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Prepaid SIM cards for travelers and short stays?

nice gaijin

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Hey all, I tried doing a search and every thread I found regarding this subject had my own responses in them.

I'm in Japan for a couple months, I have a smart phone (two now, actually: an old iPhone 3G and a Galaxy S2 HD) and I would like to get a prepaid SIM card with a data plan. All signs point to Japan being woefully behind in this regard, but I'm hoping there's an option out there for someone like me who is seeking short-term service without the contract. Even just finding a decent prepaid plan is obnoxious, as everyone insists you have THEIR phone.

I've been flitting in and out of Japan for a few years now, and each time I am stymied by the lack of support for travelers by the phone companies. I love being in Japan but I've found this terribly frustrating. Even Thailand and the Philippines have better service options for visitors, where they quite literally gave me a free SIM at the airport upon arrival, and I had phone service within 5 minutes of stepping through immigration.

I have a phone that will work in any country, and I'm willing to pay a fair rate for service, I just need a SIM card.
 
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nice gaijin

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thank you, I had already found the japan tech mobile site and it was very helpful. Apparently there still is no prepaid data+voice plan available to anyone without at least an Alien Registration Card. The only games in town for prepaid data plans are b-mobile and IIJ (https://www.iijmio.jp/guide/outline/hdd/)

It was surprisingly easy to get a b-mobile sim card, I just went to a BIC Camera and they had a whole grid of them to choose from. I think it was just a little over 3000 yen for a 1GB plan, but it's only good for a month before the card expires (almost all the other plans were really expensive). I needed a working phone to activate the card, but it didn't take long to get things rolling. So far, so good!

So, the system here in Japan is still pretty pathetic, but for short term visits, b-mobile works alright!
 

Glenski

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Leave your phone behind. Why do you want a phone anyway? Pack a camera and enjoy the trip. People have lived without phones while traveling for centuries.

P.S. Some foreigners have made the situation in Japan bad. It's not just Japan. Those foreigners have gotten short-term phones, racked up bills, then bailed out without paying.
 
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nice gaijin

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Nothing stops people from running out on contracts, it's still common practice in Korea for people to bail on contracts, even though they have a similar system. Might still be similar or not here, I'm just relaying what I've saw while I was in Korea. To punish everyone for the actions of a few is shortsighted and a ridiculous business practice, and it's not the first time I've seen it here.

I'm not just sightseeing, I'm visiting friends and sometimes on a tight schedule, so it's important to get in touch with people quickly. Smartphones have a variety of practical uses. People got along fine for centuries without flushing toilets but I think I'll still use those when I can.
 

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Sorry, but I get along just fine without a cell phone, and so do others. I find it hard to imagine a schedule so tight that you need a phone in one's pocket. Planning things in advance and using a phone card for public phines works all right with me, as it has for decades. Just my preference, ok?

Comparing phones to toilets is pretty lame, by the way. Think about it.
 

Mikawa Ossan

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I haven't travelled in a few years now, but I seem to remember short term phones that you can rent at the airport. Couldn't you just do that? (Or is my memory faulty?)
 
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nice gaijin

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I don't tend to plan that far ahead when I'm moving around because I'm usually planning around other people's schedules, and that makes a smartphone a very useful tool. I also have my own sim-free phone that would work with any carrier. If Japan had all the wifi coverage I've heard about I might not need to go so far as to get a data plan, but in the end a few thousand yen isn't such a bad price to pay to have the convenience when I need to get in touch with people or look something up or check my email. As I said, I'm not sightseeing, being on the move is part of my lifestyle and much of my work is conducted over the internet, so it's important for me to be relatively easy to connect with for various reasons.

I'm rather surprised I've had to defend traveling with my own smartphone like it's really that unusual. Considering how high tech the toilets have gotten in Japan I didn't think the comparison was so lame. But how's this: if you were to go somewhere and bring your laptop, would you rip out the network cards and leave them at home?

Mikawa Ossan: There surely still are rental services out there, but they were off my radar because I didn't want to pay to carry around someone else's phone and I figured there must be better options available--which, thankfully, there were. I've also had friends who've had problems various problems dealing with one of the rental companies... JCR I think it was.

Just to see what's available for rental phones, a quick search brought up this carrier: Smart Phone Rental Plan│PuPuRu: Cell Phone Rentals Japan

Their base fee for the phone is 1,575 yen, plus 399/day for the phone rental, plus a mandatory flat rate of 7,350/month for data, not counting outgoing calls or other extras. At that basic rate for two months, that's over 40,000 yen. And it's not even my phone so all my settings, applications and files aren't on it. For less than 7,000 total for those two months, I've got a sufficient data plan on my own phone with B-mobile, so I'm content enough with what I found.

