How to Get Mobile Internet in Japan for Travelers: What Option to Choose?

Japan is known for having one of the fastest and most reliable mobile internet networks in the world. This makes it easy for travelers to stay connected during their time in the country. However, navigating Japan’s complex mobile carrier options can be confusing for visitors. This article will break down the best ways for tourists to get mobile internet in Japan.

mobile internet in Japan

I. Mobile Internet in Japan – Coverage and Speed

Japan has widespread 4G LTE coverage provided by multiple major carriers. 5G networks are also now available in all major cities and areas with further expansion ongoing. This gives visitors an excellent mobile internet experience across most of the country.

1. Japan Mobile Internet Coverage

Japan Mobile Internet Coverage
Japan Mobile Internet Coverage

Japan boasts excellent mobile internet coverage with widespread 4G and growing 5G availability. Here’s a breakdown of the major operators and their coverage:

NTT DoCoMo: Widest 4G and 5G coverage, reaching even remote areas.

  • Pros: Reliable network, excellent customer service, strong brand reputation.
  • Cons: More expensive plans compared to other operators, slower 5G rollout initially.

au (KDDI): Good balance of 4G and 5G coverage in urban and rural areas.

  • Pros: Competitive pricing, strong focus on data security, good customer service.
  • Cons: 5G speeds not as fast as SoftBank, limited international roaming options

SoftBank: Extensive 4G and 5G coverage, particularly in urban areas.

  • Pros: Fastest 5G speeds, innovative data plans, attractive bundled services.
  • Cons: Network congestion in peak hours, customer service can be mixed

Rakuten Mobile: Growing 4G and 5G networks, focusing on urban areas initially.

  • Pros: Most affordable plans, unique data-sharing options, innovative network technology.
  • Cons: Limited coverage compared to established operators, network stability still under development.

Recommendation:

  • For the widest coverage and reliability: Choose NTT DoCoMo.
  • For the fastest speeds and good deals: Consider SoftBank.
  • For data security and value: au by KDDI is a good option.
  • For affordability and unique features: Rakuten Mobile is worth exploring, but be aware of limited coverage.

2. Japan Mobile Internet Speed

Japan’s mobile internet speed presents a fascinating story of contrasts. While the country boasts some of the fastest mobile speeds in the world, particularly in its bustling metropolises, rural areas often lag significantly. Let’s dive into the details of mobile internet in Japan based on the Speedtest Global Index:

Japan Mobile Internet Speed
Japan Mobile Internet Speed. Source: Speedtest

National Ranking:

  • Overall: Japan currently ranks 55th in the world for mobile download speed, with a median of 46.28 Mbps. This places it comfortably in the top tier of global mobile internet connectivity.
  • Compared to its neighbors: Japan surpasses Italy (46.03 Mbps) and Spain (41.54 Mbps) but falls behind South Korea, the USA, Singapore, and UAE, the undisputed leader with a blistering 324.92 Mbp

Based on the Speedtest Global Index data for Japan:

  • In terms of median download speed for major mobile operators in Q4 2023, Rakuten Mobile delivered the fastest speed at 51.16 Mbps. NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank followed at 47.09 Mbps and 46.90 Mbps respectively.
  • Rakuten Mobile also had the highest median upload speed among major operators at 20.21 Mbps.
  • SoftBank registered the lowest median mobile latency at 43 ms.
  • In terms of consistency, Rakuten Mobile performed best in Japan during Q4 2023 with 90.6% of tests achieving at least 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speed.

So in summary, Rakuten Mobile provided the overall fastest speeds and most consistent performance on Japan’s mobile networks during Q4 2023 according to Speedtest Global Index data.

II. What are Connectivity Options for Tourists to Japan?

Visitors have 5 options for accessing mobile internet in Japan on their phones or other devices if they want to connect while touring the country.

Option How it Works Cost Where to Buy Convenience Pros Cons
SIM Card  Replaces your current SIM card with a Japanese one. Varies depending on data and duration (e.g., 3GB for 7 days: $30-$50) Airports, convenience stores, online. Requires switching SIM cards. Affordable, good data options, works nationwide. Can be inconvenient to switch cards, potential compatibility issues.
Japan eSIM Virtual SIM downloaded to your phone. Similar to physical SIM cards, but slightly cheaper. Online only. No physical card needed, easy to activate. Convenient, affordable, works nationwide. Requires compatible phone, limited availability compared to physical SIMs.
Roaming with Japan Operator Use your existing phone plan in Japan with roaming charges. Varies greatly depending on your operator and plan. Not applicable. No setup required. Familiar plan, potentially works nationwide. Expensive, data limits may apply, limited network coverage.
Public WiFi Free Wi-Fi available in many public places (cafes, airports, train stations). Free. Widely available in major cities, limited in rural areas. Free, convenient for light usage. Free  Often slow, unreliable, limited security, may require registration.
Pocket WiFi Portable device that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot for your devices. Varies depending on data and duration (e.g., unlimited data for 7 days: $40-$70) Airports, online, rental stores. Connects multiple devices, convenient for group travel. Unlimited data options, good for sharing, works nationwide. Can be bulky, additional rental fee, battery life may be limited.

For moderate data users who prioritize affordability and flexibility, SIM cards or eSIMs are good options. For tech-savvy travelers who value convenience, eSIMs might be the better choice.

Remember: Before purchasing a Japan SIM card, make sure your phone is unlocked. If you plan to use eSIM, check the eSIM Compatible Devices List.

III. Internet Rates in Japan

According to Statista, the average cost of 1GB of data in Japan is US$3.85. This cost can vary depending on the network provider and the type of plan you choose.

