Arriving in Tokyo, you may be excited to see all the cool high-tech stuff that’s just a part of everyday life here in the eastern capital. But then when you stop in at a café and 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. What the–? Yup, while it’s getting better, Tokyo is still not a very connected city in terms of public wifi. Read on for cheapo tips and tricks on getting yourself connected to wifi in Tokyo.
If you’re a tourist, your hotel probably has wifi or internet (some places offer LAN cables, which… well, who uses those anymore?). 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.
Cafés with Wifi
Once you’re out on the town, if you haven’t bought an international data plan (I never do, who can afford it?), you can check out our super handy article on Wifi cafés. In addition to the excellent suggestions made in the café article, I’d like to offer another—the Rakuten Café in Shibuya. This is a café that is of and for the internet: Rakuten is a major Japanese online retailer, and their café 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 definitely recommend that you check out some of the independent local cafés that offer free wifi, we understand that sometimes you’re in a pinch and just need a place with outlets and wifi! Starbucks and 7-11 both offer free wifi, can be found almost everywhere, and—take note—require pre-sign up. We recommend that you do this in advance, as you need internet to get internet. Do this here for Starbucks and here for 7-11 (there is an English description that shows what everything says, or you can just use a translate tool)—and don’t forget to write down your login details.
Internet Cafés/Manga Cafés
Internet cafés and comic book cafés (usually one and the same) are a step beyond your run-of-the-mill coffee shops with a wifi signal. At these cafés, 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. If you don’t have your own computer or need to do some more heavy-duty working and surfing, this might be the choice for you.
Free Wifi for Tourists
The Japanese government and some major communication companies are trying to make it a bit easier for wifi-accustomed foreigners, so they’ve offered up a few services.
Softbank’s Free Wi-Fi Passport: If you call this number *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 widespread and convenient with over 400,000 access points—plenty more than some of the other options below.
NTT East Free Wi-Fi Japan: Get set up for 2-week free wifi either before or after you arrive in Japan. Before you visit, you can download the NAVITIME app (Android or Apple) and you’ll get a free wifi ID and password (only for those outside of Japan). Or, once you’ve arrived, you can bring your passport to distribution spots located at Haneda Airport (International Terminal 2F) or a handful of spots within the city as well and they’ll set you up with a free wifi card.
Japan. Free Wi-Fi: Look our for this sign at airports, railways, hotels, buses, museums, landmarks, and a slew of other tourist hot spots and you’ll be able to connect. You can use the Japan. Free Wi-Fi locator if you’re keen to map out beforehand all the places offering free wifi.
Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi: Download this free app (here for Android or here for Apple) and you’ll be able to connect at 130,000 at major points of interests and JR East, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway stations.
Travel Japan WiFi and Wi2 300: The Travel Japan WiFi app can be downloaded (on Android and Apple) and used at 60,000 locations (the Wi2 300 basic access points). If you get a “Premium Code”, you’ll then get access at up to 200,000 locations. You can get this code at various spots across Japan. In Tokyo, many of the Don Quijote and Bic Camera stores are handing them out. Check here for a full list of places where you can get Premium Code. If you’ve traveling with JAL (Japan Airlines), you can get one as from them as well.
The app also provides an offline map of landmarks, restaurants, shops, etc., when you’re not connected to any access points. This app is only available for 2 weeks though since it’s geared for tourists.
Side note for tourists: If you thought this was helpful and want to read up on other traveling essentials, we cover it all in our Cheapo’s Guide to Tokyo ebook!
Data SIM Cards
Update, read our full post on all the best options for short term SIM card in Japan.
A few companies offer SIM cards that you can put in your phone, providing your phone is unlocked and allows such a thing. Check the list of approved devices on the company’s site. You can now buy “tourist” SIM cards over the counter at most Bic Camera Stores. B mobile was one of the first companies offering short-term, no-contract data SIMs for tourists, but Bic Camera offers their own brand now as well. You can of course take your chances on one of the companies at Narita or Haneda once you arrive at the airport (many will be closed during off-business hours, so keep that in mind if your flight arrives at midnight), but chances are they may not be so cheapo friendly as Bic Camera or B Mobile.
Check out our full breakdown on data SIM card options (short- vs. longer-term and prepaid vs. purchased after arriving in Japan) for more info on what’s the best option for you.
Mobile routers, often referred to as “pocket wifi”, are a popular item these days. These mobile hot spots allow several devices to share a connection at the same time (some devices say 5, others 10) and can be carried around everywhere you go. Smaller than an average smartphone, this is a good choice for people who really need to be connected and need a reliable service. Prices vary, but expect to pay about 1,000 yen a day for the first few days, and a cheaper price after. Japan Wireless and Japan Experience are options you can order online, and again it’s cheaper to order in advance than show up at the airport with no booking. The order-ahead companies can arrange to deliver to the airport or your hotel. See our full guide to renting wifi routers.
Or… you could always disconnect for a few days and just live in the metaspace for a while?
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