Some more information on the various rental services. Their information at least on B-mobile seems to be out of date though.
Visiting Japan? Mobile Phone and Data Plans to Keep You Connected | Mobile in Japan
 

Mikawa Ossan

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Their base fee for the phone is 1,575 yen, plus 399/day for the phone rental, plus a mandatory flat rate of 7,350/month for data, not counting outgoing calls or other extras. At that basic rate for two months, that's over 40,000 yen. And it's not even my phone so all my settings, applications and files aren't on it. For less than 7,000 total for those two months, I've got a sufficient data plan on my own phone with B-mobile, so I'm content enough with what I found.
Wow, as well you should be! I didn't realize it was that expensive! Congratulations for finding a better way!
 
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nice gaijin

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thanks, I'm just disappointed there are still so few options out there. Smartphones today are so much more than just phones, they're small, internet-ready computers. I think even Mike Cash, who is a pretty old school guy (esp. if you check out his photography preferences) uses an iphone now to do most of his posting here on JREF.

Rental phones have always been expensive, and I've been carrying around my own unlocked phones for about 5 years now. It's been incredibly convenient pretty much everywhere but Japan. There's a lot of misinformation out there about what phones will work where, much of it is spread by the phone companies themselves, it seems.
 

Mike Cash

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I use my iPhone to post because I'm at home so little these days. Tapatalk makes it very easy to do so.
 

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Hey everyone,

I'm coming to Japan in a week's time, and I'm having some trouble figuring out whether my new Samsung Galaxy Note N-7000 will work in Japan or not. Are there any compatibility issues? And what carrier would be suitable for buying a prepaid SIM? Thanks.
 

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Your phne should work fine for Docomo and Softbank. AFAK, you're gonna be a student here? Then prepaid is not a viable since it's super expensive. Better buy a 0-yen phone from Softbank, take the sim card out and put it into your Note. But if you plan to use data-plan on Softbank, a better option is to buy an iPhone 4S now, take the sim card and sell the phone. The iPhone data plan is cheaper than the Unlimited Packet plan for Smartphone (Android and s on), and they are offering discount for two year contract so you can save a lot compared to using regular unlimited packet.
 

FullM3taL

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Hey, thanks for the info. Yes I'm coming to Japan as a student. I do want to have a data plan on my phone. Would it be better if I just purchased the smartphone in Japan?
 
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P.S. Some foreigners have made the situation in Japan bad. It's not just Japan. Those foreigners have gotten short-term phones, racked up bills, then bailed out without paying.

It's utter nonsense and so kindly keep your racist anecdotes and justifications to your self :)

The reason that It's hard to get a sim card in Japan is because the Japanese intelligence machine does not have the required capabilities that a modern western country needs.
In europe anyone can go into any shop and buy a sim card. You don't need to register or give your name to have access to the internet and phone system. In most countries this phone will be used to track you, to know who you are etc etc etc
So it's actually very useful for those that want to know what you are getting up to, for you to have a phone.

Japan for some strange reason has the opposite mentality.
They got the whole Island mentality going.
Which is of course ridiculous but hey ho.
This however forces unsavory to get black market devices.
You can get an aftermarket phone in Japan with no ID, paying only cash, it's not even hard.
Just look around you
 
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jeisan

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**** - that's complete bollards and you know it.
It really irritates me so, when people try to justify people being wankers because. oh some foreign folk did that before - wuh.
It's utter nonsense and so kindly keep your racist anecdotes and justifications to your self :)

The reason that It's hard to get a sim card in Japan is because the Japanese intelligence machine does not have the required capabilities that a modern western country needs.
In europe anyone can go into any shop and buy a sim card. You don't need to register or give your name to have access to the internet and phone system. In most countries this phone will be used to track you, to know who you are etc etc etc
So it's actually very useful for those that want to know what you are getting up to, for you to have a phone.

Japan for some strange reason has the opposite mentality.
They got the whole Island mentality going.
Which is of course ridiculous but hey ho.
This however forces unsavory to get black market devices.
You can get an aftermarket phone in Japan with no ID, paying only cash, it's not even hard.
Just look around you

Your whole post is offensive, utter nonsense, perhaps you should review the forum rules. There's a link in my signature to make it easy for you, it's the one that reads "Forum Rules" if you're confused. Alternatively, you could just follow your own advice and kindly keep your asinine anecdotes and justifications to yourself.
 

cewong2

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OP, I might be a bit late but hopefully this will help, if not maybe those in the future. When i use to visit japan, I would just do a Softbank Sim card Rental (SoftBank Global Rental). I always forego data since data is expensive. The sim card is 105 yen per day and outgoing calls are pretty much 100yen a minute, but incoming calls are free. Text/email messaging is always cheaper so i use to just text people on softbank to call me. The last time I did this I think I only paid 2000 Yen for a 15 day stay.

