SoftBank SIM Cards & eSIM for Tourists: How to Get and Activate

SoftBank mobile operator
SoftBank mobile operator

Traveling to Japan and need a local SIM card for your smartphone? SoftBank is one of the major mobile operators in Japan that offers SIM cards and eSIM for both short term and long term use. This article provides an overview of SoftBank SIM card and eSIM options for tourists.

I. Quick facts about SoftBank

SoftBank Group (SoftBank)
SoftBank Group (SoftBank)

SoftBank is one of the major mobile network operators in Japan. Some key facts about SoftBank in Japan:

  • Founded year: 1981
  • Full company name: SoftBank Group Corp.
  • Types of services provided: Mobile, fixed-line, broadband, e-commerce, technology investments
  • Number of subscribers: 45.621 million mobile subscribers as of March 2021 for SoftBank Corp.
  • Coverage: SoftBank Corp. operates mobile network throughout Japan
  • Estimated number of network of stores, agents: Over 1,000 SoftBank stores in Japan
  • Customer support: 24/7 call centers, support available in Japanese, store locations and opening times vary across Japan

II. Japan SoftBank Coverage and Speed

Coverage and speed are the major considerations for any foreign visitors.

1. SoftBank coverage in Japan

SoftBank coverage map - Opensignal
SoftBank coverage map – Opensignal

SoftBank has the most extensive 4G LTE and 5G coverage in Japan covering almost the entire population.

Some key facts about SoftBank’s coverage in Japan:

  • SoftBank has the most consistent quality network coverage across Japan, with a score of 83.8% for Consistent Quality. This means SoftBank’s network is sufficient to support common mobile applications and tasks for users.
  • SoftBank remains the sole winner for Games Experience and 5G Games Experience. This means users feel in control of games, receive immediate feedback, and experience little delay when gaming over SoftBank’s network, especially 5G network.
  • SoftBank wins 5G Video Experience outright with a score of 77.4 points, meaning users can stream 1080p video with satisfactory loading times and little buffering over SoftBank’s 5G network.
  • SoftBank does not hold either the Download Speed Experience or 5G Download Speed awards, but provides the second fastest download speeds after the joint winners NTT Docomo and au.

SoftBank has the most consistent quality coverage and best experiences for gaming and video streaming according to this network performance data, though it does not have the fastest average download speeds.

>>> So with extensive 4G and 5G coverage by SoftBank, tourists will have reliable high-speed internet access when traveling across Japan - be it cities, rural areas, subway stations or remote islands.

2. SoftBank speed in Japan

SoftBank network speed rating - Opensignal
SoftBank network speed rating – Opensignal

SoftBank has one of the fastest and highest quality mobile networks in Japan.

Some key facts about SoftBank’s speeds based on the Speedtest Global Index data for Japan:

  • For mobile internet speeds in Q4 2023, Rakuten Mobile delivered the fastest median download speed at 51.16 Mbps, followed closely by NTT Docomo, SoftBank and au.
  • SoftBank had the lowest median mobile multi-server latency at 43 ms, followed by Rakuten Mobile and au.

While not the fastest, SoftBank's mobile network offered low latency and good consistency according to these Speedtest Global Index results for Japan.

*Data from SoftBank Opensignal report October 2023

III. What are the Best Connectivity Options of SoftBank for Travelers to Japan?

As a tourist traveling to Japan, you have three main options to get high-speed mobile connectivity on SoftBank:

Connectivity OptionPocket WiFiRoaming ServiceSIM Card
Pros– Portable and can connect multiple devices– No need to purchase separate device- Data charged at Japanese rates rather than roaming rates– Low cost option for extended stays- Supports local phone number
Cons– Higher per day/week cost than longer term options– Only viable for short trips- Coverage depends on home provider’s roaming agreements– Need Japanese phone/address for activation- Could require outbound international calls to activate
Duration1-7 daysOnly during trip length1 week – 1 year+
Data AllowanceUsually 2-10 GB/dayAs per home provider’s planRange from 1GB/mo to unlimited
SpeedDependent on congestionDependent on home & roaming network qualityUses SoftBank’s 4G/5G network
Devices SupportedUp to 5 devices on one rentalOnly on device with roaming enabledOne device/SIM slot
Cost (per day)From ¥980-¥2,400+ taxAdditional roaming charges from home carrierPlans start from ¥2,000/mo
Internet options for tourists visiting Japan

Read more: What is Data roaming?

