Buying a SIM card in Japan

23 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi all, hopefully somebody can point me in the right direction.

I shall be visiting Japan for a couple of weeks later this year. I shall need to use my phone quite a lot and need to find out about buying a local SIM card. My phone is dual band, so will work in Japan (I hope), I just need to find out information about pre-aid/pay-as-you-go deals, and most importantly, charges for in-coming internatioal calls.

Many thanks in advance for any replies.

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Posted

Japanese do not use SIM Cards. :D So you will have to rent a mobile or buy a second hand one there.

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Posted (edited)

I've seen second hand Japanese cell phones in Thailand but never seen one in Japan. I guess that is because of IME lock on them and the new cell phones being sold relatively cheap in Japan compared to Southeast Asia. 3G phones like FOMA (Freedom Of Mobile multimedia Access) from NTT Docomo or au incorporates its own SIM card, but probably not compatible with SIM for GSM phones used outside Japan. Many new Japanese cell phones come with SIM slot but most are for use outside Japan. Best to just bring a W-CDMA ready GSM phones (most 3G phones are) and apply for international roaming at the nearest customer center of the local mobile operator you subscribe to. That's what I do when in Japan.

Edited by Nordlys

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Posted

As Nordlys said, Japanese local mobiles do not use GSM-mode and do not use SIM cards.

These units are Japan only.

Only newest FOMA models sold in Japan work also overseas, but the charges are considerable as every local call will be considered as a long distance overseas call.

There are some new models, which are sold overseas (so-called 4-bander in Europe, but not the 3-bander) which will operate in Japan, but again for high fees even for short local calls within Japan.

The Japanese GSM service network is considerable smaller than the network which Japanese local mobile phones are using.

It will work within Tokyo, Narita Airport, Osaka etc... but expect no connection if travelling in rural areas.

Many airlines are offering against credit-card rental-mobile phones, you pick them up at Narita Airport after arrival, and give them back before your check-in when leaving Japan. Please contact your airline/agent.

During the last years, most business-travellers from Europe are showing up with newest expensive multi-bander GSM-mobile phones, which are working in Japan.

If not, we here in our office always have some cheap outdated local-mobile-phones-units, which are 'temporarly suspended' and if a customer is visiting us and cannot use his mobile phone, we will give him a local unit, which can be re-opened again within a few minutes.

There are pre-paid cards for cheap overseas connection, (refill in convenience stores yen 2000,-) which can be used for any phone-line, and there are no charges for incoming phone calls from overseas.

Please write again if any question.

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Posted

During the last years, most business-travellers from Europe are showing up with newest expensive multi-bander GSM-mobile phones, which are working in Japan.

It maybe expensive by Japanese standard but it's not really that expensive anymore. I think you're referring to W-CDMA ready 3G phones that I mentioned and these days you can buy them for less than 10,000 Baht in Thailand (used to cost close to 20,000 Baht just two years ago).

BTW I thought Japan no longer sells prepaid phones for they are often ued for criminal activities (many of which are fraud).

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Posted (edited)

Japanese do not use SIM Cards. :D So you will have to rent a mobile or buy a second hand one there.

There is no pre-paid system like in Thailand.

You might rent a mobile phone in Japan usually by using a creditcard, but if you have no address registration (like a tourist or short-time business traveller), you cannot buy one in your own name.

There is no second hand market for mobile phone in Japan, but there is cheap sale-off of older, but unused models - if you sign up for a new contract, you get it almost for free.

You need a 1 year visa as a foreigner to be able to register for a phone-line, or mobile-phone etc... (for example no problem for a foreign student etc...)

It maybe expensive by Japanese standard but it's not really that expensive anymore. I think you're referring to W-CDMA ready 3G phones that I mentioned and these days you can buy them for less than 10,000 Baht in Thailand (used to cost close to 20,000 Baht just two years ago).

BTW I thought Japan no longer sells prepaid phones for they are often ued for criminal activities (many of which are fraud).

Yes, correct, Japan no longer sells prepaid PHONES.

I wrote, prepaid PHONE_CARDS, these are plastic cards, which can be refilled, with a call center number and a code-number, and they can be used from any phone...landline or mobile. Much cheaper than using NTT world call etc...

Expensive? baht 10.000,- is not cheap. It's about the same you pay for a Japanese model, which will work overseas, which is now about yen 30.000,-.

The unit is still somewhat expensive and the dial-fees are expensive too...even calling within Tokyo will result in a long distance call fee, if you bring your mobile phone into Japan, same is true with Japanese units used overseas...

Edited by yohan

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Posted

I wrote, prepaid PHONE_CARDS, these are plastic cards, which can be refilled, with a call center number and a code-number, and they can be used from any phone...landline or mobile. Much cheaper than using NTT world call etc...

Isn't it good for overseas call only? Or did you mean what they call "Telephone Card"?

Expensive? baht 10.000,- is not cheap. It's about the same you pay for a Japanese model, which will work overseas, which is now about yen 30.000,-.

I did not say the unit is expensive, I said, the dial-fees are expensive...even calling within Tokyo will result in a long distance call fee, if you bring your mobile phone into Japan, same is true with Japanese units used overseas...

