Staying Connected When Visiting Japan: Wi-Fi Access, Prepaid SIM Cards, and Rental DevicesSociety
Wi-Fi (Free and Paid Services)
Whether planning an outing or just relaxing and surfing the net, there are several ways travelers can easily connect to a variety of free and paid wi-fi networks.
Free Wi-Fi Mark and Website
The Japan Tourism Agency in cooperation with other organizations has introduced a universal free wi-fi mark targeted at foreign visitors. The mark, which makes it easier for tourists to identify wireless hotspots, is gradually being introduced around the country at locations providing free wi-fi service.
Along with the wi-fi mark, the agency has set up a new website allowing travelers to view maps showing free hotspots and search for close wireless locations.
Link: Japan. Free Wi-Fi
Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi
Download this free application to connect quickly and easily to wi-fi networks with roughly 130,000 access points at international airports, major shinkansen and JR East train stations, including Tokyo Station, along with all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway stations, major sightseeing spots, and certain convenience stores around the country. The application is downloadable from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Tabimori Smartphone App
Tabimori is a smartphone application provided by Narita International Airport that can be used in conjunction with the Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi app. It presents information about transport (including trains and transfers), money (including details on cash machines and the latest exchange rates), shopping, and dining, and stores some searched information so it can be accessed again later, even when your device is not connected to the Internet. Tabimori can be installed from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Link: Tabimori app
Travel Japan Wi-Fi App
This smartphone app aimed at visitors to Japan comes courtesy of wi-fi provider Wire and Wireless, and offers users free web access at the company’s 60,000 Wi2 300 “basic area” access points nationwide. In addition, by entering a Premium Code—available from partner municipalities and companies across Japan, including Japan Airlines, Odakyū Group, and Bic Camera—the application can also be used to connect for free to over 200,000 Wi2 300 “premium area” access points, which usually require a fee. Users will also be able to access sightseeing recommendations from these partner bodies. Travel Japan Wi-Fi is available from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Link: Travel Japan Wi-Fi
One of Japan’s largest wireless Internet service, with over 200 thousand access points nationwide. As well as at major airports and stations, this service is available at various stores and restaurants nationwide, on the Limousine Bus services to and from Narita and Haneda Airports, at the summit of Mount Fuji, and at many other locations across Japan.
There are two types of access point: “basic area” and “premium area.” Mobile devices equipped with the application Travel Japan Wi-Fi (see above) can be used to access the Internet for free at basic area action points nationwide, excluding McDonald’s restaurants.
McDonald’s and premium area access points can be used by registering with the Wi2 300 prepaid service, priced at ¥350 for 6 hours’ access, ¥800 for 24 hours, ¥1,500 for 3 days and ¥2,000 for 1 week (all prices include tax and are payable by credit card upon registration). This prepaid service can be used with computers as well as mobile devices.
Passengers boarding Japan Airlines flights to Japan are eligible to receive an ID and password enabling usage of Wi2 300 for one week, obtainable via the JAL website.
Overseas tourists using the Keikyū line, which connects Haneda Airport to central Tokyo, can receive a premium code at Haneda Airport International Terminal Station allowing two weeks free access via the Travel Japan Wi-Fi app at over 200,000 premium area points.
Foreign tourists using the Keisei Skyliner between Narita Airport and Ueno Station can receive an ID and password for a free six-hour plan from both Keisei stations at Narita Airport.
Visitors to Kobe can receive the necessary ID and password for a free one-week plan at selected tourist information centers across the city. For more information on these schemes, check the relevant sections further along in this article.
Link: Wi2 300 information
SoftBank Free Wi-Fi Passport
Running through March 2016, SoftBank is providing foreign visitors access to 400,000 of its wi-fi access points nationwide, including major airports, train stations, fast food and other restaurants, and cafes.
To receive two weeks of free access to the service select “SoftBank” from the network menu on a handset which supports W-CDMA and then call a dedicated toll-free number to register and receive a password. There is no need to download an application to register and the same password can be used on up to five different devices simultaneously.
