Communication – being “connected” – 24 hours a day, 7 days per week has become not just a need but an expectation for most people these days. One of the main ways that we stay connected is through the use of our cell phones.
The situation is no different when we travel abroad. With all of today’s technology options, being on the road should not have to mean giving up our cell phones. When traveling to Japan, in particular, cell phone use is important. Over 75% of the Japanese use cell phones, and that country’s electronics manufacturers keep the Japanese population up-to-date with the latest cell phone technology. According to the NY Times (2009), Japan has twice as many third-generation smartphone users than the U.S. – despite the fact that Japan has less than half of the U.S. population.
KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, and Softbank are the biggest players in the Japanese mobile phone market. However, Japanese phones have not made major inroads in foreign markets – much to the dismay of Japan’s own cell phone manufacturers. This is primarily due to the fact that Japanese makers have pursued their own, proprietary networks rather than trying to be in synch with the global standard. The result: excellent sales and amazing technology within Japan, but little overseas sales are very little foreign phone compatibility.
If you are curious about cell phone use in Japan, you have 3 main options for staying connected via a cell (mobile phone) in Japan as a foreigner.
Your first option is to simply bring your own phone with you to Japan. However, note that this will only work if your phone is technologically compatible with the networks in Japan. Currently (as of this writing), Japanese carriers do not offer connectivity for GSM-based phones. However, some 3G/4G phones will work in Japan. Check with your own cell phone carrier before you travel to find out whether your phone will work once you arrive.
If you do plan to use your own phone in Japan, you will need to decide whether it makes the most sense for you to just pay your domestic carrier’s international roaming rates while in Japan (which could get very expensive fast) or whether you should rent an SIM card in Japan. If you rent an SIM card, it is likely that your rates will be lower.
Your second main option is to rent a cell phone once you arrive. You can rent a phone at airport kiosks, and some mobile phone rental companies will even be happy to ship your phone to your hotel or other place of temporary residence there. You will need a picture ID and credit card in order to obtain your phone this way. At Narita International Airport, you can find phone rental kiosks and vendors such as Air’s, Digitel, Inc., DoCoMo, DreamCell, E-Phone, eCom, G-Call, KDDI, and more.
Finally, consider getting a prepaid cell phone once you arrive in Japan. Note that most carriers will require that you have an alien (foreigner) registration card or a Japanese driver’s license in order to obtain a prepaid cell phone. The reason for this is that some foreigners and domestic Japanese alike have used these phones for criminal purposes in the past: hence, the current need for the added security. Some carriers will allow you to use your foreign passport and a hotel address to buy a prepaid phone, however, so check around.
Consider these 3 options for cell phone use in Japan on your next trip.
By sharonang from Pixabay