Cheapo branded SIM card
A number of prepaid SIM cards are available for short-term visitors to Japan | Photo by Ryo Seven

You land in Tokyo and ride the train into the big city. Maybe you stand in the middle of Shibuya’s Scramble Crossing, delaying traffic while you take a selfie. Or you hit up a restaurant, pointing at a random photo on the menu and hoping the waiter gets what you’re trying to order. And when it arrives, the first thing you think is, “I need to post this to make my friends envious.” Here’s the lowdown on getting a Japan SIM for your visit, for your data and voice communication needs.

Note: The focus of this article is on short-term SIM use in Japan. For a comprehensive guide to Japan SIM cards for longer-term use (3 months +), see Japan’s Data and Voice SIM Providers Compared.

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Prepaid Japan SIM cards and MVNOs: Read this first

It’s possible to buy pay-as-you-go SIM cards directly from Japan’s major mobile providers, but you can usually get a better deal (and experience) with an MVNO. This stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator; they piggyback on existing big networks to offer some great deals. In this article, we’ll point you towards a few MVNO providers that might be of use.

tourist sim cards in Japan
Photo by Victor Gonzalez

Short-term Japan SIM options for tourists

I’m here for a week or two and just need to update my status every dayyyyy.

That’s fine; you can set yourself up the second you land at an airport (well, at least after you clear customs). This isn’t an exhaustive list; just our top picks of prepaid Japan SIM cards. Keep in mind that some of them can be recharged with extra data.

Provider Price Plans English Support Voice Calling Order Online Worldwide Shipping Airport pickup Link
Mobal Voice + 7GB data/30 days: ¥7,500 More info
Mobal Unlimited data/8 days: ¥3,990
Unlimited data/16 days: ¥5,990
Unlimited data/31 days: ¥7,490
× More info
8GB/8 days: ¥3,480
16GB/16 days: ¥5,480
31GB/31 days: ¥6,980
× More info
U-mobile 220MB/day x 7 days: ¥2,000
220MB/day x 15 days: ¥3,500
Limited × × × More info
OCN 100MB/day x 7 days: ¥3,278
100MB/day x 14 days: ¥3,850
× × ×  More info
Rakuten Mobile 1GB/30 days: ¥3,278
2GB/90 days: ¥4,378
Limited × × ×  More info

Notes on the providers:

Mobal: On the voice + data SIM, when your 7GB is up, data is still available at throttled speeds. Top-ups can be purchased. 60-, 90-day and long-term packages also possible. If you’re traveling from China, you have access to a range of other prepaid packages. Free shipping to many countries, or pick-up at Narita or Haneda Airport, as well as Fukuoka, Kansai, Nagoya and Sendai airports and downtown Tokyo and Osaka. As with all voice-calling products, the voice + data SIM carries a ¥3,000 initial fee, which is included. On the data-only SIM, speeds may be temporarily reduced if more than 3GB is used in a day.
Sim Card Geek: Other SIM plans also available. Free shipping to many countries, or pick-up at the post office at Narita Airport or another major airport in Japan. Fair usage applies, and speeds may be temporarily reduced if more than 3GB is used in a day.
U-mobile: SIM cards can be purchased at both Narita and Haneda Airport. 220MB of high-speed data (375Mbps) per day; after that speeds are throttled to 200kbps until midnight. Cannot be recharged. Prices listed are approximate. 2GB/7-day, unlimited/7-day and 3.5GB/15-day plans are also available.
OCN: Available at airports, as well as major electronic retailers and a range of other stores. Prices are approximate. Maximum (theoretical) speed of 788Mbps; after 100MB has been used, speeds are throttled to 200kbps. Chinese and Korean language call center support available.
Rakuten Mobile: Rakuten SIM cards are available online as well as from retailers in Japan. These travel SIM cards rely on the NTT DoCoMo network. They can be recharged with extra data.

No one can call you on your cell phone: With the exception of Mobal’s voice + data SIM, Japan’s SIM cards for short-term travelers are usually data-only, meaning you can’t call or text, or even receive phone calls. Although, if you’re still doing that, you’re probably one of those people who prints out emails and puts them in a filing cabinet. Or sends faxes. Or both. Society’s judgment, not ours.

pile of sim cards
Photo by iStock.com/ra-photos

Buying a SIM card in Tokyo (or elsewhere in Japan)

Oops. Just ignored everything you said and went straight into town. Sorry.

