Travelling to Japan? Check out our guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card

Reduce your roaming rates by using a local SIM.

Last updated:

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, a top tip for keeping down costs is to switch to a local SIM card. Take advantage of better tariffs, plans and deals to dramatically reduce your roaming rates. You can get 1GB of data from Japan’s top telco providers for about JPY1,620 (£10.82). Although this might seem expensive, it could work out to be cheaper than using your home phone there. So, whether you’re a short- or long-term traveller, you can save money by comparing your SIM card options on finder UK.

Prices last updated 18 Sep 2017

Promoted
WorldSIM

WorldSIM.com International SIM cards

Heading overseas? Reduce your global roaming charges by up to 85% with a prepaid 4G international SIM card from WorldSIM.

Works in 200 countries
Receive calls for free in over 95 countries
Keep your existing number with WorldSIM Virtual Numbers service
Free UK and US mobile numbers included
Add data bundles to suit your needs – Only pay for what you need
4G SIM card works with any unlocked phone and fits all SIM sizes
Affordable rates for global calls, texts and data

    WorldSIM WorldSIM
    Top deal!

    £10 off, when your order is over £60

    £10 off everything! Apply this discount code when spending over £60 at Worldsim to make a tidy saving. T&Cs apply.

    Last verified

    Popular WorldSIM discount codes

    Last checked Code description Code
    24 Jul 2019 £10 off, when your order is over £60 SMA****
    24 Jul 2019 5% off sitewide Sma****
    24 Jul 2019 5% off all products at WorldSIM WG5****
    24 Jul 2019 Bag a bargain on your international sim at WorldSIM today ********

    Telco providers in Japan

    There are three main telco providers in Japan: NTT DoCoMo, Softbank and au. There are also a few good mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that we have listed below. They are extremely popular in Japan and offer good deals: b-mobile, COMST and China Unicom Hong Kong. Both locals and travellers use prepaid SIM cards from all networks, and they can be trusted whatever plan you choose. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Japan has a very good phone signal all over the country.

    About Japan’s operators

    Japan offers the latest 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. There are no 2G services available. The telco, au, offers SIM cards for people using the CDMA network.

    There is a tricky registration process needed for travellers to purchase a prepaid voice SIM card. You must show your passport and visa stamp, plus fill out lengthy forms to be able to use the service. You will then have to wait a few days for the request to be approved before you can use the service, and it’s mainly only granted to residents.

    Prepaid data SIM cards don’t have the same restrictions and they can be picked up pretty easily. All device IMEI numbers must be registered with the local authorities via the retailer. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official outlets and approved resellers, and credit can be bought from those same retailers plus supermarkets and corner stores.

    Below, we have broken down each telco provider and highlighted exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Japan.

    NTT DoCoMo

    NTT DoCoMo is the largest operator in Japan and has more than a 50% market share. It offers customers good 3G and 4G/LTE services, and 2G is not available. Internet speeds are fast and the network coverage is good. Your passport must be shown when purchasing a prepaid SIM card, and a registration form will have to be filled out and signed before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased from supermarkets, corner stores and service stations.

    NTT Communications offers prepaid SIM cards for smartphones, tablets and modems. Each gives customers 100MB of high-speed data per day, and the cards come in all sizes. The following two options are available:

    JPY3,2187 days
    JPY3,78014 days

    Prepaid SIM cards come in both Japanese and English, and you can choose your preferred language setting as soon as the SIM card is activated. NTT also offers customers a free Wi-Fi service which can be used by any customer across Japan.

    NTT’s APN: NTTnet, and Website: http://service.ocn.ne.jp/mobile/one/visitor/en/

    b-mobile

    NTT’s MVNO b-mobile also provides some great data packages for tourists visiting Japan. It offers customers 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards and credit can be purchased from many retail outlets across Japan. The same rules and regulations apply when purchasing b-mobile SIM cards.

    b-mobile offers a great pay-as-you-go SIM card for tourists, and it offers a wide selection of data packages. The visitor SIM card offers users 21 days of data access to 3G and 4G/LTE, and it comes with 5GB of data for JPY3,480. Data credit can be added for JPY500 per 1GB, valid for 1 day.

    b-mobile’s APN: bmobile.ne.jp, and website: http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/payg_sim/travelers_to_japan.html

    COMST

    COMST is another MVNO run through NTT and is one of the most popular in Japan. COMST offers customers 3G and 4G/LTE services. Prepaid data SIM cards are called T-SIMs, and they can be purchased from almost anywhere in Japan. The same rules and regulations apply.

