5 places to buy SIM cards in Japan [Complete guide for travelers]

Japan Travel SIM - Where to buy a prepaid SIM card in Japan ?

If you landed in this page, it may be because you are in the middle of preparing and planning your trip to Japan. Inside the mass of questions you are dealing with, such as “Where shall I stay?”, “Where shall I go?”, “Is life in Tokyo expensive ?” or “When shall I buy my flight tickets ?”, one question is certainly in your mind : “How can I access Internet in Japan ?“.

This question is very important actually. Either you are coming for the first time to Japan either it became a routine for you to come, staying connected with people that counts for you is always crucial, even for a short-term trip.

Imagine you are having a walk in Harajuku, Shibuya or going to have some fun in some game centers in Akihabara, you will certainly take a lot of pictures and videos. Because you are having fun, you also want people around you, such as friends, family, followers, to see and enjoy what are are enjoying too.

However, posting a photo of your landing to Haneda or Narita airport, sharing a story of your lunch in a park full of cherry blossoms, listening to your favorite song while walking in the Yoyogi-park during a rainy day, all of these actions are connected to one central problem : having an access to Internet.

In this article, you will find some SIM cards that I reviewed and that I recommend, a brief comparison between SIM cards and Pocket WiFi, and a list of shops where you can acquire a prepaid SIM card.

What kind of SIM cards are you looking for ?

Finding a SIM card is not so difficult, but finding the prepaid SIM that suits your needs can be troublesome. There is a simple reason for that : SIM cards are targeting specific publics. If you plan to come for one or two weeks, the specificities provided by one card may differ from the ones included in a SIM card targeting long-term travelers or exchange student for example.

That is why I listed up below a choice of recommended SIM cards suiting the purpose of each kind of person coming to Japan.

Short-term travelers (1 to 2 weeks)

If you plan to come to Japan for one or two weeks, your needs in data may differ from people aiming to stay for six months.

The below SIM cards fulfill three specificities.

  • It has at least 3GB of data. More than enough for one week or two.
  • It is not cheap nor expensive. A necessary criteria for limited budget or people planning to buy lots of omiyage (souvenirs) in Japan and who do not want to spend too much money on such connectivity expenses.
  • You can buy these SIM on Internet before coming to Japan. Very interesting for people who are a bit anxious about queuing in a shop (especially with the upcoming Olympic Games), or simply for people willing rather to spend more time on activities than on searching and buying such things.

Here is some SIM cards I would recommend for short-term travelers.

Long-term travelers (1 month to 6 months)

Long-term travelers have different needs and requirements than short-term travelers for a simple reason : the more you have time, the less you are stressed by waking up early. You are by consequence more likely to spend more time on your smartphone or PC/Mac than short-term travelers.

The question of the time you have is important because it would directly impacts the criteria from which you will choose your SIM card. More time implies more time spent on Internet. But Internet connectivity in Japan has a cost, it is more expensive than most of other countries.

The SIM cards I propose below fulfill three specificities.

  • It provides more than 7 GB. Some of these even propose unlimited data plans. This is crucial if you do not want to spend your time on buying extra data each week.
  • It longs up to 6 months. Perfect if you do not want to renew your card every two weeks.
  • You can buy these on Internet before coming to Japan. If you need to check your hotels or residence after arriving to the airport, you better have your SIM card in your bag, ready to be activated, rather than spend your first week in Japan anxiously.

Here is some SIM cards I would recommend for long-term travelers.

Expats / Exchange students / Residents (from 3 months to 1 year)

Expats, exchange students or residents have very specific needs. After arriving to Japan, you will have to register to your nearest city office and open a bank account in a corporate bank or in any postal bank. Without this, you will not be able to subscribe to any contract, including contract for using Internet/SMS/MMS/Voice calls plans provided by Internet providers such as SoftBank, Docomo or AU for example.

But this can take some time before you get used to your life in Japan, before you start making some friends, that is to say before to start to make your priority on opening a bank account and so on.

Actually, for the case of exchanges students (and it was true for me as well), upcoming students start opening a bank account only after 3 weeks for the simple reason that there is too much to do or to think about before.

So what most of people do is that they start with a prepaid SIM card for one month or two in order to stay connected to Internet, and then go for a contract with an Internet provider after opening their bank account. I believe this is also the case for any expat or resident. I believe it is difficult to imagine the amount of tasks you will have to do during your first month of living in Japan but please be relieved and think that it is a busy moment for everyone before you can fully enjoy your new life there.

The SIM cards I recommend below follows the above logic and fulfill three specificities.

  • They offers lots of data (between 7GB and 10GB). This is important because you are going to use your smartphone not as a tourist but as a resident, meaning you will use it for everything : for paying everywhere everyday, for calling your friends or colleagues on messaging apps, for sharing pictures and videos without caring about how much data you are using.
  • It longs more than a month, so you can survive at least during your two first months ! Convenient for people planning to contract a plan with any Internet provider after opening a bank account.
  • It is not cheap, but sold at a reasonable price. An important criteria to consider, regarding the expenses you will have after your arrivals (apartment guarantee, rental fees, first payments, kitchen tools, blankets etc..)

Here is some SIM cards I would recommend for expats, exchange students or residents.

Buying a SIM card or a Pocket WiFi ?

If you possess a PC, a Mac or a tablet, you may need to share your smartphone connection with those device. Using a Pocket WiFi is a good alternative to this inconvenience.

If you want to learn more about Pocket WiFi and to know where to buy it, please refer to the below article.

ARTICLE

There are of course pros and cons regarding the use of Pocket Wifi or to use both a SIM card in your smartphone AND a Pocket WiFi.

PROSCONS
Possibility to connect many device simultaneously to Internet.Data may be consumed quicker.
Connectivity can be shared between many people. Convenient for families or friends traveling in groups.More data equals a more expensive plan.
Light weighted. Can be easily transportable.Most of Pocket WiFi are only available in their rental version. Inconvenient for non-resident due to the necessity to sign a contract.
Can be found in almost any Internet provider.

In conclusion, I would personally recommend to travelers coming to Japan with a family for a long-term trip to rent a Pocket WiFi because it can be cheaper than buying a SIM card for each family member. On the contrary, short-term tourists may rather find advantageous to acquire only a prepaid SIM card.

5 places to buy your SIM card in Japan

In Japan, many shops are selling prepaid SIM cards. Most of them are electronic stores.

Here is a list of 5 places where you can buy a prepaid SIM card.

Recommended electronic stores in Tokyo
  • 1st
    Yodobashi Camera

    One emblematic shop is located in Akihabara.

  • 2nd
    Bic Camera

    Shops available in most of districts in Tokyo.

  • 3rd
    Donki Hote

    They opened recently a huge store in Shibuya named “Mega Donki” if you want to take a look during your travel.

  • 4th
    Yamada Denki / LABI

    If you stay in Ikebukuro it worth the visit.

  • 5th
    BicQlo

    A nice mix between two famous stores : Bic Camera and Uniqlo. Available in Shinjuku.

I would personally recommend to travelers to order a prepaid SIM card on Internet before coming to Japan. The reason is simple : depending on the shop, you will not necessarily find the SIM card that you want. In addition, queuing is time-consuming where you could spend this time on funnier activities. Finally, thinking of the upcoming Olympic Games, this would certainly be challenging to get the SIM card you want in a shop at a reasonable price.

If you want to compare the prices and plan to buy your SIM card on Internet, please feel free to read the reviews available in the “SIM cards” section of the website.

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