Users can access the service by selecting “.FREE_Wi-Fi_PASSPORT” from the wi-fi menu on their device and then input the password.
NTT East Free Wi-Fi Japan
(1) Before arriving in Japan
Download the Navitime for Japan Travel application from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Passengers on Japan Airlines flights to Japan are eligible to receive a free ID and password for NTT East’s Free Wi-Fi service, obtainable via the JAL website.
(2) After arriving in Japan
Free wi-fi cards containing a service ID and password can be obtained at the following locations:
- Select Travelex foreign exchange shops.
- Select Isetan, Mitsukoshi, Keiō, and other department stores.
- The duty-free section of Bic Camera and Sofmap stores in central Tokyo and Sapporō.
- Many major tourist spots such as Mount Fuji, Akihabara, Ginza, Harajuku, and the Tokyo Skytree.
Keikyū Free Wi-Fi
Foreign tourists using the Keikyū line from Haneda Airport can use a premium code to gain two weeks free access via the Travel Japan Wi-Fi App to over 200,000 premium area access points on the Wire and Wireless Wi2 300 network, including Keikyū stations at Haneda’s international and domestic terminals, Shinagawa station, and select trains on the Keikyū line. Tourists can receive a premium code for the service from an automated dispenser at the Keikyū Tourist Information Center at Haneda Airport International Terminal Station. A valid passport is required.
Link: Keikyū Free Wi-Fi
Link: Wi2 300 information
Free Wi-Fi in Keisei Skyliner and Keisei Free Wi-Fi
Keisei Railway is offering foreign visitors using its high speed Skyliner between Narita Airport and Ueno Station six hours of free wi-fi on the Wi2 300 network. The service can be used on the Skyliner and at over 200,000 access points around the country. Passengers can receive a booklet containing a user ID and password at Keisei ticket counters inside Narita Airport and at Narita Airport and Airport Terminal 2 Stations.
Along with this service, travelers can access the Internet at major Keisei stations using the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi app.
Link: Keisei Railway
Link: Wi2 300 information
JR West Free Wi-Fi
This service is available at Kyoto, Osaka, Kansai International Airport, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, and other major JR West stations, as well as on selected cars of the Haruka limited express train service to and from Kansai International Airport. A user ID and password can be obtained either by registering online or by visiting the locations listed below. Ticket counters inside the Kansai International Airport Station provide 15 minutes of free wi-fi that can be used by travelers to acquire an ID and password.
- Information centers at Kyoto Station Building, Osaka Station City, and Tennōji Mio
- The north and south Information Counters on the first floor of Kansai International Airport, Terminal 1
Link: JR West Free Wi-Fi
Hankyū Hanshin Welcome Wi-Fi
This service is available at all stations on the Hankyū and Hanshin lines connecting Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, and in selected Hankyū and Hanshin station-area shopping facilities, including Grand Front Osaka. The standard service entitles users to up to three 15-minute free wi-fi sessions per day, but recipients of a special Hankyū or Hanshin Tourist Pass can enjoy an unlimited number of free sessions over a fixed, three-day period.
Kyoto city authorities provide a free wi-fi service that is available at around 1,400 locations within the city, including subway stations, city bus stops, Seven Eleven convenience stores, McDonald’s restaurants, and other facilities such as the Kyoto International Manga Museum.
To receive up to 24 hours of access to the service select "Kyoto Wi-Fi" in the w-fi menu on your smartphone or other device and then click to accept the terms and conditions in the dedicated browser window that automatically opens when connecting to one of the access points. During the activation period, your mobile device will also have automatic access to other Kyoto Wi-Fi hotspots around the city.
There is also currently a second system in action, Kyoto Wi-Fi 02. This system requires advance registration, and, by sending your email address to the address specified at the link below, you will receive a password that will grant you up to 24 hours’ unlimited Internet access at participating locations, starting at the time of registration.
Access at municipal subway stations and bus stops as well as public facilities requires reconfirmation every 30 minutes. Access is not available at municipal bus stops from 1–5 AM.
