While public Wi-Fi is serviceable in Japan, constant access to mobile networks can make your travel experience more enjoyable. That could mean finding the best places to eat in an instant, calling your accommodation for directions or even just posting that perfect snap to social media to make all your friends jealous. We have compiled all the options here so you can make a well informed decision about the best option for you.
The Important Stuff
-SIM Cards are cheaper than using roaming or hiring a portable Wi-Fi modem, though require an unlocked phone
-We recommend the BMobile Visitor SIM for travelers pre-purchasing a SIM card before arriving in Japan if they are staying for 21 days or less
-There are also a number of kiosks selling travel SIM cards at major airports around Japan so you could pick one up there during your layover
-If you need a SIM card in Niseko, the IIJmio Japan Travel SIM is more expensive, but is available for purchase at the Lawson in Hirafu Village
Before purchasing a rental sim card, make sure that your phone is not network-locked and it is compatible with the networks in Japan. These days most phones will work no matter their country of origin, so a travel SIM should work fine so long as your phone has not been locked by your network carrier. These SIM cards are designed for foreign travelers and as such have no restrictions on purchasing and many have support in languages such as English.
A few companies offer voice and data sim cards, though these are usually for durations over thirty days and are often unavailable for people on a tourist visa. For travelers on shorter trips, a data sim in combination with a VoIP application such as Skype or Google Voice provides a similar experience and is often cheaper.
Pre-Purchasing A SIM Card
SIM cards can be pre-purchased before arriving in Japan and picked up at the airport or delivered directly to your accommodations. For trips of up to three weeks, we recommend the BMobile Visitor SIM. This SIM card offers 5GB of data for a 21-day period and costs ¥3480 tax inclusive. It can be delivered to post offices in most of the major airports in Japan for pickup on arrival. It can also be delivered to your accommodation or purchased in major electronic chain stores such as Yodobashi Camera or BIC Camera if you are staying near a more urban area.
The airport post offices in Narita Airport are located in Terminal 1 on the 4th floor and Terminal 2 on the 3rd floor. The post office in Kansai International Airport is located in the southern part of the 1st floor of Terminal 1. For New Chitose Airport, head to the 2nd floor of the Domestic Terminal. For more detailed information about locations, have a look at the page provided here.
If you are staying for slightly longer, the service can be extended for up to 10 days, costing ¥500 for an extra 1GB and 1 day of service. As such, it may be worth it to extend it or even buy a second SIM card if staying longer than 29 days. Longer-term travelers may also want to look into the Mobal Japan Tourist SIM. This offers 3GB for ¥3490 or 10gb for ¥5990 tax inclusive, both available for a 30-day period.
Purchasing a SIM Card at the Airport
You can also purchase SIM cards directly when you arrive in Japan at major airports such as Narita Airport or Kansai International Airport. There are many kiosks dotted around the terminals and you can peruse the offerings at your leisure to try and find one that best suits your needs.
While this is certainly an option, we would suggest that trying to analyze the fine print of a half-dozen SIM card offerings while jetlagged from an international flight might not be the best idea. That being said, there is a range of choices at these places and it might be a good idea to pick up a SIM card here rather than trying to find one before you head out to the powdery backcountry of Niseko where the pickings are slim.
Purchasing a SIM Card in Niseko
If you need a SIM card, but you’re already in Niseko, there are a few options. However, they aren’t as good as the pre-purchasing options. Lawson in Hirafu village offers a few options for SIM Cards, the best being the IIJmio Japan Travel Sim, available in 1GB (¥2650 tax inclusive) for 30 days and 2GB (¥4090 tax inclusive) for 3 months. While the Japan Travel SIM does not offer as much value as other options, it is available in Niseko and will work just fine if you just need a SIM card and didn’t purchase one in advance.
Purchasing a travel SIM card in Japan should help you make the most of your trip. Though if you don’t think you will need one, check out our other post here detailing all the best places in Japan you can find free Wi-Fi in Japan. Whichever option you choose, there’s one thing we do know: the snow is coming in fast and Niseko is the only place to be in the coming months. See you on the slopes!