    There are two data plans available for tourists:

    3GB30 daysJPY3,780
    1GB7 daysJPY2,980

    The following data credit amounts can also be added:

    3GB30 daysJPY2,160
    5GB30 daysJPY3,456
    10GB30 daysJPY5,400

    COMST’s APN: vdm.jp, website: www.comst.jp

    SoftBank

    SoftBank is the second-largest operator in Japan and has some great data deals available. It offers customers good 3G and 4G/LTE services, and 2G is not available. Internet speeds are fast and the network coverage is good. Your passport must be shown when you’re purchasing a prepaid SIM card, and a registration form will have to be filled out and signed before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased from supermarkets, corner stores and service stations. SoftBank is the better option for anyone looking for voice packages on a prepaid SIM card.

    Prepaid SIM and phone packages are the only way to get good deals and extended validity periods with Softbank. Prepaid packages cost JPY15,000 for a phone and JPY10,000 voice credit. The voice and data on these prepaid SIM cards will last for 14 days. The only drawback here is that once the prepaid SIM card runs out after 14 days, you must purchase a new one rather than adding further credit.

    The following data packs can be added:

    2-day planJPY900200MB
    7-day planJPY2,700700MB
    30-day planJPY4,9803GB

    There is also a prepaid SIM card available for tourists, called the “Tourist SIM”. It comes in two options: “Hello Kitty” and “Mt.Fuji”. SIM cards come with 1GB of data valid for 31 days and is data-only on 3G and 4G/LTE.

    There are over 400,000 SoftBank Wi-Fi hotspots located around Japan that can be used for free with these prepaid SIM cards.

    SoftBank’s APN: plus.4g, website: http://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/special/prepaid-sim-for-travel/en/

    au

    au is the third-largest provider in Japan. It offers customers good 3G and 4G/LTE services on the CDMA platform. 2G is not available. Internet speeds are fast and the network coverage is good. Your passport must be shown when you’re purchasing a prepaid SIM card, and a registration form will have to be filled out and signed before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased from supermarkets, corner stores and service stations.

    Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for JPY1,620 which comes with 1GB of data, valid for 30 days. There are also a number of Wi-Fi hotspots located around Japan that can be used with this provider.

    China Unicom Hong Kong

    China Unicom Hong Kong offers roaming in Japan on the SoftBank network. So, if you are heading from Hong Kong to Japan, then we strongly advise you to use this option, as it will allow you to use voice and data packages at no extra cost in Japan.

    The following roaming pack can be purchased in Hong Kong and used in Japan:

    Japan Roaming Data SIM (data-only, 4G/LTE):

    3GB7 daysHKD128
    5GB7 daysHKD158

    If you are not planning to head over to Hong Kong, you can also order these SIM cards online to be delivered to your hotel address, or wherever you are staying in Japan. To ship these over to Japan, you will have to pay a HKD25 shipping fee on top of the price of the SIM card.

    China Unicom Hong Kong APN: 3Gnet, and website: https://www.cuniq.com/hk_en.

    Some top tips from finder UK staff:

    • Japanese is the official language, and one of the main foreign languages is English.
    • Locals call a SIM card a “SIM Kaa” or “SIM”.
    • Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
    • We advise you to purchase your SIM card from official outlets rather than through a street vendor or small store.
    • Get to the stores early to receive better assistance and to avoid the crowds.

    TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them

    While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Japan.

    Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:

    “I recently used a company called econnectjapan.com to get a prepaid iPad micro-sim (for data only) and was absolutely delighted with their services. I paid with PayPal and got them to ship it to my hotel in Kyoto where it was waiting for me.”

    “If you head to an electronics store such as Yodobashi Camera, you will have better options than what is in the airport. If you have to get something at the airport, look for hidden vending machines by So-net (Sony / DOCOMO) that only take cash.”

    “Since phone numbers are not allowed to be tied to SIM cards by Japanese law, one can use Skype or another VOIP service. With Skype, one can create a local number if locals (Japan natives) need to call you. During sign-up for the phone number, Skype will ask if you are a resident of Japan, though they do not verify this.”

    Pros and cons of Japan’s top telco providers

    All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM- or CDMA-compatible phone. To double check you have one of these phones, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.

    Pros:

    • Good value for money
    • Prepaid credit when required
    • No in-store contract needed
    • Could be compatible with your current phone

    Cons:

    • Some areas can suffer from bad coverage
    • No devices offered with the SIM card packages
    • Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM or CDMA phones
    • Voice plans are very hard to come by for tourists
    • Complicated rules and regulations makes buying a SIM card difficult

    More questions about finding the best SIM card?

    Q: What about other providers in Japan?

    A: There are many more MVNOs on the DoCoMo network, including eConnect Japan, IIJmio, So Net, U-Mobile, FREETEL, Yokoso Japan and Wi-Ho! which offer good deals. Although we advise you to use one of the providers we have highlighted above, all MVNOs can be trusted. Check the latest options before purchasing your SIM card.

    Q: What do I do if I lose my phone in Japan?

    A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around Asia. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck, then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to make a claim on your insurance.

    Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let the new one out of your sight!

    Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

    Ask an Expert

    You are about to post a question on finder.com:

    • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
    • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
    • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
    • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

    Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

    By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

    Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
    Go to site