Link: Kyoto Wi-Fi information
Osaka Free Wi-Fi and Osaka Free Wi-Fi Lite
Osaka Free Wi-Fi provides 30 minutes of access per session with unlimited resets, while Osaka Free Wi-Fi Lite provides a total of four 15-minute access periods a day. Users can connect to the service via the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi application.
Link: Osaka Free Wi-Fi
Kobe Free Wi-Fi
To sign up for free wi-fi service provided by Kobe City, go to one of the distribution areas listed below to receive a Kobe Free Wi-Fi card containing a free ID and password. The card is valid for one week and provides wi-fi access at over 3,000 Wire and Wireless Wi2 300 access points in Kobe as well as over 200,000 nationally.
- Kobe Information Center, located in the Port Liner Sannomiya Station Building, at the east exit of JR Sannomiya station
- Shin-Kobe Tourist Information Center, inside JR Shin-Kobe Station
- Kitano Tourist Information Center
Link: Kobe Free Wi-Fi
Link: Kobe Information Centers
Link: Wi2 300 information
Kobe has also launched the multilanguage travel app Kobe Official Travel Guide by Navitime. User can browse online maps on their smartphones showing Kobe Free Wi-Fi access points, stations, tourist facilities, and other information. Certain features are also available to use offline. The app can be downloaded via Google Play and the App Store.
Nara Free Wi-Fi
This service allows users to access free wi-fi at JR Nara and Kintetsu Nara Stations as well as Kōfukuji, Tōdaiji, Kasugataisha, and around Nara Park. To access the service, select “Nara_Free_Wi-Fi” in the wi-fi menu on your smartphone or other device and then click to accept the terms and conditions.
Kyūshū Free Wi-Fi
This service provides free wireless access in all seven Kyūshū prefectures. Access is available at locations registered with the Kyūshū Free Wi-Fi Project via the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi application. Kyūshū tourist information and discount coupons are available by downloading the Japan Travel Guide application.
Link: Kyūshū Free Wi-Fi
A free wi-fi service is provided at Starbucks coffee shops around the country. You can log into the service via your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Yahoo! Japan account for up to one hour of free Internet use. To get an account ID usable for up to 30 days, provide an email address and password, then follow the instructions contained in the subsequent confirmation email.
Tully’s Coffee provides free Internet at around 100 outlets nationwide. Previous registration is not necessary. To access the service, select "tullys_Wi-Fi" in the wi-fi menu on your smartphone or other device and then click to accept the terms and conditions.
The fast food chain Freshness Burger is gradually expanding wi-fi access to include all of its shops nationwide. To access, select “FRESHNESS_Wi-Fi” in the wi-fi menu on your smartphone or other device and then provide an email address along with other information. There is no limitation on the number of times or length the service can be accessed.
Major consumer electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera has also made the Wirelessgate wi-fi service available free to visitors to Japan from overseas. You can receive up to two weeks' usage, available at around 40 thousand hotspots nationwide, including Narita, Haneda, and Chūbu Centrair airports, major JR stations across the country, aboard the N700 Shinkansen, McDonald’s restaurants, and Starbucks outlets. Collect a pamphlet bearing a user ID, password, and an explanation of the login procedure by presenting your passport at any Yodobashi Camera store. The layout of individual outlets may vary, so please ask at the in-store information desk for more details.
Link: Lawson Free Wi-Fi
This prominent chain of drugstores provides a free wi-fi service to customers visiting selected branches in Tokyo, Narita, Osaka, and Kyoto. Get connected by selecting the network “Matsukiyo_Free_WiFi,” and agreeing to the terms and conditions in the pop-up browser.
Ginza Free Wi-Fi
In Tokyo’s exclusive Ginza district, a free wifi service is available to all along area’s two main streets: Chūō-dōri (Ginza-dōri) and Harumi-dōri. Get connected by selecting the network “@GinzaFree,” and agreeing to the terms and conditions in the pop-up browser.