>>> So in summary – SoftBank SIM cards and eSIM offer the most flexible and cost-effective connectivity options for most tourists to Japan. Rental phones provide simplicity but are pricier.

>>> Recommendations:

  • For short trips of 1-2 weeks, purchasing a SoftBank SIM card and data plan offers the best value. Do this at an airport store upon arrival to avoid needing a Japanese address.
  • Trips 3 weeks or longer, renting a pocket WiFi device from SoftBank is most convenient as it allows connection of multiple devices without international roaming charges.
  • Consider a unlimited data plan if planning intensive use like streaming video. Otherwise, a mid-tier 5-10GB plan is adequate for casual use.

IV. Best SoftBank SIM cards for Tourists & Cost

SoftBank offers prepaid SIM cards with short-term data plans tailored for international tourists visiting Japan. Here are the best SoftBank SIM card options:

Here are two recommended SoftBank SIM card plans for tourists in Japan presented in bullet points:

SoftBank Japan Prepaid SIM Card

  • 7 Day Plan: 500 MB data, 100 mins calls/texts. Valid for 7 days. ¥3,500 ($25 approx.)
  • 14 Day Plan: 1.5 GB data, 200 mins calls/texts. Valid for 14 days. ¥4,000 ($30 approx.)
  • 30 Day Plan: 3GB data, 300 mins calls/texts. Valid for 30 days. ¥5,500 ($40 approx.)
  • Data speed reduced to 128 Kbps after plan quota.
  • Available at airports, SoftBank stores or ship to hotel. Self-activation.

Global Advanced SIM

  • 5 GB data valid for 21 days. Speed reduced to 128 kbps after 5GB.
  • Unlimited Japan calls and 100 international minutes.
  • ¥3,980 ($29 approx.)
  • Suitable for inbound tourists to Japan.
  • Available same pick up locations as Prepaid SIM Card. Easy self-activation.

Both SIM options provide prepaid data, call/text allowances at affordable prices, making SoftBank a convenient choice for travelers’ connectivity needs in Japan.

V. Does SoftBank Japan support eSIM?

Yes, SoftBank does offer eSIM support in Japan for compatible phones enabling activation of SoftBank mobile service without needing a physical SIM card.

Some key facts about SoftBank eSIM in Japan:

  • Compatible devices – SoftBank eSIM currently works on all iPhones from XS and newer models. Many flagship Android phones from Samsung, Google, Motorola also support eSIM.
  • eSIM plans – SoftBank provides the same prepaid data plans on eSIM as available on physical SIM cards. Plans range from daily, weekly to monthly durations with unlimited or fixed data options.
  • Digital activation – Users can digitally download SoftBank eSIM profile by scanning QR code on compatible phones without visiting any store.
  • Multi-SIM support – Having eSIM means your phone can hold 2 active plans – SoftBank eSIM plus your home country physical SIM.

So with eSIM support, SoftBank Japan offers the latest connectivity option for modern travelers who prefer the convenience of digital activation over physical SIM cards.

Notes: When choosing eSIM as your data option, check out your device's eSIM compatibility first.

