Pre-paid SIM in Japan
February 16, 2012 3:36 PM   Subscribe

How can I best get cell data while in Japan? I've got a GSM Galaxy Nexus that I'd like to use while I'm in Japan. Is it possible to purchase a pre-paid SIM? If so, where would these be sold? I'll be in Nagoya, if that helps.
posted by VoteBrian to Travel & Transportation around Nagoya, Japan (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As far as I know, there is no GSM network in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:38 PM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: Oh wow, looks like you're right. I knew they were selling the Galaxy Nexus in Japan, and I guess I just assumed they were getting the GSM version. Thanks.
posted by VoteBrian at 3:48 PM on February 16, 2012

There also are not really any free WiFi hotspots either. How long are going to be in Japan? There are cellphone rentals, as well as Wimax G4 broadband rental options, but for short term visitors these can pretty expensive.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:51 PM on February 16, 2012

There's plenty of GSM in Japan these days. Apple has been selling the GSM iPhone there since 2008. Here's a MacRumors thread talking about carriers and SIM card availability.
posted by zsazsa at 3:53 PM on February 16, 2012

OK, it looks like "GSM" is a bit of a misnomer in what I just said, as the service in Japan is limited to the 3G UMTS/W-CDMA standard, which is commonly provided by GSM providers elsewhere in the world, and as such gets labeled as "GSM." So an old 2G or lower GSM phone won't work, but 3G and newer ones probably will.
posted by zsazsa at 3:59 PM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: I'll be there for two weeks on the first trip, then another three weeks a month later. My company is paying for a cell phone rental while there, but I'm guessing it won't have internet access. I mainly wanted to have the Google Translate app as a backup. Plus, it'll be during March Madness, so I'd like to be able to check scores and visit websites wherever I am.

I'll look into renting a phone with internet access.

On Preview: maybe I called this too early.
posted by VoteBrian at 4:03 PM on February 16, 2012

Well, I stand corrected.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:05 PM on February 16, 2012

Best answer: Maybe this question will be helpful.
posted by clearlydemon at 4:06 PM on February 16, 2012

Best answer: I'm not a techie so sorry if this doesn't apply: We were just in Japan and it's possible to rent something called a pocket wi-fi. They were advertised widely, and you can pick one up at Narita, or have it delivered and waiting for you at your hotel with an envelope for its return. Google "Japan pocket wi-fi rental."
posted by MelissaSimon at 4:30 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

During a recent long-term stay in Japan we used "pocket WiFi", which is a portable 4G Wimax/WiFi router. It was great for home computing, although you had to stick the appliance right next to a window, but does not solve the problem of a cellular data connection.

I'm looking forward to see how the OP does in obtaining a 3G GSM SIM!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:33 PM on February 16, 2012

Response by poster: MelissaSimon, that's actually a really good idea I hadn't thought of. And the prices, while not cheap, seem comparable to those in the link from the question clearlydemon pointed out.

KokuRyu, I'll try to find a 3G GSM SIM, but the portable hotspot thing seems like the less complicated, better solution.
posted by VoteBrian at 4:36 PM on February 16, 2012

Mrs cmetom and I are heading to Tokyo in April and have booked a "pocket WiFi" device like MelissaSimon and KokuRyu mentioned above.

We have pre-booked ours from Softbank Global Rental and if you take a look at the website they also will rent you a 3G SIM to use your own device, so it might be exactly what you're after. We don't care about voice service so will just wi-fi our phones to the pocket wifi router so we can tweet and whatnot.

On previous trips I have rented a 3G SIM from Softbank with great success, and used it in my own phone - though for voice only as this was well before iPhones so I wasn't interested in surfing or email.

If this is your Galaxy Nexus, it should work fine with Softbank's network - which is "3G GSM" HSPA at 2100MHz.
posted by cmetom at 6:31 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

How long is your trip? I used my iPhone there just fine by calling AT&T and having international data added. (It's ridiculously more expensive than it should be, but for a short trip it works.)
posted by ctmf at 9:15 PM on February 16, 2012

Softbank and DoCoMo were the networks I actually connected to with my phone, so maybe call them.
posted by ctmf at 9:17 PM on February 16, 2012

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