- How to Stay Connected in Japan – Pocket Wifi, eSIM, Carrier Plans… Which is the answer?
- what options you have in Japan to stay connected?
- Connectivity and Risk of Public WiFi
How to Stay Connected in Japan – Pocket Wifi, eSIM, Carrier Plans… Which is the answer?
As soon as you arrive in Japan, you lose something you have in your daily life. That is the Internet connection to your smartphone. In this article, I’d like to go over what options you have in Japan to stay connected to Internet with your smart phone, and to stay in touch with your family all the time during your stay.
Most of the hotel in Japan has WiFi in your room for free of charge, so when you want to stay connected is when you are in town, moving to next destination on train, and such.
You will find your final answer by reading this complete guide to smart phone connection in Japan.
You can also watch this contents on YouTube.
Do not forget to Turn Off International Roaming
First of all, if your phone is connected to data somehow when you arrive in Japan, you might want to make sure you are not connected international roaming.
It’s important to turn off your internatinoal roaming of your phone to avoid the unexpected bills from your phone carrier. This doesn’t apply if you have phone plans that are including international roaming, or if you purchased international data plans from your phone career. But if that is not what you chose, or if you are not sure what I’m talking about, I recommend you to turn off your international roaming when you get on the plane to Japan. 🙂
If you use iPhone, you can turn off from “setting” – “cellular” and turn “off”.
what options you have in Japan to stay connected?
The first option is to use public WiFi in town. Let’s see the advnatage and disadvantage of relying on public WiFi.
Using Public WiFi
First, let’s see how public WiFi works. You can find free public WiFi in the airports, major statoins and in some trains, and some shops offers WiFi too.
Town, Station, Subways
Even though I haven’t notice in daily life, there are lots of WiFi sign in the city if you closely pay attention. You can find the logo too, but it might be faster to open your phone and let your phone search WiFi that are available there.
When you travel across Japan, Shinkansen (bullet train) offers free WiFi for passangers, but it’s almost impossible to connect to WiFi from my experience. It might help to have other solutions with you.
Result first, MacDonald’s offer reliable Internet connection. I visited McDoland’s shop in Shinjuku and tried how smoothly I can browse Internet and watch YouTube. You can log in with your email address and use for one hour. After one hour, you can log in again to use more. Surprisingly, I could watch YouTube seamlessly. MacDonald’s free WiFi offer reliable Internet connection.
Starbucks offers fast WiFi service that you can even watch YouTube. While McDonald’s doesn’t advertise the fast speed, Starbucks mention in their page that you can watch videos, so Starbucks might have more stable WiFi throughout the coutnry. Finding Starbucks is easier than fiding McDoland’s in Tokyo.
If you seek WiFi in town, Starbucks will be the most reliable choice.
Other Coffee shop chains
Even though other coffee shops don’t advertise the “fast speed”, major cafe chains offers free WiFi too. For the major coffee chains, Dotour and Veloce also offer free WiFi.
Connectivity and Risk of Public WiFi
The disadvantage of using public WiFi is it can cut when you leave the WiFi area you are connected, and you might have to log in everytime you try to use the Public WiFi from the service provider you haven’t use. For this one, there is a solution recently so I will talk about that later in the video in the section of saving data usage.
Another disadvantage of public WiFi is, it can have security risk. If you search on YouTube, you’ll find that it’s easy for hackers to sneak into your phone through the public WiFI, and steal your personal information and password.
It might not like someone is always waiting at WiFi spots to sneak into someone’s phone, but it’s good to know as a possible risk. If you use public WiFi, it might be better to avoid putting your credit card number or password informaiton.
3 Solutions that you can Stay Connected in Japan
To have the Internet connection through your travel, you have mainly 3 choices. Getting SIM card for your phone, or renting portable WiFi device, or use your careers’ international roaming plan. Each of them has advnatage and disadvantage, so let’s find out which one is the best choice for you.