Yeah, 3G GSM phone are still expensive by Japanese standard, but not out of reach (many Thais buy the latest model cell phones often costing more than their pay check).

As to the cost of local call in Japan using 3G GSM phones brought from Thailand I don't remember what the charge was per minutes but as long as you don't engage in long chit chat the roaming cost was negligible as far as I remember, not as costly as overseas long distance call.

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Posted

Interesting - so the prepaids aren't available any more? A number years ago when I was working there - we had that option. Or maybe it was just a short term contract, my memory lapses me.

I always remember going to Haneda running around the airport looking for a SIM card, Japanese looked at me like they never heard of such a thing. (and they hadn't)

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Posted

I always remember going to Haneda running around the airport looking for a SIM card...

What did you do at HANEDA airport? Or do you mean NARITA airport? Now inside Narita Airport there are counters for Japanese mobile rental, they are easy to find.

Most travellers however have already a reservation for a mobile, just going to the counters to pick up the phone-unit.

It is declining now, as new models from overseas are working in major cities in Japan - and correct, there is no prepaid phone-unit anymore, as far as I know.

Either you bring a working phone unit with you, or you rent a local mobile-unit using a creditcard.

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Posted

Well I had made a transfer from Narita to Haneda. This is where I looked for the SIM, had a very tight connection so didnt have time to look at Narita.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting - so the prepaids aren't available any more?

Just did a quick search and it turned out it's still available but only from two operators, softbank mobile and au (KDDI), with 3G service for softbank mobile. Prepaid service from all other operators including NTT Docomo terminated.

http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/prepaid/

http://www.au.kddi.com/english/prepaid/index.html

as new models from overseas are working in major cities in Japan

My 3G phone I bought in Thailand (Sony Ericsson M600i) works everywhere Japanese cell phones work.

Edited by Nordlys

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Posted

Thanks for all your replies.

Had a quick look at the softbank 3G option but I think what I will do is rent a phone for the period I am there - less hassle.

I found a UK company that deliver the phone to your address prior to departure to Japan, which works out fairly cheap - 2GBP per day which includes free in-coming calls.

Could anyone recommend a local company in Tokyo that could compete with those prices?

Cheers

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Posted

Changed my mind - I have found out that my Nokia N73 does work in Japan and that I can pick up a 3GSIM at the airport on arrival for about 100yen per day rental from softbank, so looks like I will be doing that.

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Posted

I doubt 100 yen includes call charge. Are you sure it's cheaper than int'l roaming fee your local operator charges for making domestic calls in Japan?

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Posted

I doubt 100 yen includes call charge.

There are often hidden fees, like a minimum dial fee per day, regardless if you use it for calling to overseas or not.

Something like yen 500,- up to yen 1000,-.

If you talk on the phone, this fee will be deducted, but if not, you will be charged with the minimum dial fee nevertheless...

or a one-time contract and a one-time return-fee...

Advertisement is one side, what you really pay, is another side...

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Posted

OE sees a fair few Google searches coming to this thread. Loads of people looking for non-existent Japanese SIM cards :P

So could someone clarify for this thread, if you have a quad band phone, like my Sony Ericsson which has the following capabilities...

- UMTS/HSPA 900/2100

- GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900

Would I be able to roam straight away on my existing Thai SIM?

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Posted

If you have a roaming contract with your provider and a 4-bander, it should work in Japan.

Some years ago, we always had to provide mobile phones for our EU-visitors for fairs/exhibitions etc. in Japan.

But last year, there were very few inquires - I can say, about 8 out of 10 mobile phones from Europe were operating correctly. All of these mobile phones were new models not older than 2 years.

Only older phones, 3-banders, or missing roaming contracts etc, could not connect to the phone-network within Japan.

-----

However be aware, that roaming from/to Japan is expensive. It is better if you stay longer than a few days, to rent a Japanese mobile phone with your creditcard. Same if you stay in Japan with your European handy.

Last vacation my wife and me used our Japanese mobile phones in Thailand - for short calls to Japan, and for some short calls between our 2 Japanese mobile phone in Pattaya. The invoice was about Euro 200 for 8 days.

Next time in Thailand, as I will stay several weeks, I will buy a local Thai mobile phone.

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Posted

Thai Sim works in Japan, roaming that is. :P

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Posted

But ONLY if this SIM card is used in new mobile phone, which is a 4-bander together with a roaming contract, otherwise it will NOT work in Japan.

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Posted

But ONLY if this SIM card is used in new mobile phone, which is a 4-bander together with a roaming contract, otherwise it will NOT work in Japan.

Right. I have an old basic Nokia GSM phone so they gave me a different phone for roaming in Japan. My gf had an expensive new Nokia and didn't need to change.

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Posted

Hi. I have a SoftBank 3G USIM Prepaid card fitted in a Samsung phone.

Does anybody know if it would work in an iPhone here, please? I accept that I would not be able to use all the iPhone facilities, but it may be acceptable while I'm in Japan.

Also, if I buy the iPhone from the UK for example, will there be any compatibility problems or is the software common to all countries? Thanks.

AFib

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