Rental Phones and prepaid SIM cards
This is a short introduction to how travellers to Japan can acquire rental phones and prepaid SIM cards in Japan. As mobile phones become more and more prevalent all over the world, many travellers are confronted with the question of whether their phones can be operated in Japan or not. While Japanese enterprises are indeed at the forefront of mobile phone innovation and development, Japan does not use GSM/EDGE/GPRS networks. Therefore mobile phones solely based on GSM will not work.

To use a non-Japanese mobile phone in Japan, it has to be compatible with Japanese mobile phone networks (3G UMTS 2100 MHz or 3G CDMA2000 800 MHz). Such sets can be used via international roaming (although roaming fees might amount to astronomic levels!) or via wireless networks (WiFi) permitting internet telephony (VoIP) through services like Skype.

Another alternative is to acquire a rental or prepaid SIM card from a Japanese carrier or to rent a phone plus SIM card. SIM cards and rental phones can be purchased at Narita Airport, Haneda International Airport, and Kansai International Airport or through rental phone companies, who will mail the set and the SIM card to your hotel or your residence.

The three major mobile phone operators in Japan are NTTdocomo, SoftBank, and AU. As of 2011, all of them offer 3G models, such as the iPhone, but only SoftBank has a 3G/UMTS SIM card-based prepaid service. You can find more information on providers and rates below.

Japan Travel SIM


Internet Initiative Japan Inc. (IIJ), an Internet access and comprehensive network solutions provider, announced on 30 September 2014 that it would offer a package featuring a prepaid SIM card with 2 gigabytes of high-speed data volume for foreign visitors to Japan. The Japan Travel SIM powered by IIJmio went on sale on 2 October 2014. Customers can start this mobile data service by inserting a SIM card into an unlocked SIM device and configuring it.

This package includes a Brastel Card, an IP phone service provided by Brastel Co., which allows customers to make inexpensive domestic and international calls. Also, customers can use credit from a prepaid Brastel Card to add data volume to a SIM card. The SIM card will be operational from the first day of data transmission to the end of the third month. The period cannot be extended, nor is the service be switched to a monthly plan.

It has been available at Bic Camera, Kojima and Sofmap stores and other retailers since 2 October 2014. After mid-October, it will also be available at Tourist Information Center Tokyo and Khaosan hostels in Tokyo and Kyoto .

Source: Asahi Shimbun, 30 September 2014

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)

Related links

International SIM Cards

Related link at the Japan Forum

A vending machine selling prepaid SIM cards

A vending machine selling prepaid SIM cards​