The first one is renting a portable WiFi device, often called Pocket Wifi. Pocket WiFi is the portable device that allows you to access to WiFi anytime during your travel in Japan. You can pick up at the airport when you arrive, and drop off when you leave. You can also have it shipped to your hotel, and drop it off at the convenience stores or mail in the post box depending on the service provider.
Advantage of Pocket WiFi.
- The big advantage of portable WiFi is, you can share with your partner, family whoever traveling with you.
- Pocket WiFi Works with any devices that can connect to WiFI. You don’t need any difficult setting on your phone.
- If you bring your laptop or tablet like iPad, you can connect to your pocket WiFi too. So if you do some work outside or let your children watch iPad on the trains, it’s a reliable choice.
Disadvantages of Pocket WiFi.
Even though portable WiFI device is a great way to stay connected, there are some cons.
- You need to carry around the package during your travel, and you also need to return the device.
- To make it work, you need to charge the device in addition to your phone.
- If you get one device for your family, you have to be always together.
- For lost or damage, it can cost expensive. Some provide offers insurance for loss.
Service Provider of Pocket WiFi
There are several Pocket WiFi provider in Japan. If you land at major airports, you have access to several different providers. If you arrive at smaller airports, your choice might be limited. The price may change depending on the currency exchange rate and the length you use, time of booking, so it might worth look around. I put all the links below.
Pocket WiFi Price sample
|See Price of Ninja WiFi (20% off from this link – coupon already applied)
Through Klook 5% off with coupon code: kenchan5off
|Japan Wireless (official site)
|$61 (site direct)
|$104 (site direct)
|Sakura WiFi (klook)
|Sakura Mobile (Klook) 5% off with coupon code: kenchan5off
|Global Advanced Communications
|See price of GAC
🚩 Prices are as of December 1, 2023 after coupon when it applies. Price may vary depending on the exchange rate, lenth of travel, and time of booking.
Coupons for Pocket WiFi
If you decided to use Ninja WiFI from the official site, you can get 20% off with the code “kenchan”. From official site, you can access to insurance protection, and you can even add medical insurance for your stay in Japan.
Ninja WiFi. 20% off with discount code: Kenchan
eSIM or SIM card
How SIM card & eSIM works on your phone
Next option is getting physical Sim card or eSIM that you can use in Japan. This is how it works. Your smart phone are connected to Internet using your service providers’ SIM (Subscriber Identity Module).
That Sim card doesn’t work in Japan where you service provider doesn’t have network, or it might work in Japan too through what’s it’s called International Roaming, but usually it can be expensive. Then let’s get an Sim card that works in Japan. Lots of provider offers Sim card at the airport or you can have it shipped to you before you leave your home.
If you get physical SIM card, you need to take out your Sim card from your phone and put a new one. Keep your original Sim card somewhere safe until you go home. Some phones have double SIM which means you can put two SIM card. But something more convenient is, getting eSIM.
eSIM is like a virtual SIM card, that allows us to activate and switch between mobile carriers or plans without the need for a physical SIM card. It’s a very convenient choice, but the only thing to be careful is, your phone have to be Sim-Free, and has to be eSIM compatible. For iPhone, any device released after iPhone XS (released 2018 ) are eSIM compatible.
eSIM compatible iPhone
- An iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, or later
How to check eSIM compatibility on Android phones
Advantage of eSIM
- You don’t have to return the SIM card.
- Easy to install.
Disadvantage of eSIM
- Doesn’t work with SIM locked phone device.
- Each person needs one eSIM for each phone.
