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 (90 days and up), see Japan’s Data and Voice SIM Providers Compared.
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.
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 buy your SIM in advance, you can get online the minute you arrive. 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|
|Voice + 7GB data/30 days: ¥7,500||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||More info|
| Unlimited data/8 days: ¥3,990
Unlimited data/16 days: ¥5,990
Unlimited data/31 days: ¥7,490
|8GB/8 days: ¥3,480
16GB/16 days: ¥5,480
31GB/31 days: ¥6,980
|Unlimited data x 8 days: ¥4,950
Unlimited data x 15 days: ¥7,150
Unlimited data x 30 days: ¥9,900
|OCN||100MB/day x 7 days: ¥3,278
100MB/day x 14 days: ¥3,850
|1GB/30 days: ¥2,700
2GB/90 days: ¥4,150
|10GB/30 days: ¥2,880||✔||×||✔||×||✔||More info|
|5GB/10 days: ¥1,980
7GB/21 days: ¥2,970
Notes on the providers:
Mobal: On the 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. 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.
Simcard 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.
Sakura Mobile: SIM cards come pre-activated, so you simply plug and play. Longer-term SIM deals also available. Fair usage applies to data.
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. SIM cards must be returned after use.
IIJmio: Called Japan Travel SIMs, IIJmio SIMs are available at airports and electronic stores countrywide. Other plans also available. Like OCN, prices are approximate, and the maximum (theoretical) speed is 788Mbps. SIMs can be recharged with extra data. Chinese language call center support is available.
SoftBank: The major telcos company offers a Japan Prepaid SIM for Travel direct on their own network. Prices approximate. SIM available at airports, SoftBank stores and major electronic retailers countrywide, as well as on Amazon.
b-mobile: 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.
Can I make voice calls with these Japan travel SIMs?
With the exception of Mobal’s voice + data SIM, Japan’s SIM cards for short-term travelers are mostly 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. Society’s judgment, not ours.
Jokes aside, a partial workaround is to make VoIP calls through an app like Facebook Messenger, Skype, LINE or WhatsApp.
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 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 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 4-5 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.
Japan SIM cards for tourists: Frequently asked questions
Got questions about Japan travel SIM cards? We have answers.
Which SIM cards can I buy in Japan?
Mobal , prepaid 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.
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. Right now, Japan doesn’t have eSIMs for visitors, but you can use some global eSIMs. Read more about eSIMs in Japan.
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 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.
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.
And 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.
Information is subject to change. Article regularly updated. Last update: July 16, 2021.