Using your own phone in Japan
Unfortunately in Japan, Cell Phone from your home country will most likely not work.
This is because of different technologies used in the mobile phone Japanese system.
The Japanese system works through PDC, rather than the GSM standard used in other countries.
However, some cell phone models WILL WORK in Japan.
Check this with your local service provider to be sure.
Using your own phone in Japan with a local SIM
- Your phone must be able to work on a Japanese network 3G W-CDMA system as well as GSM. If your phone is 2G CDMA it is unlikely to work due to differences in frequencies.
- Your cell phone carrier must have a roaming agreement with either Docomo or Softbank in Japan (most major carriers do)
- The phone must be SIM-unlocked
If these conditions are met, it can be used with a Softbank or Docomo SIM card.
The law in Japan requires phone sellers to verify the identity and place of residence of their customers. This makes it a little more complicated for the regular tourist to Japan, although not impossible. Normally they would ask for a Japanese driver’s license, a Japanese passport or a residence card. But some phone carriers are willing to accept foreign passports and a hotel address as verification.
With most companies, incoming calls are free and outgoing calling rates are around the same price as those of rental phones. Not all prepaid phones or SIM cards support mobile internet.
Adding value or time to your SIM card can be conveniently done at cell phone stores and convenience stores.
Using a Japanese phone with your own SIM
1) The phone must be SIM-unlocked.
2) Your cell phone carrier must have a roaming agreement with either Docomo or Softbank in Japan (all major carriers do).
This is the convenient route, but certainly not the cheapest. Check out details carefully with your local provider before traveling.
For outgoing calls you may set your phone to Wi-Fi and use Skype (read more about getting Free Wi-Fi in Japan and Additional spots for Japan Free Wi-Fi : Kyoto, Mount Fuji, Hiroshima, Osaka and more
Renting Cell Phones in Japan
Cellphones can be rented if you need phone 24/7 or if you prefer not to use your your own one from home. This can be a good deal as the mobile phones serve both as a phone and as means for connecting to the internet on the go. Most mobile phones in Japan are available for rental at the airports or via the internet for delivery to your home or hotel.
If you want to arrange everything in advance, you can do so by renting Japanese cell phones online.
Before you rent online, make sure to check if the phone has reasonable call rates, free incoming calls, the latest models available and all with English characters.
You might even find a better deal than what it costs at the Airport Booths.
G-call offers a pay-per use plan for calls within and outside of Japan.
JAL ABC lets you rent Japanese mobile phones and pick them up at the airport. The service offers various calling plans, including one for calls only and another for calls and email.
Pupuru offers various plans including one for the iPhone and one that’s prepaid.
Another option is to make your Rental at Tokyo Narita Airport company booths.
All of the companies at Narita airport have the same day fees. Some companies offer discounts for longer periods.
The fees for Rental are based on a daily rental fee plus a per usage fee.
Getting a Japan Mobile Phone for Longer Stays
For those planning to stay in Japan for longer periods of time, or frequent travelers, a regular cell phone plan, like the locals, may be the most economical solution. But to obtain such a plan, one must have an account in a Japanese bank and a residency card. Armed with those essentials, the choices are similar to those in other countries: Subscription Plans where you pay for your usage at the end of the month. The Cell phones are free or subsidized if you sign up for a 2 year service contract. Or you can buy the phone at full price and sign a month-to-month contract.
Check out the websites of the most used carriers such as Docomo NTT or Au KDDI. They both have easy to navigate English websites.
Guide to Getting a Japan Mobile Phone:
Cell Phone Rental in Japan
More Tips on using an overseas cell phone in Japan
Return from Getting a Japan Mobile Phone to Tokyo Attractions