If you’re a traveler, eSIMs are convenient — they save you the trouble of fiddling with your phone’s SIM tray when you arrive at the airport. Even though Japan’s eSIM market for visitors is still relatively under developed, we’ve found some options to get you connected.
What exactly is an eSIM?
It’s a virtual SIM that you can download and install onto your phone directly, so no more fiddly physical SIM cards. Most phones released since 2019 have the option to use an eSIM, with Apple’s US iPhone 14s being eSIM only. eSIMs are convenient when you want to change your carrier, such as when abroad, as you can connect to a new provider in seconds. There are several carriers now offering eSIMs with Japan coverage to travelers, so if your phone has eSIM capability, you have options.
Japan eSIMs for tourists and short-term visitors
Here’s a quick overview of some of the Japan eSIM options for your trip. This is not an exhaustive list; just an introduction to some of the main players in the market.
eSIM Japan offers economical data-only plans for visitors to Japan. Their plans come in two varieties: a general Japan plan, and city-specific plans for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and more. They are the same price, and for all intents and purposes are the same as the general plans. This makes them ideal if you’re staying in one city for the majority of your visit. However, all plans work throughout Japan.
Once you order, you’ll be sent a QR code within 10 minutes, so you can even decide while waiting at the airport. The plan begins as soon as you scan the code and install the eSIM. Plans have a set time limit (3, 5, 7, 12, 15, or 20 days) and a data limit (3GB, 5GB, 10GB, or unlimited), so you can choose a plan that works for the length of your trip. Plan prices vary based on length, from $US3.99 for a basic 3-day plan, to $US22.99 for an unlimited 12-day plan. If you have any issues, eSIM Japan offers support through email and web forms.
Simcard Geek eSIMs
Popular local telcos provider Simcard Geek recently launched a line of eSIMs for Japan. They currently have seven different data-only eSIMs, ranging from a basic 1GB, 8-day eSIM for $US15, all the way up to a solid 50GB, 31-day eSIM for $US37.
While the prices aren’t the cheapest, Simcard Geek runs on the major Japanese network Docomo, which means that you won’t be roaming. It’s 4G LTE and coverage is countrywide. Activation is easy – you’ll get a link via email when you complete your order. Technical support is available via email and a web form, though most questions can usually be solved by having a peek at Simcard Geek’s FAQs page.
Airalo offers flexible eSIMs for tourists and digital nomads alike, with plans exclusive to Japan as well as ones covering Asia and the rest of the world. Their Moshi Moshi plan for Japan is no-frills, with a data limit (1GB, 2 GB, 3GB, 5GB, 10GB, or 20GB) and validity period (7, 15, or 30 days). Prices range from $US4.50 for the 7-day, 1GB plan, to $US26 for the 30-day, 20GB plan. If the data supplied isn’t enough, you can purchase add-on data in batches of 1GB for $US4.50.
However, if you’re traveling across Asia, you may be interested in their Asialink and Discover Global eSIMs, which allow you to keep the same SIM across multiple countries. With the Asialink plan being only slightly more expensive than their Moshi Moshi plan, Airalo is useful if you’re planning on moving around.
Download their app, and you can install the eSIM directly or have a QR code in seconds. If you have any issues, Airalo offers 24/7/365 support through their app and online.
OneSimCard stands out from other options by including voice calling. Both the eSIM World and the eSIM Asiana products offer text and voice calls in addition to data.
Important: Calls are provided through a VOIP app, with a European number (not a local Japanese number). This will allow you to make calls, but you’ll be restricted in what you can do — calls to free Japanese numbers (including emergency services!) are out.
Some phones aren’t compatible with this eSIM, so you should check to make sure yours is. Rather than being a prepaid card with a set limit, OneSimCard offers travelers the flexibility of a flat rate for as much as you need – $US10 per GB of data. The initial card is $US9.95. The eSIM World product offers calls as standard, but data, texts, and calls are more expensive than the eSIM Asiana.
Your eSIM will be available immediately once you order, and their support options include live chat, phone support, and email. If you think you’ll need to make phone calls to stay in touch and can sacrifice data, OneSimCard might be the provider for you.
This eSIM, provided by Klook, is powered by SoftBank — one of Japan’s major carriers. The data-only plan offers stable, fast internet for your trip. You can opt for a period of 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, or 15 days to suit your needs. Data options are either unlimited 4G or 500MB of high-speed data a day, before being throttled to 128kbps. At the cheaper end, a 500MB, 5-day plan will set you back $US9.79. Meanwhile, the unlimited 15 day option is $US35.19.
While an excellent offering for anyone who burns through data, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you should check that your phone is compatible before purchasing. Models purchased in China, Hong Kong, and Macau are likely to be incompatible. Also, the SoftBank eSIM has up to a 24-hour wait before you receive an email and QR code, so don’t leave it to the last minute!
Comparing Japan eSIMs
Here’s how the Japan eSIM cards mentioned above go head to head in features:
|Provider||Plan type||Price||Coverage area||Delivery method/time||Support options||Where to buy|
|eSIM Japan||Data only||$US7.99 for 3GB/7 days
$US11.99 for 5GB/15 days
$US18.99 for 10GB/20 days
Various unlimited options.
|Japan only||Email, within 10 minutes||Email
|Simcard Geek||Data only||$US15 for 1GB/8 days
$US21 for 3GB/16 days
$US37 for 50GB/31 days
Several other options.
|Japan only||Email, shortly after ordering||Email
|Airalo||Data only||$US4.50 for 1GB/7 days
$US11.50 for 5GB/30 days
$US26 for 20GB/30 days
|Japan-only plan, Asia-wide plan or Global plan||App or online, immediately||App Support
|$US9.95 initial cost
Data: $US10/GB (Calculated in MB)
Calls vary depending on location
Texts: 6c/outbound (The LINE app and Social media may be cheaper to use)
|Asiana card or Global card||Email, immediately||Livechat
|Softbank eSIM||Data only||$US9.79 for 500MB fast data and unlimited 128kbps data/5 days
$US22.15 for unlimited data/8 days
$35.19 for unlimited data/15 days
|Japan only||Email, within 24 hours||LINE support||Here|
Other Japan eSIM Providers
If none of those are working for you, some other names in the eSIM world of Japan include:
- b mobile
- Redtea Mobile
- MTX Connect
Which is better for your Japan trip: An eSIM, or a physical SIM card?
While eSIMs are super convenient, the handful of companies currently offering eSIMs for Japan are mostly global players purchasing data from the major Japanese carriers at fairly expensive rates. Not surprisingly, the physical SIM market is much more developed, with more diverse options as well as very competitive prices. If you’ve decided to stick with a physical SIM after looking at the eSIM options, check out our guide to prepaid SIM cards for travel to Japan.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Prices are approximate. This post was first published in October, 2020 and was last updated by Shyam Bhardwa on March 16, 2023.