Travel Japan Wi-Fi. Between all of these options, you might even have better coverage than you might expect.
It’s important to note that some free WiFi hotspots may require registration or have time limits. Additionally, you should be aware of the security risks involved in using free Wi-Fi, so keep this in mind if this is the route you want to take. Check out my post about keeping your valuables safe while traveling, and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
If you’re worried that this might not be enough for you, check out the tips below on how to limit the data you NEED while in Japan. Notice I said NEED, and not WANT. If you want to post on Instagram every few hours or need access to your email, check out other solutions for your needs.
This option though is not for the faint of heart. If you’re that person that googles everything or panics when they get lost (it will happen while in Japan, I can guarantee you), then use one of the other ways to have internet. You won’t feel comfortable not having access to it, and being stressed while visiting Japan is not a good way to enjoy it.
Also, you need to stay on the usual, touristy path. You won’t be able to use this method if you plan to go somewhere more remote, as you might not have these internet “bubbles” in the wild. Still, have a way to contact other people, in case of an emergency. Even if you have the cheapest voice plan or a pay-as-you-go option that you won’t pay for if you don’t use it, it’s better to be able to contact people and not need to than the other way around.
All of the above
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. But in life, it’s great to find shades of grey, as nothing is really white or black. Especially if traveling with children, you might want to get both a pocket Wi-Fi and a SIM or eSIM. As a family, you can all use a pocket Wi-Fi, but your children might use a SIM or eSIM in case they get lost. The same applies if they’re big enough to also wander on their own.
Instead of buying 2 pocket Wi-Fi devices, combining the options above is a great way to limit costs while offering maximum flexibility for your needs. Especially when it comes to eSIMs, you can really buy it on the spot, when you see the need for it. Keep this idea in mind if traveling to Japan in a group or if you need more flexibility in general.
How to use less data while in Japan?
If you choose the free Wi-Fi option or any of the low-cost ones, you’ll probably be limited in the amount of data you can use. Over the course of 2 weeks, we used the 3.5 Gb together, and it was enough for our needs. But I can tell you that without these little tricks, we wouldn’t have been able to.
First, use offline maps, this awesome feature of Google Maps. I cannot even start to explain to you how helpful this will be. On your mobile device, open the GoogleMaps app, tap on your name in the upper-right corner, and go to Offline Maps. Then, Select your own map, and voila, you have them offline. Do this for all the cities you are going to visit. Spare your memory by not getting the whole country though, as it’s really not needed.
If you want to have even better maps, check out my Japan map collection containing all the maps you might need while there, full of things to do and grouped by days, so you spend less time on trains and busses and more time enjoying the place. Or, better yet, get my Japan Travel Guide altogether, and plan your trip as easy as saying “Konnichiwa!”
Want to have a helpful resource to make your planning efforts not only easier but also more enjoyable? Check out my Japan Travel Guide from the shop!
OK, the ad break is over. The next way to use less data while traveling in Japan is to download the Japanese language offline in Google Translate. Open your Google Translate app, go to Settings in the lower-right corner, and select Offline Translation. Add the Japanese language and voila, now you have languages as well. You can tell I live close to France, can’t you?
Unfortunately, this option is not available in DeepL, my favorite tool for translations. It absolutely does a better job than Google Translate for the languages I care about, but it doesn’t have ALL the languages in the world like Google does, and it doesn’t have this offline download feature. Keep it in mind though, for your future needs, it’s extremely accurate and is evolving quite a lot. I have checked with German, French, Romanian, and English and the results are amazing!
And the last tip to limit internet expenses while in Japan is to use the internet you pay for only to do important things like navigation and translation, not for social media and video watching. Between all the free Wi-Fi options and the things you went to Japan to see, you should really spend your time enjoying the place and not posting about it online.
You will have internet available at the hotel and on public transportation anyway, so use these places for the heavier tasks you need to do online. While you’re paying for the internet, when using limited data, focus on things you need it for. You’ll see that you can survive with 2 Gb of data for a long time if you’re aware of these tips.
How can tourists get internet in Japan?
Tourists usually get internet in Japan by getting a SIM card or renting a pocket WiFi, but there are other options available as well. It is recommended to get these before arriving in Japan to avoid any inconvenience.
What are the options for internet access in Japan?
The options for internet access in Japan are SIM cards, eSIMs, pocket WiFi, and free Wi-Fi hotspots. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, so check each of them to see what fits best for you.
Can foreign phones use Japanese WiFi?
Yes, foreign phones can use Japanese WiFi. In most cases, you won’t have to do anything else than what you do at home to connect to a network.
Is it necessary to get a pocket WiFi in Japan?
It is not necessary to get pocket WiFi in Japan as there are plenty of ways to get internet in Japan for tourists. While free WiFi hotspots are available in many public places, they may not always be reliable or fast, so other paid options can be helpful as well.
Are there free WiFi options for tourists in Japan?
Yes, there are free WiFi options for tourists in Japan. Many hotels, cafes, trains, and malls offer free WiFi. Softbank also offers two weeks of free WiFi from 400,000 hotspots nationwide through their Free Wi-Fi Passport program.
What are the best pocket WiFi providers in Japan?
There are several pocket WiFi providers in Japan, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most popular providers include Japan Ninja Wi-Fi and JR Pass pocket Wi-Fi. It is recommended to compare prices and features before choosing a provider.
Internet in Japan for tourists – The takeaway
Staying connected to the internet while traveling in Japan is essential for anyone, I can say that for sure. Luckily, Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to technology, so this won’t be an issue. There are several options available, including SIM cards, pocket Wi-Fi devices, and free Wi-Fi hotspots. Between all of these options mentioned in the post, you’ll just have to decide what’s best for you.