Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card vs Data Roaming Comparison in Japan

What is the best way to get internet connection during your trip to Japan?

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card vs Data Roaming Comparison in Japan

When traveling to a foreign country, there are some things that need to be thought about carefully beforehand such as budgeting, hotels, transportation, and the list of places to visit. All of these points are obviously important, but there is another thing that some tend to forget about which is internet connection.

Experienced travelers know exactly what I’m talking about. And in the case of Japan, although there are various free WiFi spots in larger cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, free internet infrastructure is not as good as many would think.

So, one thing I would recommend to you is that you get a reliable internet source for your travel to Japan. This will save you from a lot of stress, to be honest. The next question would be, “what are my best options?”. Well, in this article, I will be sharing with you the pros and cons of three of the most popular internet connection methods when visiting Japan. I’m talking about Pocket WiFi, SIM Card, and Data Roaming. I hope this article helps you in making the best decision to match your needs.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

Comparing the Three types of Internet access methods

Before we actually compare these three methods of getting a reliable internet connection, we should make sure what points should be taken into account in order to make the perfect decision that best covers your needs. Be sure to have these five points clear before choosing which internet method to use.

1. How long is your trip?

How long are you planning on visiting Japan? will it be just a couple of days (such as for a business trip)? A couple of weeks? Or maybe a few months?

2. How many people traveling with you?

How many people are traveling with you to Japan? Are you traveling alone? Or is it a group of many people?

3. How are you planning on using the internet?

What will you be using the internet for? Will it be minimal usage such as checking Google Maps and sending chat messages? Or will you be watching long HD movies, uploading long videos you took, etc?

4. How often will you need to connect?

How often will you need to connect to the internet? Also, how much time will you be using it each time?

5. Need any special options?

Will you require voice and SMS services as well? Or is it ok to just be able to connect to regular internet?

Pocket WiFi

usig a Pocket WiFi

The first internet connection method we want to introduce is to rent a pocket WiFi. A pocket WiFi is a small, pocket-sized, portable WiFi router that you can take around.

▶What is a Pocket WiFi?

You can also purchase one of these devices, but what we want to recommend is to rent one for your traveling within Japan. There are various Pocket WiFi renting services and they are usually easy to use. You can either rent it at the airport on your arrival or you can make a reservation so that the service sends you the device to your hotel or to the airport.

▶Which Pocket WiFi Rental is the Best in Japan?

Positives points

First, it is really easy to use, just turn on the device, find the network ID on your mobile phone, PC, etc. and connect to a reliable, safe network.

Although this is not the cheapest option at first glance, it may end up being cheaper depending on how many people are traveling with you or how many devices you’re planning on connecting to the internet. This is because you can connect multiple devices to the pocket WiFi.


There are very few downsides to this device, but if I have to bring up some points, then one would be that you have to keep the device near you at all times. Also, you need to be aware of the remaining battery. And since you are renting this device, this means you need to return it before leaving the country.

SIM Card

using a SIM Card

The second internet-providing option is to purchase a prepaid SIM card. A SIM card is a small chip that you install inside your mobile phone to connect it to a specific network.

▶What is a SIM Card?

Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased in many places; from the airport of your arrival and electronic shops to get it online so that it is sent to your hotel or airport for you to pick up.

▶6 Best SIM Cards in Japan

Positives points

The best thing about a prepaid SIM card is its price. It is the most economical option of the three. And once you install it on your mobile phone, you don’t need to worry about carrying an extra device. And since this is purchased, you don’t need to return anything before leaving Japan. All this just means fewer things to worry about during your trip.


Some of the downsides of a prepaid SIM card include the fact that many of these cards come with a limit on the amount of data you can use. So if you are planning on using the internet a lot during your visit to Japan, then this might be a deal breaker. Also, connection speed can be limited depending on the service you choose.

Also, there is a risk of compatibility. Depending on your smartphone, there is a chance the SIM card won’t work. So you gotta check very well beforehand to assure that your smartphone is compatible with SIM cards.

Data Roaming

using Data roaming

Lastly, we have Data Roaming. For those who don’t know, data roaming (also known as “International roaming”) is when you take your smartphone to a place where your carrier’s network doesn’t reach, and your phone connects to another network.

For this option, you don’t need to purchase, rent, or install anything on your phone. You simply need to make sure your phone has the data roaming setting on.

Positives points

The most attractive point of using data roaming is that you are able to use your usual phone number to make and receive calls and send/receive text messages. Another good thing is, as I previously mentioned, that you don’t need to purchase, rent, or install anything. And you will have internet access as soon as your plane lands in Japan. This means you don’t have to worry about anything extra to do for internet connection. It’s as if you are in your own country.


There is pretty much only one negative point about data roaming which is that is usually super expensive. You might find reasonably priced roaming deals, but these tend to have a really slow internet connection.

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I hope this article was informative and helpful for you. If you need more information about internet connection during your trip to Japan or other travel-related info, be sure to also check out our other articles!

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.