Service Provider of eSIM
There are tons of choices of Sim card in the market, and I picked 3 to compare today. Holafly, Mobal, and Ubigi. I also added a eSim price at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport I saw. Each company has different price package depending on the length you can use, and amount of datas you can use.
eSIM Price sample
|Mobal Tourist eSIMs
|Bic Camera at Haneda Airport T3 (Sept.2023)
|7 days Unlimited $27
|8 Days (1GB) $13 | (30GB) $21
|10 Days (5GB) $14
|15 days Unlimited $47
|16 Days (1GB) $16 | (50GB) $27
|30 days Unlimited $64
|31 Days (10GB) $26 | (50GB) $53
|30 Days 10GB ($17) | 50GB $69
|30 Days (50GB) $37
🚩 Prices are as of December 1, 2023 and September 2023 for Bic Camera. Price may vary depending on the exchange rate, lenth of travel, and time of booking.
Again, the price may change time to time so you might want to check the ratest plans and price for your travel.
Need a phone number in Japan?
In case you like to have a Japanese phone number, Mobal offers a voice plans that you can get a Japanese phone number.
In case you usually contact with your family on the phone line, it might help to share phone app. such as What’s App and LINE. In Japan, almost everyone has LINE. Probably I’m the rare Japanese person who doesn’t have LINE.
Use Your Careers International Plans
Pocket WiFi, eSIM… and the 3rd choice is to use your data plan from your phone career. The choice you have is greatly vary depending on your phone company you use.
For example, Verizon has International Day pass for $10 a day. After 2GB of high speed Internet, you can enjoy 3G network, which is fast enough. If you stay longer than 10 days, you have choice of $100 per billing cycle, so you don’get charged more thatn $100 plus tax a month.
AT&T has the same, but one thing to note is the amount of data you use in Japan will be drawn from your domestic plan allowance, with the same data amount and speed restrictions.
So depends on your coutnry and phone company, they might offer something convenient which can be competitive with pocket WiFi or eSIM.
How fast the connection should be to watch videos?
Probably you binge watch my YouTube videos in Japan … right? In case your plan has speed limit, you might worry if that cover enough datas for your usage?
YouTube official help says the following Internet speed is necessary to watch a high quaility movie. To watch 4k Ultra High Definition smoothly, without stopping in the middle, you need to have 20 Megabit per second. But if you watch on your smart phone, 2.5 Mbps is enough.
Now let’s see what Nexflix says.
Netflix official site says you only need 15Mbps to watch movies in Ultra high definition.
That means, most of the portable wifi and eSIM works for watching movies nowadays.
How many GB is consumed?
However, if you watch movies with high quality, it uses lots of datas.
If you watch on Netflix App on mobile devices, the site says you can watch up to 4 hours per 1 GB. That is surprisingly good. But if you watch on web browser with 4K Ultra High Definition, it can use up to 7GB per 1 hour. So in case you need to save your data usage, it helps to lower the quality you watch the videos or movies.
How to Save data consumption
1 Download what you can download in adnvance.
Download movies and maps before you leave your country helps you to avoid using too much data.
2 Turn off the setting of background update
3 Use public WiFi time to time
When you have reliable and fast WiFi, you might be able to use it and you can use your data plan or pocket WiFi when you are out of the public WiFi zone. That way you can have multiple optoins all the time during your stay.
Convenient App for Public WiFi
However, you might not want to check if the WiFi is available and try to log in to diffrent system every time. Travelers are busy to see sights and eat, and feel the season. So there is a free app. that does all of those work instead of you, and automatially connect to public WiFI. It’s called Japan WiFi auto-connect. Get here.
Everyone with smartphone might have experience that you connect to unexpected WiFI and slow down your Internet browser, or even block you from using Internet sometimes. So the great thing about this app. is, it has options that let your phone pick only reliable and stronger WiFi. In case there are several WiFI in the same spot, it choose the strong Wifi, and turn off un trustable WiFI. So in case you use public WiFi, it might be convenient to get this app and save usagge of datas.
It might consume battery and still nothing close to getting Pocket WiFi or eSIMs. But if you don’t get them, it might helpt to get this app.
I hope you could find a best solution to stay connected with your phone in Japan. If you know any good service in Japan I didn’t talk about here, please share in the comments.
Have a great trip to Japan!