How to install & setup your prepaid SIM card [Complete guide for travelers]

Japan Travel SIM - How to activate and setup a prepaid SIM card in Japan

That’s it ! Your trip to Japan is coming soon and you are certainly double-checking the last items of your “I should not forget” list. You are thinking about how fabulous is going to be your shopping in the streets of the colorful district of Harajuku, your wonderful day spending time in cafes and at playing games in crowded game-centers of Akihabara. Or may be are you dreaming about walking on the world’s famous Shibuya crossings ?

The pre-travel period is always full of excitements and joy. But if you want to be able to post pictures and videos on SNS or to be able to check itineraries on your smartphone, you would better review the first thing you will certainly do after your arrivals in Narita or Haneda airport : activating your SIM card. Well, I am sure you already know the way to do it because you might have read it more than ten times so far, but let’s be sure to memorize it carefully one last time.

Prerequisites

Check-list

Here is a list of thing you may need for the setups of your prepaid SIM card when arriving at the airport.

  • Your smartphone (if you forget it, the world around you will collapse, for sure)
  • The prepaid SIM card you acquired
  • The package of the SIM card (try to put it entirely and in one piece in your hand luggage)
  • A SIM ejector tool (if you do not know what it is please check the explanation below)
What is a SIM ejector tool ?

A SIM ejector tool is a little piece of paper or iron used to open and eject the slot containing the SIM card inserted in your smartphone.

It looks like this :

Japan Travel SIM - SIM ejector tool

Generally, a SIM ejector tool is included in the package box of your phone when you buy it. If you still have this box, you may find a SIM ejector tool inserted within the manual.

If you do not have one, you could try to ask to a smartphone retailer in your neighborhood or to a friend if they can kindly lend you one.

In the case you did not find any SIM ejector tool, no need to worry ! You could use a paper clip as well. It will do the job !

Setup your SIM card in 4 steps

The 4 big steps for setting up your SIM card
  • 1st step
    Prepare your SIM card

    Open the package and take out the plastic rectangle containing the multi-sized SIM card.

    Push up the small card and repeat the operation with the SIM card itself until the SIM card size matches your smartphone’s SIM slot size.

  • 2nd step
    Eject the SIM slot from your smartphone

    Take a SIM ejector tool. If you do not have one, a paper clip would do the job.

    Insert the SIM ejector tool into the small hole near the SIM slot.

    Push a little while being careful not damaging the paintings of your smartphone.

  • 3rd step
    Insert the SIM

    Insert the prepaid SIM card into the slot and put the SIM slot back into the device.

  • 4th step
    Install an APN

    An APN (“Access Point Name”) is a bridge between your smartphone settings and your SIM card provider’s access point. If the settings succeed, your device will be able to connect the local network.

    For iPhone users open “Settings” > “Cellular” > “Cellular Data Options” > and turn on “Enable 4G”. The settings shall automatically work. After a little moment your device will display the career’s name and you should be able to use Internet.

    For Android users open “Settings” > in the “Wireless & Networks” section, tap on “Mobile Networks” > “More”. Select “Access Point Names” and enter the APN name, username and password written on the manual or the package of your SIM card. Click on your menu button and tap on “Save”. After a little while, you should be able to use Internet.

Last check

Now your SIM card is ready to be used, let’s check some simple but necessary To-Do’s together.

  • If you are an iPhone user, try sending to yourself an iMessage. This is to check your iCloud account is logged in and activated.
  • Deactivate the incoming voice call and text message functionalities. By doing so, you will avoid extra fees in the case a relative or a colleague tries to call you or text you.
  • Look at apps that you do not intend to use during your trip and deactivate both push notifications and background updates. This will reduce the network consumption. You could then use fully the data provided by your SIM card for apps that you really need.
  • Even after the SIM activation and setup, do not through out the package the SIM card was included in. In the unlikely event of a trouble, you could then use informations written on the manual for contacting the support / help desk if they provide one.

Troubleshooting

In the case you did not succeed to setup and activate your SIM card, it may be difficult to identify or solve the problem by yourself.

Japan Travel SIM - How to activate a prepaid SIM card in Japan

Most of the visitors of this website are to visit Japan for the first time and do not speak Japanese. If you are also in this case, do not worry.

Either you landed in Narita either you arrived in Haneda airport, English speaking staff is at your disposition.

Here is the safest way to solve an activation problem at the airport :

  • Pick up your smartphone, fully charged if possible, your SIM card, your SIM ejector tool and the package from which you took out the SIM card from.
  • Find an Information Desk. You may find it located after going through the exit, after finishing the customs inspection and the luggage pick up process.
  • Show the staff the package and they will certainly try to activate your SIM card instead of you. If they do not manage to do it, they could call the support/help desk of your SIM card provider thanks to the phone number written on the package.

If you are a native English speaker and that your SIM card provider offers an English-friendly support, I would recommend to call the support directly with a fixed-line telephone available at the airport. They are generally painted in green in Japan.

In conclusion, in the unlikely event of an activation problem, you would better have Japanese and English speakers near you, ready to help you if necessary. That is why I would recommend anybody to activate his or her SIM card just after arriving at the airport, and not to through out the package of the SIM card.

If you did not buy a prepaid SIM card yet, I would highly suggest you to check if a support is provided and if it is available in English when comparing different models. You can find these informations in the “SIM cards” section of the website.

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