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Basic Guide to Cellular Service and using Data in Japan

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Congrats to you Basic Traveler! Flights are scheduled and hotels are booked. The Japan itinerary is coming along and then you realize that you’re going to need cellular data to get around Japan! Now, I’ve got to say that IT IS possible to tour this beautiful country without cellular service or data. BUT it is a whole lot easier to have access to data when plans change or you need to get from point A to point B. 

In this guide, we will review the best cellular and data service plans for touring Japan. In addition, we will cover which cell phones actually work in Japan! Spoiler alert, not every cell phone has the technology to use data plans while exploring Japan. 

Options for International Plans from the United States:

T-Mobile 

The middle-tiered plan and above provide Unlimited Data and Texts in 210 Countries including Japan! This is our favorite plan which is why we are discussing it first. We have used it all over the world! This plan costs us $120 per month for two lines and is worth every penny. It worked great for getting around the country and navigating the Japanese Subway System. T-Mobile also offers the option to opt into a higher speed data plan for $5 per day. 

If you are interested in T-Mobile, they have an awesome Refer a Friend program. Send us an email ([email protected]) with your name and phone number you’ll be porting over, and we can send over the referral! We appreciate the support!

Verizon 

Verizon Wireless offers the TravelPass option which costs $10 per line each day that you choose to activate it. For $10, you receive access to the plan that you’re already paying for. The cheapest unlimited plan that Verizon offers is $120 per month for two lines which do not include taxes and fees. If you are traveling to Japan and would like access to your plan, you’re going to have to pay $10 per day per line. For two people on a 5-day trip, that will cost an extra $100 in addition to the $120 they are paying for their plan. Sorry Verizon, the Basic Travel Couple does not support a plan that charges their customers extra money to use a service they are already paying for.

Sprint

Sprint is pretty comparable to T-Mobile when it comes to international coverage. The Global Roaming Program is included with all Sprint plans and includes free texts and basic data in 200 countries worldwide, including Japan. Sprint also provides options to opt into higher speed data while traveling abroad for either $5 or $10 a day depending on the country that you are visiting. The Sprint Basic Unlimited plan costs $100 for two lines, not including taxes and fees. This appears to be a pretty competitive plan and if T-Mobile doesn’t work out for us we will definitely be checking out Sprint next! 

Options for Data once you’re in Japan

Sim Cards

You can pre-purchase SIM cards ahead of time that will be available for pickup from the Airport upon arrival. You can choose from either an 8 day or a 31 day SIM Card. These cards provide unlimited 4G LTE and allow you to hotspot access to other devices. The cost for the 8-day pass is $37.62 and a 31-day pass is $56.54. I believe this is a great option if you’re looking for unlimited high-speed internet access while in Japan whether you are with T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint. Doing the math, if you visited Japan for a week and decided to upgrade your service each day for $10. That would end up costing you $70. The 8-day pass is only $37.62.  Of course, the value increases if you are planning on touring for a month! 

You can find options for NRT or HND Airport in Japan Here:

Portable WiFi Devices 

Portable WiFi devices are pretty popular among tourists traveling around Japan! The last time we visited I had seen them all over the place. We personally didn’t rent one but our friends that have really liked the internet service they offered. The only downfall I see with these devices is that you have to remember to return them to the airport before you leave Japan. If you don’t, you’ll get hit with a $400 charge. The huge pros I see from the personal WiFi device in Japan is that you can pay per day at a rate of $5.90. You can also connect up to 5 devices at a time. Out of all of the options for high-speed data the portable WiFi devices certainly provide the most value for your money. To pick up your WiFi device, head to the portable WiFi counter and exchange your voucher for the device. 

Purchase Portable WiFi Device at NRT or HND Airport In Japan Here:

Options for Cell Phones that will work in Japan

Cell phones from the United States are compatible with Japan wireless service as long as they can access 3G data and above. It is important to check with your carrier before traveling to Japan to ensure that your phone is compatible. Especially if it’s an older model. For those of you traveling to Japan with iPhones, you have the added benefit of using the Suica App. This app will allow you to pay your fares on the public transportation system. It’s important to recognize that only iPhone model 8’s and later can be used with the Suica Mobile app. This is a huge plus and we loved being able to upload our Suica apps with money from our credit cards while on the go to pay subway or bus fares! 

Basic Breakdown of Options for Data in Japan 

Planning your own Japan trip? Check out some of our other Japan Blog Articles!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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