When you’re in Japan, you probably need to look up some tourist information, check timetables or use Google Maps.
In order to do so, you need Wi-Fi / internet access.
While the free Wi-Fi spots’ situation in Japan has improved quite a bit in recent years, it’s still not good enough.
Why You Need Mobile Wi-Fi in Japan
Last year when I went to Japan as tourist for the first time since moving back home, it was a horrible experience for me to suddenly have no mobile Wi-Fi access anymore.
I was used to travelling throughout Japan while having a Japanese smartphone.
With that I could access all the necessary information easily.
Suddenly being without 24/7 access was difficult indeed.
I sometimes cancel hotels last-minute and change my entire itinerary (e.g. when a typhoon approaches etc.).
Only having access to the internet at certain spots in Japan isn’t going to help in such situations.
So, this time I decided to give mobile Wi-Fi rental in Japan a try.
Where To Get Mobile Wi-Fi in Japan?
I googled and found several websites offering it.
Eventually I decided to go with the pocket Wi-Fi offered by Japan Experience on:
The prices looked okay and it’s also a trustworthy provider.
With most providers you can choose between different models.
The price varies depending on the model and the amount of time you need to rent the device.
The great thing about renting a mobile Wi-Fi device is that you can pick it up at the airport or at your hotel.
Returning it is just as easy. You can either give it back at the airport or use the already stamped envelope to return it by throwing it into any mailbox in Japan. It’s easy as that.
When I arrived at my hotel in Asakusa, the envelope with the device was handed to me right away.
All the necessary information was included as well as a charger and a bag to carry it around.
It’s so easy that you don’t even need instructions and it worked right away. It was also fully charged, so I could leave the hotel with my mobile Wi-Fi device switched on, doing its job.
This time I didn’t travel to extremely deserted places, but I went into the mountains of Nagano and even there I had no reception issues at all.
I was also very content with the speed of the internet.
I mainly used it for sharing photos on social media, e-mails and apps that helped me with planning my trip (train schedules, Google maps) etc.
It all worked just fine.
The only thing you have to be careful about is that the battery might run out after half a day, so it’s good if you carry around a charger / power bank.
I will definitely rent a mobile Wi-Fi device again next time.
Other Options for Mobile Internet Access in Japan
Of course, there are other options if you want to access the internet in Japan.
As mentioned before there are several free Wi-Fi spots in Japan, but for me that just doesn’t work out. You’re bound to that one spot where you have access. I wanted to meet a friend at Kyoto Station, but couldn’t leave the free Wi-Fi spot area as I didn’t receive any messages anymore as soon as I left. VERY annoying. So, this option comes with a lot of limitations!
You could also get a Japanese SIM card for your phone.
I might try this next time, but I think for me the pocket wi-fi option works best.
Let me know what you’ve been using in Japan and how you liked it.
If you have any other suggestions that haven’t been mentioned yet, let me know in the comments below.
Getting a Japanese SIM card does the same trick, and speed is reasonably fast. However, certain SIM card need set up, which can be a hassle. Although instruction booklet may be included, but because of handphone model variations, those instruction are not always precise. Sometime, you may need additional help from the dealer, but that’s where the language barrier kicks in.
Thanks for the advice.
I might just try this next time. :)
The first couple of times i was in Japan i rented the Pocket Wi-Fi as well and performance and coverage were great. But carrying around the device (and al related items like charger, carrying pouch and return envelope) was kinda cumbersome. Adding to that the limited capacity of the battery made me opt for renting a data SIM-card and using my own (European) phone. I was a bit wary as i was told that connection could be slow or not even possible in more remote areas.
I’ve travelled Japan from north to south with it and visited more remote areas like Daisetsuzan park in Hokkaido and some remote villages in Tohoku without a single glitch. Only had a few connection issues while in a train travelling through the mountains. But that was at most for a couple of minutes.
Now i am actually considering traveling next year without mobile internet and just using WiFI. This to force myself not to look for information on my phone but instead ask locals and maybe pickup some other nice info. ;-) Like you said there are more and more places with decent wifi connection (eg. public buildings and spaces and trainstations) and apps like “Japan Wi-Fi” and “Travel Japan” make it a breeze to connect.
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, Patrick! ^__^
I’m trying the SIM option next time, I suppose.
I didn’t mind carrying around the device. And I already carry around a charger for my phone which I also could use for the mobile Wi-Fi device, so that wasn’t an issue.
Oh, good luck with that. Let me know how well it worked out for you. ;)
Yeah it wasn’t too bulky i have to admit. But i have this thing about travelings as lightweight as possible haha. Especially with the mobile wifi the reception and speed were unmatched. My mobile connection in Japan was actually faster than my own internet connection at home. :-) When i just used the sim card on my phone it was a bit slower due to the limitations of my phone but it worked well enought to hold a Skype conversation near Dogo-Onsen.
I will let you know how things worked out without mobile internet in Japan. ;-)
I do have one question for you. You visited more than one cat island right? Is there one that stands out in particular? Or are they all worth a visit?
Can’t wait to hear back from you. ;)
I’ve been to two cat islands thus far.
They’re all quite similar, but the most famous one, Tashirojima, stands out because of the cat shaped lodging buildings … and now, also because of the somewhat sad past (tsunami 2011..). ^_^;
God, you remind me that I need to visit more cat islands soon. :D
Nice post…and right on clue!! XD I am planning to go in April and I will definitely need internet as it’s my frst time there. I am currently looking through pocket wifi rental options as there are many companies that offer it.
Good choice, I’m sure you’ll be glad to have one once there. ^_^
We’re British and were with O2 when we visited Japan for three weeks recently and just used our own phone as the daily roaming charge is £4.99 and we knew we wouldn’t need it every day. (We’ve just changed to ‘three’ because of free roaming in Europe, but that’s another story.)
There was often free wifi at railway stations but sometimes the log-on procedure was just too much hassle and sometimes access was restricted or slow because of the number of people using it.
In our research before our visit we heard that you need a Japanese address to get a SIM card. In Britain and other European countries you can pick up a SIM card for £1 or so in lots of places – really good for foreign tourists.
I agree with Patrick’s comment about not being distracted by being tempted to spend time on social media. On the days we were using roaming I found I spent more time on the internet. However, GoogleMaps was really useful (except sometimes in cities with high buildings).
It’s great reading your blogs – vielen Dank!
I agree. I usually always enjoy the time I was travelling because I didn’t check the internet at all back then.
But with my blog and with my trips getting crazier and crazier I just needed the internet on the go. :)
I’m not sure about SIM cards. I haven’t looked into it yet, but will definitely write about it once I tried.
I suppose there are services that will help you get a SIM card even if you don’t have a Japanese address.
Great post! When my family came down to visit me, I was surprised that they picked up a portable Wi-Fi unit because I did not know Japan offered such a thing. It is such an easy process to do and I think that it’s a good thing since Wi-Fi might not be available in most places when traveling around.
I laughed at your not leaving the Wi-Fi spot at kyoto station because the same thing happened to me after arriving in Tokyo. I was in Starbucks for maybe 6 hours (although i did meet some enjoyable people). I think it also helps put less stress on travelers because having to find a place with Wi-Fi, and also figuring out how to access it on their mobile site can sometimes be difficult after flying for so long to get here! And returning the thing was so easy!
Great article, I am sure many people will be getting one thanks to you!
That’s what I thought, too.
I’d rather spend a bit of money, but then have Wi-Fi access wherever I go.
I certainly don’t regret it. ^__^
Thank you! :)
We use http://japan-wireless.com/. A little better rates and with drops at the major airports, convenient too. . .