With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, more and more places in Japan are offering free WiFi hotspots. Among notable changes, since 2015 Mount Fuji climbers can access free WiFi at the top of Japan’s most iconic mountain, and starting 2018, all Shinkansen bullet trains are slowly but surely getting equipped with free on-board WiFi services.
Despite this renewed interest in making the city more appealing for tourists, it’s sometimes a challenge to find and connect to a free hotspot. Keep reading to find out where to find free WiFi hotspots in Japan, important points to consider when using them, and a reliable alternative to these sometimes-risky free connections.
Best Places to Find Free WiFi in Japan
Here are some of the best places to find WiFi hotspots in Japan.
Convenience stores are everywhere in Japan. You can’t walk more than a few hundred metres in Tokyo without finding one, which makes them the perfect place to host free WiFi. The biggest chains are Seven Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart, all of which have their own WiFi services. Not all locations offer WiFi, but if you find a store that does you can usually use it for free. Each store has their own restrictions and you may only be able to use their connections a few times a day, but speeds will usually be sufficient enough for checking your email in a pinch.
If you’re a world traveller, you might be surprised at how few cafés and restaurants offer WiFi to customers in Japan. The reason is simple—Japanese mobile networks are so fast and coverage is so good that there is little need for locals to use free WiFi services.
Despite the recent interest in improving the tourist experience through WiFi coverage, this is still true for many smaller cafés and restaurants. The bigger chains like Starbucks and Tully’s are beginning to offer WiFi, but only in their bigger store locations. Regional chains like Ginza Renoir may also offer WiFi, depending on the location. Coffee shops in more popular tourist areas are more likely to offer WiFi to customers.
As part of the Tokyo Olympics push, many of the stations in and around Tokyo have started offering WiFi to customers. Connecting to this network can be a chore, though, as stations will usually only have one or two routers out of sight and difficult to find, making the connection spotty at best. Note that WiFi is not available on the trains themselves, so once you leave the station your connection will be lost and you’ll have to reconnect at your destination station, or at each short stop along the way.
Each of the train networks uses their own unique system, so if you think you might need to rely on station WiFi, be sure to do some research before you leave. Below is a list of free WiFi services in Tokyo area train stations:
Tokyo Metro: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/tips/freewifi/index.html
The city of Tokyo is also introducing WiFi networks at select tourist destinations. The locations are currently limited, but some of the most popular destinations such as Shibuya and Ginza are covered, with more areas being added regularly. Some of them are not free, but if you’re caught without the internet and absolutely must access it, you may have no choice but to buckle down and pay.
Before you arrive, make sure to download the Japan Connected WiFi app for Android and iOS. This will give you access to most of the WiFi networks mentioned above without the hassle of entering your details every single time.
The Free Hotspot Experience: Drawbacks
From researching tourist destinations to booking tickets, the internet is essential to keeping your holiday on track. Whether checking into a hotel or booking your next train ticket, you’re going to need a stable and reliable connection, which is where free hotspots may let you down. The slow speed or intermittent connection may limit you from being able to access the information you need when you need it.
If you find yourself using online services like Google maps you will need definitely need a mobile internet connection. Hopping between hotspots is a nuisance and will likely get in the way of enjoying your holiday.
The biggest problem with free hotspots, however, is the issue of security. Since data security is more important than ever, it is crucial to understand that open WiFi hotspots carry risks. You have no control over who can see your data and other users can potentially see the websites you’re using. When using a free hotspot you should never do anything that requires entering passwords or securesensitive information, such as using your credit card or logging into your email. If you’re conscious about data security, free hotspots become far less useful. If you’re not, your information is potentially at risk.
Your Solution to Spotty Free WiFi Connections
For visitors to Japan looking to use their mobile devices while on the move, the solution is a Mobile WiFi router from Sakura Mobile. These routers are password protected with WPA2 encryption, meaning no one else can access your information. The routers use the NTT DoCoMo network which offers fast LTE speeds across all major cities in Japan, perfect for when you need to book flights, train tickets or a hotel, check reservations safely, or do any number of time critical tasks.
Sakura Mobile offers flexible plans that are perfect for visitors. You do not have to worry about being disconnected if you accidentally go over your data limit, and if you need help or have any questions, all support and instructions are readily available in English.
Pickup is also quick and easy. You can choose to have your router delivered to Narita or Haneda airport, straight to your hotel, or even a local post office. The Sakura Mobile stores are open until the last flight of the day at Narita, while Haneda offers a 24-hour counter service so you can get connected the second you land, whenever you land. You can return your router just as easily with the included prepaid envelope—just drop it into any post box anywhere in Japan.
Care-free Travel Starts with Sakura Mobile Pocket WiFi
WiFi hotspots can be handy in a pinch, giving you access to the internet as a last resort. But with the lack of available locations, their unreliability, slow speeds, and data safety concerns, they are better suited for simple tasks like checking the weather or reading the news. For important things like navigating cities, meeting people and reserving hotels and restaurants, you need something safe and more reliable, like the Sakura Mobile WiFi router.