No worries. Just look for a BIC Camera store (Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro have quite a few) or Yodobashi Camera (e.g. in Akihabara) and grab yourself whatever Japan SIM card seems like the best deal. Bic SIM cards are fairly popular, we hear. For more information, see our tips for buying a SIM card in Tokyo.

Yodobashi Camera sim card section
You can just breeze into an electronics retailer and pick up a SIM card. But buying online is easier. | Photo by Greg Lane

Once you’re in the shop, you can say to the staff: シムカードを探しています。私に合うのはどれですか?Shimu ka-do wo sagishiteimasu. Watashi ni au no wa dore desu ka? That translates to “I’m looking for a SIM card. Which one would be best for me?” Many stores will have English-speaking staff, to make things easier.

Note: If you’re wondering what format of SIM you need, this should be listed on your phone manufacturer’s page. If you can’t work it out, your local phone shop should be able to help you with that. Try to get this info before you touch down in Japan. If you’ve bought your phone in the last four years, it’s likely to use a Nano SIM. In any case, most prepaid travel SIM cards in Japan can be adjusted to the right size.

travel sim card
Japan travel SIMs generally support all sizes, but to be safe, check in advance. | Photo by iStock.com/martin-dm

Japan SIM cards for tourists: Frequently asked questions

Got questions about Japan travel SIM cards? We got answers.

Which SIM cards can I buy in Japan?

Prepaid U-mobile, OCN and Rakuten SIMs are among those you can buy on the ground in Japan. Other options include BIC Camera SIMs and IIjmio’s Japan travel SIMs. See our guide to buying a SIM card after arrival—while the focus is on Tokyo, it applies to all of Japan.

Where can I buy a Japan SIM card in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong or The Philippines?

If you are traveling from one of the above areas, you can order a SIM card online and have it delivered before you leave for Japan, or—depending on the provider—pick it up at your local airport or landmark. For example, Mobal SIM cards can be collected at Singapore’s Japan Rail Cafe or the Nikkei Education Center in Hong Kong. There may be other options for your region.

How do I activate a Japan SIM card?

The exact steps depend on the provider, but generally it’s a matter of inserting the SIM into your phone and following the instructions provided. It doesn’t take long, and you should be able to start using it straight away.

Alternatives to SIM cards for tourists in Japan

Wait a minute, this is TokyoCHEAPo, not TokyoEXPENSIVEo, you want me to pay actual money for a service? 

Not at all! You can be super cheap about data and use free wifi from teH eVil Corporations. First up Starbucks, a coffee chain which I understand is quite popular with the kids, has free wifi, providing you register at the link above. Then, just pop into a store and away you go!

Sign up? That’s WAY too much work. 

OK, well, Apple happens to give out free wifi at various store locations with no login needed. And if there’s not one of those near you, the good ol’ Tokyo Metro provides free wifi too. AND if your home internet provider is part of the Fon network, you can use your own home internet login and passcode on Fon hotspots, which are practically everywhere in Tokyo. That’s not taking into account the myriad cafes and restaurants which also offer free wifi.

Speaking of Fon, they also offer travel wifi in the form of portable hotspots, which you can rent for your stay in Japan.

OK, calmed down now. Carry on.

It is worth pointing out a few other alternative solutions, too.

rental wifi router japan
Renting a portable wifi hotspot is a good idea if you have more than one device. | Photo by Victor Gonzalez

First up, if you have more than one device that requires the net, or a few of you are traveling together, you may want to consider a portable wifi device from a rental provider like the aforementioned Fon, or Ninja Wifi, who will give you a 30% discount. You can pick these routers up and drop them off at airports for convenience and they appear, from the ones we’ve seen so far, to have unlimited or very generous data allowances. For a more in-depth guide, see our popular guide to renting a wifi router.

AND FINALLY, you may be pleased to know that some mobile networks outside Japan offer cheap roaming packages. For example, data is free in Japan for T-Mobile USA customers on one of their plans. Read the fine print carefully though, as your data speeds may be heavily throttled. 

Information is subject to change. Article regularly updated. Last update: February, 2020.

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