Internet in Japan for Tourists: Free WiFi and Beyond

internet in japan

WiFi can be a lifeline for travelers around the world, but especially in Japan where your regular cellular service is not available or will cost you in high roaming fees. When planning your Japan adventure be sure to bring a WiFi-enabled mobile device to help you get around. Wifi access will help you get the best value food and shopping, as well as to discover popular tourist spots and hidden gems on the go. You will be able to use your mobile device in diverse locations including airports, convenience stores, and even on many of the super-fast Shinkansen bullet trains. Read below to successfully navigate the sometimes confusing array of WiFi options and get internet in Japan for an even more wonderful trip!

 

Getting Internet in Japan: Free and Paying Options

 

Free WiFi networks

softbank-wifi
Photo by othree on Flickr

Things have been changing quickly in the “Free WiFi” sector as Japan prepares for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. More free WiFi networks are becoming available and signal strength is improving even outside of the major cities, making easily-accessible internet in Japan for tourists and locals alike a reality. Here are a few good options for free WiFi in Japan.

 

Japan Connected-free WiFi (NTT): brought to you phone service giant NTT, this is another alternative for free WiFi in Japan. To use the service  download the Japan Connected-free WiFi app for iOS or Android. Use the handy WiFi Spot search function while out and about to find thousands of locations where you can connect, including shopping areas, many restaurants, 7/11 stores, towns and city centers and train stations.  One nice feature: You need only register one time. Fortunately, you won’t have to re-register in each new area or WiFi connection location.

 

Free Wi-Fi Passport (Softbank): provided by major cellular carrier Softbank, this service boasts many WiFi hotspots and provides 2 weeks free service with both iOS and Android support. This Free Wi-Fi Passport is a good way to get internet in Japan across all 47 prefectures, in locations including restaurants, cafes, major train stations and hotels.

 

Travel Japan WiFi (Wi2): similar to the two services above, this app is available for iOS and Android. As if getting free WiFi in Japan were not great enough, Wi2 offers an additional benefit: Use their service and get recommendations on the go of the best things to see, do, eat and experience.

 

Paid WiFi hotspot

docomo-wifi
Photo by Cheng-en Cheng on Flickr

For even more reliability and fast download and upload speeds you may wish to invest in a prepaid service. Especially good for people who really plan to use their internet in Japan, publishing blogs and surfing social networks while traveling or those that need the most reliable connections for business travel. Some choices of prepaid services available include:

 

Docomo WiFi for visitor: if simply using internet in Japan for tourist excursions lasting from one to three weeks, this service is fast, safe and affordable. Docomo’s service includes high security encryption, and for as little as 972 yen for a week or 1,404 yen for 3-weeks. To sign up you need to apply with a credit card or a coupon code. When you find a WiFi hotspot, just enter the ID and password you were issued into the login screen. You do need to login each time you connect at a new WiFi spot.

 

Wi2: as mentioned in the section on free WiFi in Japan, Wi2 has a paid service as well. Available for signup in 6 languages, this service features hotspots from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Choose from 4 different package plans, 6 hours, 1 day, 3 day and 1 week passes from 350-2000 yen.

 

Softbank WiFi Spot: this service is sold in daily packages for 467 yen per day. Important note,  In order to register, you will need to be somewhere that you can receive emails. Available in English and Japanese.

 

Pay-as-you-go

Skype WiFi: for travelers who do not need constant or frequent WiFi access (i.e., may only need occasional internet in Japan) this service only charges you for the time you are online. Only pay for the minutes you use and you do this by setting up Skype Credit. This service is global, so signing up can help you wherever you travel worldwide.

 

Restrictions/drawbacks when using public hotspots

While there are many benefits to using any of the services above to get your internet in Japan, there are also some restrictions and drawbacks to be aware of. Depending on your location as you travel you may have a difficult time finding the hotspots for each service. Download speeds vary widely and when traveling in a very busy area the networks can be quite slow as many people will be trying to connect at the same time.

A huge additional concern is in the case of emergencies, free hotspot sign up can be slow, cumbersome and complicated. When a traveler needs quick, reliable internet access at the most important times, various wifi networks can create more problems than solutions.

One of the biggest concerns of course is the security risks using public WiFi hotspots. Japan is considered a very safe place to travel but no matter what country you visit, using free WiFi hotspots can expose you to data theft. To ensure that your personal information won’t be accessed by tech-savvy strangers who want to use it for illegal activities, know the risks of free WiFi and some ways to protect yourself.

 

Alternatives to consider

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Photo by Karl Baron on Flickr

If you would like to avoid the slow signal and limited access frustrations or protect yourself better against data theft you may want to consider either a Personal HotSpot, or renting your own SIM card.

 

Personal hotspot (= Pocket WiFi)

Pocket WiFi may be one of the best ways to get internet in Japan for tourists and other short-term travelers. Having your own hotspot eliminates the frustrating search for hotspot locations, and since you will not be sharing your connection with thousands of other travelers download speeds are fast and your data is more secure. You can also connect multiple devices to the same pocket wifi, so you can share with your travel companions or login on your tablet, phone and laptop with no hassle. Also Pocket WiFi is very easy to configure and connect to, hassle-free and so simple. Using the free or paid services above you may have issues connecting, logging in or troubleshooting and getting support may be difficult if you don’t speak Japanese.  

 

SIM Card rental

Renting a SIM card for your device can keep you online 24/7 and provides the fastest connections no matter where you are. For use in a specific mobile device, this is easy to install and provides you with the best connections available.

 

Sakura Mobile Provides Internet in Japan for Tourists who Want to Stay Connected

 

If you have decided to forego free WiFi in Japan in favor of the more secure, fast network speed options that you can count on at any time, Sakura Mobile in Japan provides both of these services. You will get full English support and you can pick up your Pocket WiFi or SIM Card at the airport or have it delivered to your hotel ready for your arrival. You can also choose same day pick up service in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

For the Pocket WiFi option, choose your plan based on your internet needs from a lite service from about 300 yen per day to a Double plan that provides tons of data usage for an average of 700 yen per day.  The Sakura SIM card rental features 4G LTE speeds from Docomo, Japan’s largest network, which has achieved 99% population coverage. Whether you choose free or paid internet services, we hope you enjoy your adventures in Japan!

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