Many people want to know if it is required to have a Japanese number. Some international carriers offer plans which claim to support international data roaming and calls. And others wonder if Skype numbers are usable.
""It IS required that you have a Japanese phone number and is HIGHLY recommended that you have a Japanese plan. "" In the end having a Japanese plan will be easier and potentially cheaper.
Whether you decide to bring your own unlocked phone or buy a new one here in Japan, the process of getting a phone number can be one of the most difficult tasks you will face when moving to Japan. It is highly recommended that you bring your supervisor with you, or someone who can interpret for you when you are ready to get a new phone number. Current JET volunteers and Local Area Coordinators will also be available around arrival time to help you.
DISCLAIMER This wiki is not affiliated with the JET Program or any contracting organization. None of the following should be considered official government recommendations or endorsements in any way.
Reddit Phones WikiEdit
If you would like to do some research beforehand on cell phones in Japan, the Japan life subreddit has an expansive phones wiki that you can use.
Before obtaining a permanent phone number, you will need a few things first:
- Your registered Zairyu (resident) Card with your updated address on the back
- Your passport
- A Japanese bank account
- A credit card in YOUR name
- An unlocked phone (for MNVO phone contracts)
DoCoMo, Softbank, au Edit
These companies are the three largest cell phone providers in Japan. You can visit either their local branches or Yodobashi Camera to discuss options. They tend to be the most expensive options but their companies will have English support available and they offer internet services that can be bundled with your cell phone bill.
Some departing JETs may have contracts with DoCoMo, Softbank, or au that they can transfer to you. You will both have to visit the phone shop together in order to sign over the contract, so this must be done before the first JET departs and after the next JET arrives in Japan. Contact your predecessor well in advance to determine whether this is a possibility.
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)Edit
If you have an unlocked smart phone, getting a sim card from an MNVO is a great option. (Note: if you have an iPhone 6, 6s or 7 or Google Nexus, your phone is automatically unlocked.) MVNOs are operators who buy network capacity from existing networks, such as DoCoMo and Softbank, and resell it. They can give pretty good deals compared to the networks they replace. Costs are significantly lower and data rollovers. If you use more than your allotted data, your data will be throttled only. These cards contain a limited data supply (usually up to 10gbs) and are paid on a monthly basis. You will need a credit card to purchase a sim card. Depending on the MNVO, you may be able to bundle internet services for your home with your phone contract.
Types of SIM Cards:
- Data Only (データ専用SIMカード)
- Data + SMS (SMS+データSIMカード)
- Data + Voice (通話+データSIMカード)
Be sure to check your phone's compatibility using the Japan life subreddit's mobile compatibility page. Be advised that it is unlikely you will be able to unlock your phone after you arrive, so plan to have that taken care of in your home country.
Compatibility of Your Phone Edit
At the very minimum, you need 3G UMTS/HSDPA support on 2100 MHz (Band 1) on an unlocked phone. This will get you by in the cities but will give subpar reception in rural locations and building cores/basements without the "platinum" sub-1GHz bands. Be sure to check your phone specs for 2100 MHz (Band 1). Use http://willmyphonework.net/ or https://www.frequencycheck.com to check if your phone is compatible with a certain network
Here is a very brief overview of basic plans and costs you can expect from various types of carriers. Information is translated from Kakaku.com. Those with Japanese ability can search their website for the most recent prices and deals.
|Example: One Month's Use of 5-6GB of Data (Voice+Data Plans)|
|Type||Company||Data Amount||Monthly Price*||English Support||2Yr Contract|
|BIC SIM (IIJmio)||6GB||2,397円||Ｘ||Ｘ|
|*does NOT include the price of phones|
Advantages of Mainline Operators vs. MNVOs Edit
Some pros of mainline operators:
- Discounted or unlimited calling plans. Free calls to users on the same operator
- Priority on the network when there is congestion
- docomo/au/SoftBank login IDs for age verification (LINE) or payment
- International roaming support
- Minor discounts are available while bundling with landline or student plans but these are usually well exceeded by MVNO savings
Some pros of MVNOs"
- Inexpensive monthly contract and able to use unlocked phone
- Payment via: Domestic or foreign debit/credit card
- WiFi routers
- Rollover data
- Voice support (residence card required)
Common Issues Edit
While this situation does not happen to everyone, you may be turned down from buying a sim card, or opening up an account with a phone provider because you do not own a credit card. Most companies do not accept debit cards and require a credit card. Some companies do not accept credit cards from other countries, though this case is decreasing.
There are also cases where a foreigner decides to leave the country, leaving their account unresolved. This creates a prejudice towards doing business with new foreigners. If you are trying to open an account with one of the three major phone providers (DoCoMo, Softbank, au) and you are denied for not having a credit card, please go to another location of the same phone provider, or go to different phone provider and try again. It is best to open up a phone plan with someone who can interpret Japanese phone contracts for you if you are not able to do so yourself.