Japan Internet Guide: How to Get WiFi and SIM card for Long-Term Stay
The best way to get Wifi and SIM Card for people living in Japan
Today it is practically impossible to live without internet. It’s no longer about you needing it to be able to watch videos or upload pictures to your social networks, it’s also something necessary in your day to day, even for work.
In addition, when you’re going to live in a city that you don’t know, having internet on your mobile phone can be very useful. For example, Japanese cities tend to be a labyrinth, and since the streets have no name but numbers, it’s very confusing to be guided by paper maps. Google Maps was my best ally the first time I moved to Japan, to be honest. With your permission I’m going to explain a small personal anecdote: in my first week in Tokyo, I met an old friend by chance in Shibuya, and by an oversight, when we separated, he took my wallet and my house keys. Getting contact with him from the few places with free and working properly Wi-Fi and recovering my things wasn’t easy. That same night a Japanese friend accompanied me to buy a SIM card for my mobile phone.
Today I would like to show you how to have internet in Japan for long-term stay, and the differences and pros and cons between Pocket Wifi and SIM Card.
So that you do not have an experience similar to what happened to me, I highly recommend renting a pocket wifi for at least the first two or three weeks, while you manage to adapt to your new home. The first weeks after moving to Japan aren’t easy. To start, it’s mandatory to go to the city hall of the city where you have decided to reside to register and you must do it in the first two weeks. Also in the same city hall you must register in the national health insurance. In big neighborhoods normally there’re guides in English to facilitate the process, but in smaller places they don’t always have. At this point, even if it’s not perfect, having an online translator on your mobile can be very useful if you don’t speak Japanese.
Another solution for the first weeks would be one of the SIM cards that are selling at the airports, but they are more expensive and I also had a bad experience with them since my data were running out in just 3 days and instead of slowing down they left me completely without internet in the middle of Kyoto while working. And specially the first days, with Google Map and the other apps that you will need you will spend a lot of data.
On the other hand, those who have chosen to live in a shared house usually come with Wifi included in the house, but if you have decided to rent your own apartment many of them come without internet, and you have to be the one who hires the services of a internet company. When I was studying at the Japanese language academy many of my classmates who were in this situation, chose to rent a pocket wifi for a long stay and so they could use it at home and when they went outside.
Compared to hiring the internet with one of the companies available in Japan, it may be more expensive, but it’s easier and more convenient since you have attention in English and nobody has to come to install anything in the house or sign a stay for half a year or one year. You pay for the months you want and that’s it. If you want more, you ask to extend and if not, you return the device. In addition, otherwise you would have to pay to have internet at home and then pay separately for a SIM Card contract. This way you only pay for one service.
At this point, let me introduce Japan Wireless prices for long stay (those who prefer a SIM Card, I will talk about it below).
Long-Term SIM Card in Japan
The cheapest option, in my opinion, is to go to a BIC CAMERA and look between the different contracts with different companies that offer which one suits better with your needs. BIC CAMERA is one of the largest department store chains dedicated to electronics in Japan. If you still don’t know much Japanese, don’t worry because in the BIC CAMERA of tourist and big places like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza or Ikebukuro usually they have someone from the staff who can speak english. They have different phone companies available with different options: internet and calls, internet only, etc.
I can’t tell you the rates, because it depends on the company, the months of the contract and the moment in which you go, since some months do promotional campaigns and it’s cheaper. But usually it’s around 1,500-3,500 yen per month.
As I have heard from friends and people that I know, some electronics departments say that you need to make a contract for at least two years, forcing you to make such a contract and pay a penalty if you leave before those two years. This is completely false. There are six month or one year contracts. However, there are no contracts of less than six months. For periods of less than six months, the best option is the Pocket Wifi.
Something that you have to keep in mind if in the end you choose the option of the SIM Card is that although in the BIC Camera they help you to register the contract, when you want to end or cancel the contract, you will have to do it yourself through from a website that is ONLY unique in Japanese. In my case, when I wanted to cancel it, they helped me in a BIC Camera that was in the area where I lived, quite residential and calm. But it depends on where you go, they will refuse to help you. If your level of Japanese is not good enough yet, you will have to ask for help from a Japanese friend or if you are studying at the academy. Also remember or write somewhere the user number and password that they will give you the first day, since that’s what you will need to be able to access the website and cancel the contract.
Maybe some of you are thinking of going directly to a Docomo and SoftBank office, but I don’t recommend it. The conditions are usually very strict, don’t allow short contracts, most of the stores don’t have anyone who speaks English and for example the pocket wifi is, in my opinion, much more expensive. Also, at least four years ago, the treatment of the staff was really unpleasant in the stores that I went to.
I hope this information has been helpful for you. Please let me know if you know other options! Or if you have questions or doubts please don’t hesitate to ask me. For more information about Internet in Japan, you can check the following articles too!