Arriving in Tokyo, you may be excited to see all the cool high-tech stuff that’s just part of everyday life here. But then, when you pull out your phone to update everyone on all the things you’re eating, seeing, and the ways you’re winning at life, there’s no wifi, or you can’t connect to the wifi. While it’s getting a lot better, Tokyo is still not super connected in terms of freely accessible wifi. Read on for tips on getting yourself connected to wifi in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.
Renting a mobile wifi router
Mobile routers, often referred to as “pocket wifi”, are a popular item for digital nomads and travelers. These mobile hotspots allow several devices to share a connection at the same time (some devices say five, others 10 or more) and can be carried around everywhere you go. Much smaller than an average smartphone, a router is a good choice for people who prefer to be connected 24/7. Prices vary, but expect to pay about ¥1,000 a day for the first few days, and a lower price thereafter.
Free wifi for tourists to Japan
The Japanese government and some major communication companies are trying to make it a bit easier for connectivity-accustomed foreigners, so they’ve offered up a few services for free wifi in Tokyo and further afield as we head towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi: Download the free app (here for Android or here for Apple) and you’ll be able to connect to 170,000+ access points at places of interest and JR East, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway stations, among other spots around Japan.
Travel Japan WiFi and Wi2 300: The Travel Japan WiFi app can be downloaded (on Android and Apple) and used at 200,000+ wifi hotspots across the country. You may need a “Premium Code” to access some of them, but can get this at various stores and tourist hubs. The app also provides an offline map of landmarks, restaurants, shops, etc., when you’re not connected to access points.
SoftBank’s Free Wi-Fi Passport: If you switch on roaming, select Softbank and dial *8180, you’ll receive a password to input when you’re at a SoftBank hotspot—and voila you’re connected to high-speed internet. The service is convenient, with over 400,000 access points across the country. That roaming, though. Make sure your phone doesn’t do anything other than connect to wifi!
Other wifi in Tokyo: What about your hotel?
Your hotel or Airbnb pad probably has some kind of free wifi or internet (a few places still supply LAN cables, so bring an adapter if you need one). But you can’t be certain—I’ve stayed in some high-class hotels, both of the ryokan and Western variety, that had not a lick of internet. Not to mention the more “local” family-run type inns—so be sure to check before coming if your hotel actually offers internet. Especially if you’re going to be staying in the rurals (of Tokyo or elsewhere).
Cafes with free wifi
First, check out our handy article on cafes with free wifi in Tokyo. In addition to the excellent suggestions made in that post, I’d like to offer another—the Rakuten Cafe in Shibuya. This is a cafe that is of and for the internet: Rakuten is a major Japanese online retailer, and their cafe is an homage to getting connected, from the refreshments that are themed according to the popular sellers on their website, to the absolute amplitude of outlets everywhere, to the iPads for use at some seats, to the free wifi signal that is available on all three sofa-filled floors.
While we recommend that you explore some of the independent local cafes that offer free wifi in Tokyo, we understand that sometimes you’re in a pinch and just need a place with outlets and internet. Starbucks and convenience store chain 7-11 both offer free wifi, can be found almost everywhere, and—take note—require sign up. We recommend that you do this in advance, as you need internet to get internet. You can do this here for Starbucks and here for 7-11 (use a translation tool if necessary)—don’t forget to write down your login details.
Internet and manga cafes
Internet cafes and comic book cafes (usually one and the same) are a step beyond your run-of-the-mill coffee shops with wifi. At these cafes, you’ll pay by the hour, but will be given a computer terminal, a cubicle with a cozy chair, and usually access to an all-you-can-drink soft drink bar, and sometimes even showers. If you don’t have your own computer or need to do some more heavy-duty working and surfing, this might be a good choice.
Alternatively, consider a data SIM card
You can always go with the cellular networks instead.
SIM cards for short-term use
A number of companies offer data (and, in the case of Mobal, data + voice) SIM cards for tourists and business travelers to Japan. You can pick and choose ’em based on the duration of your stay and the amount of data that you think you’ll need. See our comprehensive article on the best options for short-term SIM cards in Japan for more details.
SIM cards for long-term use
If you’re going to be here for more than 90 days, it pays to investigate the various contract data and data + voice SIM card options that are available. Head over to our article comparing the best SIM cards for longer-term use.
Or you could forget about wifi in Tokyo, disconnect for a few days and just live in the metaspace for a while? Let us know how that goes.
Video summary of ways to connect to wifi in Japan
While we do our best to make sure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This post was originally published in November, 2014. Last update November 14, 2018.
Our video guide to the tuna auctions at the shiny new Toyosu Fish Market