Good Japanese Pre-Paid SIM Card?
April 13, 2016 9:55 PM   Subscribe

Any Japan hands have any recommendations for a good prepaid SIM card? I'll be transiting through Narita and proceeding directly to Itami (Osaka Municipal Airport). If there is an affordable data plan that would be great although I will be purchasing mobile internet (LTE, Wimax or 4G) hotspot and it will be shared with members of my family.

I'll be in Japan for a couple of months starting May 1. I am from Canada. In the past, because of different wireless standards between the two countries, I have never been able to use my smartphone (bought in Canada) in Japan. I have a Nexus 5, and I noticed last trip I was able to connect and roam on the Japanese networks. Apparently it's something to do with the Nexus 5 technology or something. My previous Canadian-bought smartphones have been useless in Japan, so I was pretty surprised the Nexus 5 worked. I didn't bother buying a SIM card that time but this time around it would be nice.
posted by My Dad to Technology (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a data-only SIM Card for my iPhone through Iijmo and it's pretty darn cheap. I think I pay about 1700 yen a month for internet and texting. It looks like they'll support the Nexus 5 on their website. It was a little bit of a pain to set up though. You'll have to be somewhere with a wireless network you can get on to complete setting up your account. And you'll have to know Japanese or get help to get through registration and installation. But the cards should be available at any big-box electronics store.
posted by Caravantea at 5:33 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I went to the big Yodobashi in Akihabara last year to look at data-only sims. There were many different brands but I ended up buying the "official" Yodobashi one. I think it was around ¥4000 for 30 days with a few GBs. The connection was 4G but the download speed was painfully slow. It maxed out around 256KBPS. I went back to complain in Yodobashi and asked if any of the others were better. The woman there said that they're all the same just with different branding. They were all using Docomo 4G which should be very fast but appears to be throttled for the PAYG type. You also have to have a credit card to activate it and give them your passport number. as well as filling out both a paper and online form. It was a terrible experience all round, but seemed like the only easy way for tourists to get data.

You can also rent a sim from Softbank in Narita airport (and only in Narita, you can't get it in Tokyo). It costs more but probably has faster speed. The Softbank one had phone and data. I think the Softbank one had a daily charge.
posted by nevan at 6:52 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I snagged a "Yokoso SIM" data-only SIM (the only sort available to tourists, FYI) off Amazon before a recent trip to Japan. Worked fine, though as others have pointed out, the data was a little slow. As with other brands, it's an NTT DoCoMo-based MVNO, but as a plus, it's easier to acquire of outside of Japan without any hassle.

Am I reading your post wrong, or are you indicating that you're planning to rent a hotspot (or pocket-wifi, in the local lingo) when in-country? Because buying a SIM isn't going to do much for you that the hotspot can't, and the SIM will almost certainly have less data allowance and worse speeds. Acquiring a fully functional SIM (with phone and SMS services) is practically impossible for a tourist in Japan.
posted by BrandonW at 7:14 AM on April 14, 2016

I have used a Nexus 5 on IIJMio and it worked flawlessly. Mio's speeds are generally good on LTE compared to other MVNOs here. I can't speak to the process for visitors, but once you get the SIM, setting it up is easy. I seem to recall that the SIM cards actually come with presets for the APNs, and one of them was specifically for the Nexus 5.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks all. These are great suggestions. I was thinking more of voice, with data a nice to have (I have to share the wifi hotspot with others in our family). I have a Japanese credit card and bank account, and a house, and residency (thru my wife). We go back to Japan for 2-4 months a year. I just never researched how to get a SIM card before as I use an old flip phone in Japan.
posted by My Dad at 8:02 AM on April 14, 2016

b-mobile is one if the MVNO options and worked pretty well for me as a resident for voice and data 2 years ago.

Visitors are only allowed data afaik but since you have a residence address there, you should be able to pick up the sim at a Yodobashi and then follow their setup instructions which includes an address verification step.
posted by tillwehavefaces at 10:52 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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