Link: Ginza Free Wi-Fi
Visit Shibuya Wi-Fi
Tōkyū Corporation provides a free wi-fi service aimed at foreign tourists visiting Tokyo’s Shibuya district. The service can be used in Shibuya Tōkyū and Tokyo Metro stations, along with Hikarie, the Tōkyū Department store Flagship and Tōyoko buildings, Shibuya Mark City, and Shibuya 109. Access to the service can be gained by presenting your passport and ID at the locations below:
- Shibuya Tōkyū and Tokyo Metro Stations:
Tourist Information Desk (B2F) and Main Service Counter (B1F)
- Shibuya Hikarie:
Information Desk (2F, B3F)
- Tōkyū Department Store Flagship Building:
Information Desk (1F)
- Tōkyū Department Store Tōyoko Building:
Information Desk (1F, 5F)
- Shibuya 109:
Information Desk (1F)
- Shibuya Mark City:
Information Desk (4F)
Link: Visit Shibuya Wi-Fi
Omotesandō Free Wi-Fi
A free wi-fi service is available to all in Tokyo’s Harajuku and Omotesandō areas. Get connected by selecting the network “Omotesando_Free_Wi-Fi,” and completing the simple login procedure.
Tokyo Odaiba Free Wi-Fi
A free wi-fi service is available in Odaiba and the Tokyo Waterfront area. Register your email address at Tokyo-Odaiba.net before using to get up to three daily two-hour sessions. The service can be accessed from locations including Aqua City, Palette Town, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (the Miraikan), Tokyo Big Sight, and major stations on the Yurikamome line linking Shinbashi to the Tokyo Waterfront.
Link: Tokyo Odaiba Free Wi-Fi
Odakyū Free Wi-Fi
Odakyū Electric Railway is offering a free wi-fi service aimed at tourists from overseas at stations including Shinjuku and Hakone. The service can be used at Shinjuku and Odawara stations, principal stations in the Hakone area, principle ports around Lake Ashino, on selected carriages of Odakyū Romance Car limited express trains, and aboard the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise (pirate ship). This service can be used for a period of up to 30 days by downloading the dedicated application, and confirming your identity via your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Yahoo! JAPAN account, or by SMS text message. The app can also be used to access tourist and transport information about the Hakone area.
Link: Odakyū Free Wi-Fi app
Link: Odakyū Electric Railway
NTT Docomo Free Wi-Fi for Foreigners Climbing Mount Fuji
From July 10 to mid-September mobile company NTT Docomo will offer free wi-fi to foreigners climbing Mount Fuji. Cards printed with a user ID and password will be available at five trailhead locations. Starting from the initial login, climbers will have access to 72 hours of free wi-fi at eight hotspots on the mountain, including the fifth station and the summit. 20,000 cards will be distributed at the trailheads on the Shizuoka Prefecture side and 50,000 at the trailheads on the Yamanashi Prefecture side.
Link: NTT Docomo Press Release
Docomo Wi-Fi for Visitor
Until September 30, 2015, NTT Docomo is offering “Docomo Wi-Fi for Visitor,” a prepaid, trial service aimed at visitors to Japan from overseas. After registering via the official website, users will be able to use any of over 150,000 convenient, high-speed (up to 72 Mbps) Docomo wi-fi hotspots in a wide variety of locations across the country, from stations and airports, to cafes and even at the summit of Mount Fuji. The one-week plan costs ¥972, while the three week plan is ¥1,404 (both including tax), payable by credit card upon registration.
Link: Docomo Wi-Fi for Visitor
Prepaid and Rental SIM Cards and Cellular Phones for Foreign Tourists
Within the last few years, several carriers have started to offer prepaid and rental data SIM cards, mobile phones, and mobile routers for foreign tourists and those staying short-term in Japan.
B-mobile Visitor SIM and PAYG SIM
The prepaid smartphone data SIM cards offered by B-mobile provide Internet access over mobile carrier NTT Docomo’s network. Two types of cards are available: a 1 GB type, providing 14 days of access or a total of 1 GB of data on the high-speed LTE and 3G networks, and a 14-Day type providing unlimited access of up to 300kbps for 14 days. The charge for both card types is ¥3,980 tax included, and users can choose standard, micro, or nano varieties.
