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 cafe 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 actual –? Yup, while it’s definitely getting better, Tokyo is still not a very connected city in terms of freely accessible wifi. Read on for cheapo tips and tricks on getting yourself connected to wifi in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.
Wifi in Tokyo: What about your hotel?
If you’re a tourist, 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
Once you’re out on the town, if you aren’t keen on buying a data SIM or renting a router (more on both below), you can 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 definitely recommend that you check out 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 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. Do this here for Starbucks and here for 7-11 (use a translation tool if necessary)—and 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 a wifi signal. 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. If you don’t have your own computer or need to do some more heavy-duty working and surfing, this might be the best choice.
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 wifi in Tokyo and further afield.
SoftBank’s Free Wi-Fi Passport: If you 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 widespread and convenient with over 400,000 access points across the country—plenty more than some of the other options below.
NTT East Free Wi-Fi Japan: Get set up for two weeks of free wifi—you can do this 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, and they’ll set you up with a free wifi card.
Japan. Free Wi-Fi: Look out for this sign at airports, railways, hotels, buses, museums, landmarks, and a slew of other tourist hotspots and you’ll be able to connect.
Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi: Download the free app (here for Android or here for Apple) and you’ll be able to connect to 160,000+ 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+ 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. In Tokyo, many of the Don Quijote and Bic Camera stores supply the codes (or did, last we heard). The app also provides a handy offline map of landmarks, restaurants, shops, etc., when you’re not connected to any access points.
Buying a data SIM card
tl;dr: Check out our comprehensive article on the best options for short-term SIM cards in Japan.
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.
If you’re going to be here for longer than 90 days, you might want to investigate the various contract data and data + voice SIM card options that are available. If that’s you, head over to our article comparing the best SIM cards for longer-term use.
Renting a mobile router
Mobile routers, often referred to as “pocket wifi”, are a popular item for digital nomads. These mobile hotspots allow several devices to share a connection at the same time (some devices say five, others 10) and can be carried around everywhere you go. Much smaller than an average smartphone, a router is a good choice for people who need 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.
Ninja-Wifi provides reliable routers that you can order online, and Tokyo Cheapo readers get 20% off. Most order-ahead companies can arrange to deliver to the airport or your hotel. See our full guide to renting wifi routers for more deets.
Or you could always 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.
This post was originally published in November 2014. Last update November 2017.
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