If you need data and you are in a large city like Tokyo, there is a pretty good wifi-hotspot system by wi2 (Wi2 300) you can do their unlimited monthly for 380 yen just make sure to cancel the service when you are done as it is on a recurring charge system. They have a listing of hotspots on their website.

Hope this helps.
 
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nice gaijin

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if the wifi coverage is good that might not be a terrible alternative, but I dont spend a whole lot of time in the cities. My friends always lend me a spare dumbphone for calls and texts, so I'm more looking for a good data plan
 

cewong2

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if the wifi coverage is good that might not be a terrible alternative, but I dont spend a whole lot of time in the cities. My friends always lend me a spare dumbphone for calls and texts, so I'm more looking for a good data plan


Hmm with being here temporarily your options are quite limited. Softbank's global rental program does have data plans for smart phones, if you have an unlocked phone you can use it with it, for the most part (they test your device when you arrive and pick up the rental). However the price is pretty steep at almost 1600yen per day, hence why I usually suggest to forget about data and just find wifi. When you arrive at the airport there is a set of counters usually dedicated to rental of phones, if you arrive at narita they are usually both on the arrival level and the train station level in both terminals, SoftBank is usually a counter by itself, but then there are a few other companies which I don't remember the name to. you can price check to see what a data plan with rental will cost you. You can research softbanks before getting here as well to know your pricing for them. One of my classmates rented from one of the, but I noticed that the price was higher than softbank's even with the phone rental, if I recall correctly he said he was aying 350yen per day for the phone (a dumbphone) Plus the standard cost in calls. I think SoftBank charges 250yen/day and I think I just got an email from them saying they are doing a 50% off rental campaign, might be just for smartphones though.

Again, check both the sites I wrote before, they will give you a good idea if you can swing just the wifi and cheap phone option or at the least give you a price point for one of the companies that rents out.

One more thing go here and sign up at least for Starbucks free wifi How to Use|at_STARBUCKS_Wi2 you have to register beforehand before you can use their system, but at least this way you'll have some free wifi if you don't gomeither route. Note though that not all Starbucks have free wifi as this just started here in June/July.


G'luck
 
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nice gaijin

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yes I've used the starbucks wifi before. if you scroll up a bit I've already found a decent affordable data SIM through b-mobile which mostly covered my needs, I was just hoping there were more options out there. My only complaint about b-mobile is the SIM card is only good for 30 days, and you have to top it up, and whatever remaining data you haven't used is forfeit... but that's pretty standard
 

cewong2

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From what I heard was b-mobile had much better plans up until a couple of months ago when they switched to the current offerings. Sadly that meant the 2gb plan was halved Both in time allowance, but e price pretty much stayed the same. And the 30-day plan you saw was throttled, and doesn;t give a constant connection/speed to do things like Skype or YouTube. My friend use to recommend it a lot, I wonder what she will do now when she returns next time..

G'luck, but yeah Japan doesn't really have much in prepaid in anymore, SoftBank changed the requirements a few years ago for their prepaid, which in a nutshell made it nearly impossible for a non-resident to get. But if your friend is willing to register it under their name then you could get it. But it costs 16yen per 6 seconds of data, which basically comes out to be 9600yen per hour, so yeah not recommended.
 

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Hey all, I tried doing a search and every thread I found regarding this subject had my own responses in them.
I'm in Japan for a couple months, I have a smart phone (two now, actually: an old iPhone 3G and a Galaxy S2 HD) and I would like to get a prepaid SIM card with a data plan. All signs point to Japan being woefully behind in this regard, but I'm hoping there's an option out there for someone like me who is seeking short-term service without the contract. Even just finding a decent prepaid plan is obnoxious, as everyone insists you have THEIR phone.
I've been flitting in and out of Japan for a few years now, and each time I am stymied by the lack of support for travelers by the phone companies. I love being in Japan but I've found this terribly frustrating. Even Thailand and the Philippines have better service options for visitors, where they quite literally gave me a free SIM at the airport upon arrival, and I had phone service within 5 minutes of stepping through immigration.
I have a phone that will work in any country, and I'm willing to pay a fair rate for service, I just need a SIM card.

You can buy Travelsim - it's international roaming sim-card, which can be used in Japan too (it only works with unlocked phones though, and your phone has to have 3G option, otherwise it won't work in Japan). Incoming calls in Japan are free of charge with it and making outgoing calls/using GPRS isn't that expensive.
 
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