Cards must be purchased either at a branch of Yodobashi Camera or online at the B-mobile site or through Amazon. Cards bought at the B-mobile site can be delivered to hotels, post offices at major airports, or any fixed Japanese address in 2–4 days.
Link: B-mobile Visitor SIM
B-mobile also offers PAYG SIM, a card that can be used for both voice calls and data transmission. The cards are available in the same three sizes as Visitor SIM, and can be used for up to 60 minutes of domestic and international calls and 3 GB of data transmission over a 7-day period. PAYG SIM cards are priced at ¥9,980, and are available from stores including Yodobashi Camera, select Aeon stores, or via the B-mobile website and elsewhere online.
Link: B-mobile PAYG SIM
For those who don’t need the option to make calls, PAYG SIM also offers the PAYG Data SIM, currently on sale at the Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa. Priced at ¥4,990 (including tax), the card enables 3 GB data transmission for a period of 14 days.
Link: B-mobile PAYG Data SIM
Elecom Prepaid SIM Card
Cards can be purchased at Elecom shops in China and Hong Kong.
Link: Elecom Prepaid SIM Card
So-net Prepaid LTE SIM
So-net prepaid SIM cards provide visitors to Japan with 1 GB and 2.2 GB 30-day and 3 GB 60-day high-speed data packages for smartphones over the NTT Docomo LTE and 3G networks. Cards cost ¥3,000 for 1GB, ¥4,000 for 2.2 GB, and ¥5,000 for 3 GB. Extra data can be purchased for ¥1,620 for 200 MB, ¥2,160 for 500 MB (both have 30-day limits), and ¥3,065 for 1 GB, which has a 60-day limit. All prices include tax. Cards are available in standard, micro, and nano sizes.
Cards can be purchased from machines at Kansai International, Naha, and Sendai airports, Mobile Center outlets at Narita International Airport, Haneda Airport International Terminal, and New Chitose Airport International Terminal, Kyoto City Bus and Subway Information Center, Akibaoo shops in Akihabara, Laox outlets in Akihabara and Ginza, and Dospara shops throughout Japan. A complete list of locations is available on the So-net LTE SIM website.
Link: So-net Prepaid LTE SIM
NTT Communications Prepaid SIM for Japan
The NTT Communications prepaid SIM for smartphones uses NTT Docomo’s LTE and 3G networks and gives users up to 100 MB of high-speed data per day for either 7 or 14 days. SIM cards come in standard, micro, and nano sizes and cost ¥3,218 for the seven-day plan, or ¥3,780 for 14 days, both with tax included.
Cards can be purchased online from the official website and delivered to hotels, post offices at select airports, or any set address in Japan.
Cards can also be purchased at counters located at airports around the country, retail shops such as Yodobashi Camera and Don Quijote, as well as from vending machines inside Aqua City Odaiba and Terminal one of Kansai International Airport. Cards can be activated via a dedicated website. Vending machines can also be used to activate cards after purchase.
Cards come with instructions for connecting to the Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi service.
Japan Travel SIM powered by IIJ mio
These prepaid smartphone SIM cards aimed at visitors to Japan from overseas are made available by Internet service provider IIJ mio. The cards entitle you to as much as 1 GB over 30 days or three months of up to 2 GB of data transmission over NTT Docomo’s LTE and 3G networks, and are available in standard, micro, and nano sizes.
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 Tourist Information Center Tokyo (by the Nihonbashi exit of Tokyo Station), Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kawaramachi Shijō), and from Khaosan hostels in Tokyo and Kyoto. The price may vary depending on location, but, for reference, Bic Camera is offering Japan Travel SIM cards for ¥2,656 for 1 GB and ¥4,082 for 2 GB (tax included).
If your card runs out, additional data can be purchased with an IIJ mio Coupon Card, which are available at convenience stores or other locations, or a Brastel prepaid IP phone card. Brastel cards can be charged by credit card or PayPal via the Brastel website, and enables domestic and international calls, as well as payments for data transfer over the 2 GB IIJ mio limit. Coupon cards can be purchased for ¥1,500 for 500 MB and ¥3,000 for 2 GB while Brastel cards can be charged at a rate of ¥1,100 for 500 MB and ¥2,200 for 1.25 GB.
