Cellular Service - Kyoto, Japan

WiFi Internet Access in Japan: A Work in Progress

Even though it’s one of the world’s most developed countries, free WiFi internet access in Japan is still very much a work in progress. They have a great internet infrastructure for people that live there, but as a visitor your options can seem limited. In this article I’ll give you a few solutions and point out some places where you can find WiFi.

WiFi Internet Access in Japan

When I’m home in the USA, I don’t really think about WiFi internet access because I’m always connected. If I’m at work or at home I always have a great internet connection. My phone is my main source of internet when I’m out, and I have a cellular plan that gives me all the speed and data I could want (well almost).

In Japan it’s a different story. Here you don’t have an ISP or a cell phone carrier. So how do you access the internet to check your email, say hi to family & friends on Facebook, or check up on how your favorite team is doing? Keep reading and I’ll let you know your options.

Check with Your U.S. Cellular Carrier

If you have a cellular provider that offers overseas data, then you’re all set (sort of). We use T-Mobile One which gives us unlimited 2G data and text while in Japan. Phone calls cost us a bit more at $0.25 a minute.

This is great for texting and using messenger services like What’s App or Facebook Messenger. These two apps also allow you to call other people that use the app at no additional cost.

However, the 2G speeds make it painfully slow to look anything up on the web, load Facebook or try to share your cool pictures of Japan.

Sprint also offers a good international roaming plan. My advice is contact your wireless provider and find out your options.

Free WiFi Hot Spots

Every hotel we stay at on our JAPANandmore Tours has free WiFi in the room. This will be your best and most reliable connection.

While out sightseeing, you may be able to find a café or restaurant that offers free WiFi, but I wouldn’t count on it. Starbucks is usually the easiest and most reliable free internet.

You can also find free WiFi internet in Japan at most JR stations. This usually requires a legitimate email address that needs to be confirmed before authorization is given.

Once you confirm your email address, you are allowed a one hour connection before being booted off and having to repeat the process all over again.

This service is also available on some JR trains. Not all JR trains have WiFi, but they are growing in number every time we return.

If the train you are on has WiFi available there will be either a blue, green or orange sticker above the door on either end between the train cars.

Don’t expect to find WiFi while you’re out of your hotel. If you find a signal that allows you to connect and get online, be grateful and enjoy that moment.

SIM Cards

If your phone is unlocked, you can buy a SIM card that you can put in your phone to access the internet. You can buy these cards from vending machines at the airport for a bit of a premium.

SIM Card Vending Machine

If you wait until you get into Tokyo, you can hit a Bic Camera electronics store and buy the same card for a lower price.

These SIM Cards cannot be used for placing phone calls though, they are only for using the internet. If you need a phone, you will have to rent one from a kiosk at the airport.

Pocket WiFi

A Pocket WiFi is a small router that uses a SIM Card to access the internet. You can rent these from kiosks at the airport for the duration of your holiday.

This is a much more reliable way to access the internet while out seeing the sights. The cost is usually around $50 USD per week with unlimited data.

WiFi Rental Kiosk

Get Unlimited WiFi Worldwide. No contracts or SIM Cards.

How I Get Internet in Japan

Netgear Poket WiFi

I like to be connected when I travel, just in case I need to pull up a google map, check my email or share an amazing photo on Instagram. My solution is this unlocked Netgear Pocket WiFi Router.

Unlocked means that I can put any working SIM card in it and then I can connect my cell phone, iPad and laptops to the internet. Even though there is an AT&T symbol on the front, this device is not locked to any carrier or country.

Once I arrive in Japan, I buy a Japan Travel SIM card from an electronics store like Bic Camera. Japan Travel SIM has a few packages to choose from, and the SIM card works right out of the box. Once you’ve used up all the data, you can just stop into a convenience store and buy a recharge. No need to buy another SIM card.

The Netgear Pocket WiFi Router has an easy to use graphic interface with multiple setup options. It’s also shock resistant and water proof, which is perfect when sightseeing out in the elements. I’ve used SIM cards from The USA, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia in this Pocket WiFi with no issues at all.

Be Prepared

Most people don’t think about how much they use the internet, or how they connect to it until they are overseas and it’s gone. Before leaving, check if your cellular provider offers a roaming plan. If they don’t, consider an alternative from above for getting WiFi internet access in Japan.

You won’t be off the grid in Japan, you just won’t be able to connect to it if you’re not prepared. Every turn you make will be a picture worth sharing with your friends and family, so you’ll want to be able to connect.

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