Getting internet access in Japan will depend on your status – if you’re a short-time visitor (i.e. tourist) or staying here for longer.
If you’re a tourist, you may be surprised that most restaurants, cafes, bars don’t provide WIFI access to customers. While you will get online when staying in hotels, guest houses or private accommodation, it’s not much use if you’re outside and desperately need to get connected. Also, sometimes, some hotels have WIFI, but in lobby only, or no WIFI, but Ethernet cable in room only…
What are the choices for a short-time visitor?
- Rent a mobile WIFI router at the airport – expensive, you have to remember to return it when you leave Japan, so in general, not recommended.
- Mobile phone SIM card with Internet access – you can find different kinds of them in consumer electronics retailer chains like Bic Camera, Yamada Denki or Yodobashi Camera. They will cost you a few thousand yen, will be valid for a few weeks and will include a couple of gigabytes of internet. Please make sure to ask shop staff for a “internet SIM card for tourists” (these cards are clearly marked in English) – otherwise, if you’re not sure what you’re going to buy, you may and up with a SIM card which needs to be registered (you’ll need an address in Japan, go through an online registration procedure – in Japanese, and most of all, you’ll need a Japanese phone number to receive SMS registration code).
What are the choices for a longer-term visitor?
Although your choice is bigger here, it will depend on your visa status, whether you speak Japanese or not, and how much you want to spend in general.
If your Japanese language is limited, one of the best choices is Asahi Net – you can arrange everything online and use a credit card from your original country to do the payment. The cheapest option is a data SIM card for 900 yen + tax. It comes in two flavours – 3 GB/month and 110 MB/day. If you exceed the limit – the speed will be limited to 25 kB/sec (until the next month, or day, depending on the option you chose). You can also add SMS and voice call capability for an extra fee. Alternatively, if you don’t need SMS, you can sign up i.e. for a Japanese phone number with Skype (note that you are able to send SMS with Skype, you won’t be able to receive it; most people in Japan don’t use SMS for communicating; also, mos banks in Japan don’t use SMS for various confirmations). If you need proper internet at home, you can also order a WIMAX router (around 4000 yen per month, make sure to check if there is WIMAX reception in your area, especially if you live in a suburbs) or a cable connection (“Hikari”, around 5000 yen per month).
Other choices are signing up for a mobile phone contract (usually minimum term is 2 years) from various mobile phone providers, though you’ll need some degree of Japanese and a proper visa to do it.