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: This article is about SIMs for a short stay in Japan. If you’re planning on living in Japan or you’re here for an extended period of time, see our article on Japan SIM contracts.
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; if you order your SIM in advance, you can get online the minute you pick it up at the airport (all companies provide some form of airport pick-up). 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.
|Voice + 7GB data/30 days: ¥7,920
| Unlimited data/8 days: ¥4,730
Unlimited data/16 days: ¥6,490
Unlimited data/31 days: ¥7,920
|8GB/8 days: ¥3,480
16GB/16 days: ¥5,480
31GB/31 days: ¥6,980
|Unlimited data/8 days: ¥4,950
Unlimited data/15 days: ¥7,150
Unlimited data/30 days: ¥9,900
|1.5GB/30 days: ¥2,200
3GB/30 days: ¥3,300
|5GB/10 days: ¥1,980
7GB/21 days: ¥2,970
More about the providers
With the Mobal voice + data SIM, when your 7GB is up, data is still available at slower speeds. Top-ups can be purchased. 60-, 90-day and long-term packages also possible. 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. Similarly to all voice-calling products, the voice + data SIM carries a ¥2,970 initial fee, which is included. On the data-only SIM, speeds may be temporarily reduced if more than 3GB is used in a day.
Simcard Geek has other SIM plans available. There is free shipping to many countries, or pick-up at the post office at Narita Airport or at other major airports in Japan. Fair usage applies, and speeds may be temporarily reduced if more than 3GB is used in a day.
Sakura Mobile SIM cards come pre-activated, so you simply plug and play. Longer-term SIM deals also available. Fair usage applies to data.
Called Japan Travel SIMs, IIJmio SIMs are available at airports and electronic stores countrywide. Prices are approximate, and the maximum (theoretical) speed is 788Mbps. SIMs can be recharged with extra data. Chinese language call center support is available.
Runs on the NTT DoCoMo network. SIM cards can be recharged with extra data. Delivery costs ¥370 to Japan airport post office, or ¥520 to a hotel/other accommodation. You can buy them at electronics stores and Aeon, too. SIM cards must be returned after use.
Voice + data vs. data-only travel SIMs
While data-only SIMs are often the default for travel these days, there are strong arguments for getting a SIM that allows you to make and receive calls and send/receive texts, from an actual Japanese phone number.
Making voice calls with a Japan travel SIM
With the exception of Mobal’s voice + data SIM, Japan’s SIM cards for short-term travelers are data-only, meaning you can’t call or text, or even receive phone calls. A partial workaround is to make VoIP calls through an app like Facebook Messenger, Skype, LINE or WhatsApp, but, as a group of tourists found out after driving their rental car into a ditch, this can be unreliable — we had to lend them our phone to call for roadside assistance.
Apps that require a Japanese phone number
Emergencies aside, you’ll need a Japanese phone number in order to use a number of apps locally — even if they can be downloaded outside of Japan. These include the following:
- Mobile Suica
- Uber Eats
- Yahoo! Japan
If you’re planning on using any of the above on your Japan trip, you’ll want to make sure you have ordered a voice + data SIM.
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 (link in Japanese, but Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro have quite a few) or Yodobashi Camera (also in Japanese) 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 guide on where to buy a SIM card in Tokyo.
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 kādo wo sagashiteimasu. 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.
Japan SIM cards for tourists: Frequently asked questions
Got questions about Japan travel SIM cards? We have answers.
Which tourist SIM cards can I buy in Japan?
Mobal SIMs and Rakuten prepaid SIMs are among those you can order online when you are already in Japan. Other options include BIC Camera SIMs and IIjmio’s Japan Travel SIM, which you can buy at the airport. For more info, 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.
Can I use an eSIM in Japan?
If you have a newer phone or tablet, you might be able to use a software-based eSIM card (instead of a physical SIM card) for your trip to Japan. Read more about eSIMs in Japan.
Where are the big companies like SoftBank, Docomo and AU?
As in most countries, there are network providers with their own retail brands, and smaller companies that operate on the networks of the big players like Docomo. You can get travel SIMs from the big players if you go into their stores, or order online from e.g. Amazon, but the smaller players usually provide the best value.
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 giAnt Corporations. First up, a coffee chain that 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.
OK, calmed down now. Carry on.
It is worth pointing out a few other alternative solutions, too.
Renting a travel wifi router
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 Ninja Wifi, who give our readers a 20% discount. You can pick these travel routers up and drop them off at airports for convenience, and they have generous data allowances. For a more in-depth take, see our popular guide to renting a travel wifi router in Japan.
Roaming in Japan
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!
If a trip to the UK happens to be on the cards too, or you just want to wince at how pricey Japan is in comparison, check out our London Cheapo Guide to UK prepaid SIM cards and where to buy a SIM card in London.
Video explainer of SIMs for travelers to Japan
Information is subject to change. Article regularly updated. Last update: March 15, 2023.