  • For short-term prepaid SIM cards, the price of 1GB of data can range from approximately $5 to $15 USD. Prices tend to decrease as the data allowance increases. However, keep in mind that these prices are approximate and can vary based on promotions and specific providers.
  • For longer-term data plans or contract-based mobile plans, the cost of 1GB of data is typically lower, ranging from around $1 to $5 USD. These plans often offer larger data allowances and lower per-gigabyte pricing.

IV. Data SIM Card for Mobile Internet in Japan

A data SIM card is an excellent option for tourists to get mobile internet in Japan and in touch with loved ones back home. It offers flexibility, convenience, and often better value compared to roaming charges from your home carrier.

Network Price (USD) Data Validity
bMobile ~US$13 5GB in LTE/3G 10 days
~US$20 7GB in LTE/3G 21 days
eConnect Japan ~US$32 5GB in 4G/LTE/3G 30 days
~US$46 10GB in 4G/LTE/3G 30 days
IlJmio ~US$13 1GB in 4G/LTE 30 days
~US$20 2GB in 4G/lTE 3 months
Sakura Mobile ~$33 Unlimited 8 days
~US$48 Unlimited 15 days
~US$67 Unlimited 30 days
~US$108 Unlimited 45 days
~US$119 Unlimited 60 days
~US$178 Unlimited 90 days

These are just a few of the many data SIM card options available for tourists in Japan. Be sure to compare prices, data allowances, and validity periods before making a purchase. You can also find more information and purchase SIM cards online or at airports and convenience stores in Japan.

V. Data eSIM for Japan – Best Option for Tourists

Using an eSIM is the most convenient way for travelers to get mobile internet in Japan. An eSIM provides data plans remotely with no physical SIM card required. This avoids SIM swapping and makes managing mobile internet simple across multiple destinations. Here are the two best options for getting an eSIM with Japan data for travel:

1. Buy eSIM from Japan Operators

Major providers like Docomo and SoftBank offer prepaid eSIM plans for tourists. 

Registration Process:

When you purchase an eSIM, you will need to provide your passport or ID card for registration. This is a requirement for all mobile phone services in Japan. The registration process can be done online or at a physical store.

Pros of buying from Japanese operators:

  • Wide coverage: Major operators like Docomo and au offer extensive coverage throughout Japan.
  • Variety of plans: Choose from plans with different data allowances and validity periods.
  • Direct support: Access customer support directly from the operator in case of any issues.

Cons of buying from Japanese operators:

  • Language barrier: Websites and support might be primarily in Japanese.
  • In-person registration: Requires visiting a physical store for registration in some cases.
  • Limited data options: Some plans might have lower data limits compared to virtual eSIM providers.

By considering these factors, you can choose the best eSIM option for your travel needs and enjoy seamless mobile internet in Japan.

2. Buy eSIM from GIGAGO

Japan eSIM
Japan eSIM

Gigago is a virtual eSIM provider, meaning you can purchase and activate eSIM online without needing to visit a physical store or show your passport. This can be convenient for travelers who want a hassle-free experience. Here’s what you need to know about buying a Japan eSIM from Gigago:

Pros of Buying from Gigago:

  • Convenience: Purchase and activate online without visiting a store or showing your passport.
  • Multiple options: Choose from different data allowances and validity periods.
  • Competitive pricing: Generally cheaper than buying directly from Japanese operators.
  • English website: User-friendly interface and support available in English.
  • Instant delivery: Receive the eSIM via email within minutes of purchase.

Things to Consider:

  • Phone compatibility: Ensure your phone supports eSIM technology and is compatible with the KDDI (au) network. Check the eSIM Compatible Devices List.
  • Data usage: Choose a plan with enough data for your expected usage.
  • Network coverage: Check if the KDDI (au) network coverage meets your needs.

In summary, Gigago provides a hassle-free way for travelers to get mobile internet in Japan without needing to visit the country first. Our online-only purchasing process allows instant activation of an eSIM plan on a compatible phone from providers like KDDI. Just be sure to check phone compatibility and data limits beforehand to ensure a smooth virtual eSIM experience during your trip to Japan.

VI. FAQs

What’s the best option for mobile internet in Japan as a tourist?

For short trips, purchasing an eSIM like GIGAGO provides the most convenience and flexibility. Data plans can be ordered online and activated remotely without swapping SIMs. Local SIM cards also work but require an in-person shop visit on arrival.

How fast is mobile internet in Japan?

Average 4G LTE speeds range from 20-60 Mbps down while 5G exceeds 200 Mbps. This enables smooth HD video streaming and lag-free web use. Japan has some of the fastest mobile data speeds globally.

How much does mobile internet cost in Japan?

1GB of 4G data costs around 500-1000 yen. Unlimited data for a 2-week tourist stay can cost as low as 3500 yen. Japan has low rates compared to most other countries.

Where can I buy a Japan SIM card or eSIM?

SIM cards are sold at electronics shops, airports, and other retailers in Japan. Major eSIM providers include GIGAGO for tourist plans ordered online. Purchasing in advance of arriving is recommended.

Do I need an unlocked phone to use a Japan SIM?

Yes, only unlocked devices can have a new SIM inserted and activated by a Japanese carrier. Confirm your device is unlocked before traveling to use a local SIM. iPhones in particular may be locked.

VII. Conclusion

Japan presents travelers with excellent mobile connectivity options thanks to widespread coverage, fast speeds, and competitive rates. Purchasing a local data SIM or tourist eSIM are the two best ways visitors can gain affordable, reliable mobile internet in Japan. With mobile data demand higher than ever, having this connectivity ensures tourists get the most out of their time discovering Japan.

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