Wirelessgate Prepaid SIM
Wi-fi provider Wirelessgate offers a prepaid smartphone SIM card aimed at overseas visitors to Japan. The cards offer connection to NTT Docomo’s LTE and 3G networks, as well as the use of 40,000 wi-fi hotspots nationwide. The available options are: 1 GB of data transmission over a 14-day period, 2 GB over 30 days, and 3 GB over 60 days.
The cards also come in three sizes: standard, micro, and nano. You can adjust your settings, check how much data headroom you have left, search for wi-fi spots and take advantage of automatic login using the Wirelessgate app, available from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
As of January 2015, these cards are only available at Yodobashi Camera, priced at ¥2,980 for 1 GB, ¥3,590 for 2 GB, and ¥3,980 for 3 GB (all including tax). Users who reach their data-transmission limit can purchase an extra gigabyte to be used over a 14-day period, priced at ¥1,000 (including tax).
Link: Wirelessgate Prepaid SIM
Wi-Ho Prepaid SIM
Mobile device rental company Telecom Square provides 1 GB and 3 GB prepaid SIM cards for smartphones that allow users to connect to NTT Docomo’s LTE and 3G networks. Both card types can be used for 30 days and come in micro and nano sizes. A 1 GB card is ¥4,500 and a 3 GB card is ¥6,500.
Cards can be purchased at Telecom Square counters at Narita, Haneda, New Chitose, and Fukuoka Airports. Staff will also assist customers in setting up and activating the cards. Additional data can be purchased from the Wi-Ho webpage at ¥1,980 per 1 GB.
Users can also access telephone interpretation services in English, Chinese, and Korean to assist in making reservations, communicating with shop staff, or in unforeseen emergencies. Charges are paid by the caller and use is limited to three sessions.
Link: Wi-Ho Prepaid SIM
Biglobe Ninja SIM
SIM cards come in standard, micro, and nano sizes. Prices are ¥2,916 for 1 GB, ¥4,860 for 3 GB, and ¥7,884 for 7 GB. Users are able to check data usage and can purchase additional data for ¥2,160 per gigabyte. Additional data is valid for 30 days. A customer service hotline is available in English, Chinese, and Korean.
The paper packaging on SIM cards come with directions showing how to fold it into an origami throwing star.
Cards can be purchased at select Aeon shopping centers and the Tokyo Central Youth Hostel. Biglobe plans to increase availability with new locations, including household electronic stores.
Link: Biglobe Ninja SIM
SoftBank Global Rental
The wireless carrier SoftBank provides rental of data SIM cards, mobile phones, smartphones, and mobile routers. Daily rental fees are ¥110 for data SIM cards with voice calls, ¥260–¥540 for mobile phones, ¥210–¥540 for iPhones, and ¥1,290–¥1,590 for mobile routers. Call and data rates for devices, excluding mobile routers, are metered according to usage; data access on iPhone SIM cards is metered to ¥1,550 per day and unlimited afterward.
SIM cards and devices can be rented at select SoftBank shops and major international airports such as Narita, Haneda, Chūbu Centrair, and Kansai International.
Link: SoftBank Global Rental
Telecom Square provides rentals of mobile phones, smartphones, and wi-fi routers. Daily rental fees start at ¥540 for a NTT Docomo mobile phone, ¥1,296 for a Y!mobile LTE smartphone, and ¥1,296 for a wi-fi router. Call and SMS charges are not included.
Orders are made online via the Telecom Square homepage and must be placed by 3 p.m. (JST) the day prior to the desired pickup date. Devices can be picked up at Telecom Square counters at seven airports around Japan, including Narita, Haneda, Chūbu Centrair, and Kansai International.
Link: Telecom Square
(All information is current as of July 9, 2015. Banner photo courtesy Highways Agency.)