Technology has truly given travelers the gift of convenience because of all the things you can now do with a cell phone.Having a cell phone when abroad has become a necessity because of the convenience it offers a tourist. Usually, people can just buy a sim or a temporary phone when they get to the place they are visiting. Unfortunately, this is a bit more complicated because Japan has a law that makes it a bit more complex to get a phone to use for the span of your visit.
The Complicating Factor for Getting a Burner Phone: Japan’s Telecommunication Laws:
The reasons for why Japan would have laws that prevent foreigners’ easy access to any phone or telephone are quite unclear but nonetheless, it is the law there and it will be respected. Of course, Japan didn’t just ban all foreigners from getting phones. The law states that you must have a valid ID card which may come in the form of a new Residence card or an Alien card and is accompanied by a visa that shows that you are permitted to stay in Japan for at least one year before trying to get the phone.
This can be quite a problem for those who just got to Japan and are still waiting on their visas or those who will be in Japan for a matter of months because if you are in any of those two positions, the telecommunication laws practically tie you down. It is frightening to think about the time you would have to spend waiting just to get a burner phone in Japan if that were the only option. Worry not though because that isn’t the only option. There are other ways around this dilemma and these ways are also completely legal. Hopefully, reading on would guide you to choose which option is the best for you.
How to Work Around the Law by Reading between the Lines
It was specified that one without the valid requirements is prohibited from getting a cell phone or a telephone. This is where a loophole of some sort appears. One without the proper requirements can’t get a phone but he or she can definitely get a prepaid SIM card or rent a SIM from companies like SoftBank. These rentals usually have packages that go along with the SIM rental. The most cost efficient deal that they offer for rentals would be their unlimited data for 970 Yen per day. Quite pricey, but the unlimited data does sound worth it, especially with the apps that can make your travels so much more convenient nowadays.
Now, not all phones are compatible with just any SIM card. You will have to check if the phone you will bring into Japan is unlocked, which means that the phone is open to any SIM that can be used with it. It must also be compatible with Japan’s biggest network provider which is the NTT Docomo and should preferably be a smartphone so that communication applications and map applications can be maximized. Do not forget this small bit of information because it can make or break your attempt to use this sneaky trick. Some people might be thinking that you would not need a SIM with data because there are WiFi spots all over the city but one would never know when or if he or she may be caught in a sticky situation in a place that isn’t a hotspot for WiFi. Imagine going around at night and finding yourself lost in a place with no WiFi and no means of contacting friends or family. It is for this reason that having access to the internet at all times is an attractive idea for folks. Once confirmed, it is advisable to get from either B: Mobile or eConnect because the reception you get from these two bands stands above the rest.
The only bad thing about using this method is that you will be limited to the use of the internet to connect because loading up the SIM card with minutes to make voice calls and text can be quite expensive. If the figures are still correct, a call that lasts for a minute would already eat up about 40 Yen worth of your credit. Nevertheless, it is still an option if you are willing to spend that much to have a full proof way to contact people when you need to. What will basically happen if you decide to use this is that you will be able to use the data on your sim to use apps that fit your need. You can use apps like Skype or Facebook Messenger to call friends and you can also use apps like Zomato and Google Maps to find stores of your interest or the nearest locations of the stores you already have in mind. You will have access to all of this with just that Data only SIM card.
If data or a connection to the internet would be all you need to survive your stay in Japan, then this process should definitely be at the top of your option. This might not be a viable option in the years to come because the only reason why this loophole exists is because the law was made in a time when the technology was simpler. When this law was made, the internet wasn’t what it is today and phones couldn’t do what they do today too. Nowadays, having the internet could solve so many problems with a touch of the screen. It addresses issues and conflicts you might encounter on your travels and that is what makes this style or technique so appealing to those who are on a tight budget. All you will be spending on is the SIM card and the service of the band you have chosen.
Phone Rentals and Hints for those with the Proper Requirements
If you do not want to go through the tiresome process of looking up a cellphone that is compatible with Japan’s network companies and if you have the necessary documents and IDs to exemplify you from the telecommunication law, then there is nothing stopping you from just renting a mobile phone in Japan and picking the most suitable and affordable plan for you.
There are two viable cellular service providers you can turn to if this is the option you want to take. These companies are AU and SoftBank. Between these two companies, the better choice, based on reviews of previous tourists, is the company called SoftBank. SoftBank and other providers usually have booths in the airport so that any newcomer to the country can easily avail their services but in case you missed their stalls, you would have to go to their actual stores in the malls of the cities. On the chance that you are near Shibuya in Tokyo, you should definitely visit the SoftBank store there because that store is known to be the most accommodating of all their stores and that is also the one where there is always an English-speaking staff member present.
Because of the usefulness of these phone rentals to travelers, it is quite common for the stocks of these phone rentals to run out. Don’t sweat it though because there are other stores you can head to that are also official providers of phone rentals. An example of this would be the Don Quijote, more commonly known as “Donki”. It is an establishment that is somewhat like a department store because of the variety of goods they sell here and it is here that you will almost always find a SoftBank prepaid phone in stock. Once you have chosen your phone, be prepared to pay an average fee of 5000 yen for the prepaid card. This amount should cover you for 2 months (60 days) and no more than that because after the 60th day, any available load is forfeited from the SIM. Have your identification information at hand at this point because this would also be the time where you present the requirements so that they can validate your purchase or rental.
Not Liking the Options? Consider Pocket WiFi
This option isn’t recommendable for everybody because it can be quite expensive to rent a portable WiFi source. Usually, this would be more appealing for people who are traveling in groups so that they can all pitch in some money and bring their individual costs down to a minimal. Also, booking in advance may lead to discounts for the pocket WiFi so if you already have dates for your trip, make sure to check these out in advance to avail for any savings you can get.
These pocket WiFi gadgets are usually sold and rented alongside the SIM cards, smartphones, and other tech involved in the communication or network access. This means that the stalls you see in the airport or the stores you see in the malls that provide rentals for phones and SIMs are also where you should look for these portable treats. The prices may have increased due to inflation but on an average, renting a pocket WiFi would have a fee of 1000 Yen for the first 5 days. The succeeding days would come at a discounted fee of around 300-500 Yen, depending on the capacity of the WiFi you guys will be renting.
Considering the prices and the fact that you would not need to look for a new cell phone or anything of that nature because all you would need is a cell that can connect to the WiFi, renting this internet source is already a great deal. Again, it would be a greater deal if you had people to split the price with. For example, a group of 5 friends can rent it for a month (30 days) and they would only have to pay an astoundingly cheap fee of 450 Yen each and that price already covered the whole month. That is practically as cheap as buying some premium Yakitori is a summer festival in Japan.
Reviewing the options mentioned above, it is quite obvious that a person would have his or her freedom in choosing what he or she would want to spend money on. Regardless of which option one takes, the service provided by the network companies in Japan is amazing so you would not need to worry about losing signal or connection to the network. This is said with confidence because, in some reviews about these companies, customers claim that they even got great coverage at the top of Mount Fuji and that says a lot about the quality of their band networks. One hardly hears stories about having coverage at the top of a mountain Remember, Japan is a beautiful place to journey in but it would be a lot more convenient and time-saving if you had the proper tools to know where and how to get around the destinations you would want to visit. In this day and age, all the tools you need come in the form of a smartphone. All you have to do is fire it up and feed it the internet so that you get the information you want when you want it or need it so maximize it by making sure that you have a reliable and consistent source of connection to any of the cellular network providers.