VI. Where can you buy a SoftBank SIM card and eSIM?

SoftBank makes it easy for tourists to purchase SIM cards and eSIM across Japan through various sales channels:

1. Where to buy SoftBank SIM for Japan

You can buy SoftBank SIM card at local store
You can buy SoftBank SIM card at local store

SoftBank SIM cards are easily available at these locations:

  • SoftBank stores – available across 300+ stores in all major cities and airports in Japan. Store staff can help set up the SIM.
  • SoftBank distributors – SIMs sold at partner retail outlets like Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera, Yamada Denki, and airport shops.
  • Online – can be purchased on SoftBank Global Rental website and delivered globally or to your hotel in Japan.
  • Airports – SoftBank SIM vending machines and counters available at Narita, Haneda airports in Tokyo along with Kansai airport in Osaka.

So tourists have multiple convenient options to buy SoftBank SIMs – online delivery or offline stores/airport counters.

2. Where to buy Japan SoftBank eSIM

To get SoftBank eSIM, tourists have the following options:

  • SoftBank online store – purchase eSIM voucher on SoftBank’s Global website and activate eSIM by scanning QR code.
  • Apple Store Japan – SoftBank eSIM can be purchased from Apple stores in Japan and activated instantly.
  • SoftBank stores – get eSIM QR code from select SoftBank retail stores to activate eSIM on your device.

SoftBank eSIM process is quick through online delivery of QR code or in-store eSIM activation. No need to swap physical SIMs.

VII. How to Use and Activate SoftBank Japan SIM/eSIM in Japan?

Activating and using SoftBank SIM card or eSIM on your phone in Japan is easy:

SoftBank SIM Card

  1. Unlock device – First ensure your phone is unlocked and works globally.
  2. Insert SIM – Turn off your phone and insert the SoftBank SIM in the SIM slot.
  3. Setup APN – Turn on phone. Go to SIM settings, select SoftBank APN and save APN settings.
  4. Top up balance – Purchase a prepaid SIM plan and recharge the SIM to activate service.
  5. Start using – You can now make calls, send SMS and use mobile data in Japan.

SoftBank eSIM

  1. Check eSIM support – Ensure your phone model supports eSIM functionality. Latest iPhones and Android phones should be compatible.
  2. Download profile – Purchase SoftBank eSIM voucher online and scan the QR code to download eSIM profile.
  3. Activate eSIM plan – Select a prepaid eSIM data plan, enter details and payment to activate the eSIM.
  4. Start using – SoftBank service will be enabled and you can start using mobile data and calling immediately.

Check out: How to install eSIM – Full guide

>>>Advice: both SoftBank SIM and eSIM are easy to set up directly on your phone taking only a few minutes to get connected. We highly recommend eSIM for its convenience and easy-to-use features.

VIII. How to top-up SoftBank Japan SIM/eSIM

To extend or add more data after activating your SoftBank SIM card or eSIM, you can easily top-up balance in Japan:

For SoftBank SIM card

  • Online top-up – Use the prepaid SIM card number to top-up your balance on SoftBank Global Rental website.
  • Cash top-up – Go to a SoftBank retail store in Japan and pay cash to recharge your SIM.
  • 7-Eleven stores – Majority of 7-Eleven stores in Japan have SIM top-up machines to add money to SoftBank SIM.
  • Top-up cards – Purchase SIM top-up cards from SoftBank stores, resellers, and enter the code to recharge account.

For SoftBank eSIM

  • Online top-up – Login to your eSIM account on SoftBank Global website and pay by card to add more data quota.
  • App top-up – Use ‘SoftBank Quick Top-up’ app to recharge your eSIM by entering phone number and paying by credit card.

So multiple convenient options for tourists to quickly top-up both SoftBank SIM card and eSIM during their Japan visit.

