If you visit Japan, it’s so much easier if you have mobile internet access.
You can check timetables of public transportation, use Google Maps or simply post your Japan adventures on social media.
Thanks to the tourist boom in recent years, there’s now a huge variety of options one can choose from.
First, you need to decide whether you want to use a mobile Wi-Fi device or a SIM card.
I’ve used a mobile Wi-Fi device before. Here are some points you should keep in mind.
Pros and Cons of a Mobile WiFi device:
– additional device to carry around
– additional device to charge every night
– needs to be turned on and off
+ no need to fiddle around with your phone
+ no need to worry about SIM card sizes and whether it’ll really work with your phone
+ can be used with different devices (tablet, PC, smartphone)
This time I used a SIM card instead.
You can find a huge variety of data SIM cards at the international airports or at electronic stores such as Bic Camera etc.
Pros and Cons of a SIM card:
– need to remove your own SIM card and input another one
– can only be used for your phone, not for any other devices
+ easy to carry around as it’s inside of your phone
+ no extra device needs to be charged
+ different data plans are available
+ no need to pick up or send back anything
Data SIM card vs. Mobal Japan Unlimited SIM card
Getting a SIM card doesn’t sound that bad. However, what I got wasn’t just a simple data SIM card!
I also wanted to be able to make calls using a Japanese phone number.
Yes, you can rent old-fashioned simple phones for that, but then you’d still need a separate device for the mobile Wi-Fi.
Sounds like too many devices to carry around.
So, I got a Japanese SIM card that also provides a Japanese phone number.
Depending on your plan, you can even keep the SIM card and thus your Japanese phone number for your next stay in Japan.
Sounds great? It is!
Though it’s definitely not the best choice for everyone. It depends on what exactly you’re looking for.
For someone like me who regularly travels to Japan, has friends there and also travels to remote places where it’s sometimes just necessary to make a call, this sounded like a GREAT option.
I used the Mobal Japan Unlimited SIM card which comes with 7GB of 4G LTE data.
Mobal Japanese SIM card offers the following plans:
- 15 days for 4000 yen
- 30 days for 6000 yen
- SIM card can only be used once
- phone number cannot be kept after your stay
- will automatically be discontinued after the time’s up
- 60 days+
- 6000 yen / month
- 4500 yen / month (*discount for students, teachers and interns)
- 1000 yen / month (if you choose only a voice + text plan)
- great if you travel for a longer time, attend a language school or do a working holiday
- re-use SIM card and the same phone number when coming to Japan again
- switching plans or discontinuation possible at any time
How to obtain and set up your Japanese SIM card
Mobal will send you a Softbank SIM card while you’re still back home.
My Japanese SIM card arrived extremely fast. I think I had it the next day already.
In addition, you’ll receive a pamphlet containing explanations, activation code and your Japanese phone number.
All you have to do is activate the card before your trip.
Be aware that it usually takes about 1 business day to be activated.
The SIM card itself costs 3000 yen. The shipping is free of charge.
Upon activation, you’ll receive a password. You can login to the member site and see details of your bills, your plan and the current status of your SIM card.
If you’ve chosen the short-term plan, the SIM card will be deactivated automatically after the time is up. You can then toss the SIM card as it cannot be re-used.
If you’ve chosen a long-term plan, you simply discontinue the service once you leave Japan.
You won’t be billed anymore. Once you return to Japan, you re-activate the service and can use the same SIM card and phone number as before.
It’s very convenient.
How expensive is this Japanese SIM card service and is it worth it?
If you choose the 15 days plan for example, you’ll pay 3000 yen for the SIM card, 4000 yen for the plan and maybe an additional fee if you make calls during that time. Domestic calls cost 29 yen per minute, so it’s quite cheap. They will charge your credit card after your stay.
7000 yen is certainly more expensive than other SIM cards you can get in Japan, but don’t forget that those are only data SIM cards.
If you need a Japanese phone number, then this is for you.
This was my first time having a Japanese SIM card since I stopped living in Japan and it was truly convenient.
You can quickly call a taxi, call your hotel, re-arrange your itinerary.
And the costs for calling are very reasonable.
I think I’ll keep using this service for my longer Japan trips.
It also saves time as I don’t have to pick up / send back anything – which is the case for most mobile devices.
I currently don’t know of any other provider that offers an actual Japanese SIM card that also gives you a Japanese phone number as well as data.
I’m glad such a service exists now.
Still not sure?
Mobal has a money back guarantee and also a very elaborate FAQ section.
But if you still have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Mobal directly.
They have a lovely team which is very supportive. They also helped me out a lot!