IX. Alternatives to Japan SoftBank

While SoftBank is the most popular choice, tourists also have other mobile network options in Japan:

1. SIM Cards by Other MVNOs

Here are some other popular Japan SIM card options to consider as an alternative to SoftBank when traveling to Japan:

OperatorPlan NameData AllowanceValidity PeriodPrice (JPY)Price (USD)
BmobileData SIM1GB30 days1,980$14.58
Data SIM3GB30 days2,970$22.02
COMSTData SIM1.5GB30 days2,420$18.01
Data SIM10GB30 days8,800$65.63
GTN MobileData SIM1GB30 days5,000$37.25
Data SIM5GB30 days10,000$74.25
IIJmioTravel SIM1GB30 days1,990$14.79
Travel SIM2GB30 days3,020$22.48
MobalData SIM1GB30 days3,990$29.66
Data SIM10GB30 days16,500$123.26
Nippon SIMData SIM1GB30 days1,780$13.23
Data SIM2GB30 days1,980$14.79
Sakura MobileData SIM1GB30 days4,950$36.90
Data SIM10GB30 days26,400$197.01
Wi-Ho!Data SIM1GB30 days4,980$36.93
Data SIM5GB30 days5,980$44.37
Some MVNOs in Japan

You can base on these criteria of Japan SIM card above to choose the best alternatives for your trip.

2. eSIM from Japan eSIM providers

If you’re looking to travel to Japan and want to avoid the hassle of switching SIM cards or paying expensive roaming fees, then Gigago is your solution.

With you can access high-speed 4G/5G mobile data directly on your device, without hassle or roaming fees.

Simply choose an eSIM data package, scan the activation QR code, and you’re ready to explore Japan with seamless connectivity. Plans start from just $5 for 3 days up to $88.50 for a full month.

Some key benefits:

  • No physical SIM card needed – it’s all digital!
  • Flexible plans to suit all trip lengths
  • Works across Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank networks
  • Easy setup via the camera on your eSIM compatible device
  • 24/7 support if needed

>>> With Gigago Japan eSIM you can browse maps, stream shows and stay in touch back home without worry. Installation takes minutes, and their detailed guides ensure a smooth process.

Give yourself peace of mind and guaranteed connectivity throughout your Japan trip. Browse packages and get your eSIM today – you’ll be connected and ready to enjoy every moment!

X. FAQs about SoftBank in Japan

Q1. Does SoftBank offer free SIM cards for tourists?

No, SoftBank does not provide any free SIM cards. You have to purchase a prepaid SIM card plan based on your duration and data needs.

Q2. Can I use SoftBank SIM in other Asian countries?

SoftBank SIM is valid only in Japan. It cannot be used for roaming outside Japan.

Q3. Is SoftBank or Rakuten better for tourists?

SoftBank is better owing to wider coverage, faster speeds, availability of stores and English support. Rakuten Mobile is cheaper but has limited 4G-only network.

Q4. Does SoftBank SIM work for voice calls?

Yes, SoftBank SIM cards and eSIM plans allow voice calls and SMS texting along with mobile data.

Q5. Can I use my SoftBank SIM in a 4G router or pocket WiFi?

Regular SoftBank SIM won’t work in a 4G router. You need to purchase a specific ‘Prepaid SIM for GSM LTE WiFi Router’ from SoftBank for pocket WiFi and routers.
So in summary, SoftBank SIM cards provide complete cell phone service – calls, texts and mobile data on tourist’s own phones in Japan. For 4G routers and hotspots, a dedicated data-only SIM card is required.

XI. Conclusion

To conclude, getting a SoftBank SIM card or eSIM is highly recommended for hassle-free mobile connectivity when visiting Japan.

SoftBank has unparalleled coverage across Japan with superfast 5G in cities and reliable 4G in rural areas. Their prepaid SIM plans offer great value with unlimited data options starting just over $20 for 3 days. eSIM support also enables digital activation for latest phones.

SoftBank SIM cards can be conveniently purchased online or at stores/airport counters across Japan. Managing your prepaid SIM or eSIM is easy with online account and abundant Japanese top-up options available. Going for SoftBank SIM or eSIM is a sure-shot choice for staying connected during your Japan trip.

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