If you’re wondering how best to stay connected while you’re traveling around Japan, a pocket wifi router might be the solution. Often easier to set up than SIM cards, especially useful if you are traveling in a group or have multiple devices (e.g. two phones, a tablet, laptop and so on), and super simple to collect and drop off, these mobile wifi routers are a clever choice. Here, we explain how you can rent a wifi router in Japan, as well as what the top options are in terms of value, data usage and length of stay.
Renting a wifi router in Japan: How it works
It’s actually fairly simple to rent a pocket wifi router for your trip to Japan. All you need to do is fill out an online application (most providers have English web pages), and the portable router will be ready for collection at the airport when you arrive, or delivered to your accommodation shortly after you get there. Both options are often free, but if not, you’re looking at a small levy of between ¥500 and ¥1,100. In most cases, booking two to three days in advance is sufficient.
Once you’ve got the router in your cheapo paws, you just switch it on, connect to it from your devices (you’ll have been given the password, obviously) and boom—you have the interwebs at your disposal. Just before you leave Japan, you either return the router in the prepaid envelope provided (just pop it into a postbox), or drop it off at the airport—different providers have different requests.
There are currently more than 30 companies that provide wifi router rental in Japan, with big variations in data allowances, connectivity speeds, coverage and rental periods. Routers use 3G, 4G, WiMAX or LTE and tend to come in 3-, 7-, 14- and 30-day (or longer) packages. You can sometimes combine a router with a cellphone for discounted rates on both.
Our basic advice is to get the fastest speed possible and opt for unlimited data (note, though, that many plans have daily data caps after which speeds are reduced). After all, you’re going to be uploading loads of pics and footage of your fabulous adventures in Japanland to make your friends jealous—and you don’t want to get throttled in these noble endeavors. We may be cheapskates, but we believe in decent internet.
To make the choice easier for you, we’ve compared the different providers (we made a spreadsheet and everything, but we’ll spare you the gory details) and present the top choices below. SoftBank and DoCoMo are two of the big names that come up in searches, and the ones that stand out as you roll through the airports. But they don’t always have the best deals directly.
1. Best-value pocket wifi router in Japan
To work out the router plans that have the best value, we looked at pricing, speed and data allowances. Hovering near the top of the rankings is the Ninja Wifi router, a pocket device that provides download speeds of up to 187.5 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 37.5 Mbps—more than fast enough for doing most things. The router runs on the SoftBank network, using 4G and 4G LTE technology. Data is unlimited (but using over 3GB in one day might see speeds slow down).
The base rental rate, with tax, is ¥972 per day, but cheapo readers get a 30% discount, meaning that a five-day router rental will cost you just ¥3,402. (Note: The discount is applied automatically when you follow the link.) You can pick up and drop off your device for free at the airport. Also, you can get medical insurance and translation devices as an add-on, which is pretty neat.
Another contender—thanks to its speeds—is CD Japan, where you can get a wifi router that runs on WiMAX (good coverage in cities, less so in the ‘burbs) and gives you download speeds of up to 220Mbps and upload speeds of up to 40Mbps. Data is unlimited, but should you use more than 10GB over three consecutive days, speeds will be reduced the following day. Rental fees start at ¥3,650 for five days, going up to ¥11,100 for 30. Thereafter, rates drop significantly. Note that insurance is extra and there is a delivery fee of ¥540.
The standard wifi router provided by Rentalwifi is also a good pick for stays of a couple of weeks or under. Relying on SoftBank and offering download speeds of up to 75Mbps and uploads of up to 25Mbps, the router includes unlimited data (though it gets slowed down substantially if 10GB gets chowed). Fees start at ¥3,160 for four days and go up to ¥12,430 for 30. Delivery is free.
2. Best mobile wifi router for heavy usage
If the data/speed restrictions in the above section unsettled you, you might consider a router from Japan Wireless. Their Business Wifi plan gives you download speeds of up to 75Mbps and unlimited data on the SoftBank network. Rates are higher though, starting at ¥3,402 for two days and climbing up to ¥12,582 for a month-long rental. There is also a Premium Wifi option that has download speeds of up to 187 Mbps, but is a few hundred yen more expensive. Delivery is ¥500.
Another good option for heavy users is the previously mentioned Ninja Wifi. Although their site states that there is a “fair usage” policy for high data use, in practice this is not enforced.
3. Best pocket wifi router for long-term stays
If you’re going to be in Japan for more than a month, the High Speed Wifi router from Japan Mobile and Wifi Router Rentals is probably one of the most affordable options. Running on WiMAX 2 and various networks, these routers come with unlimited data and download speeds of up to 110Mbps. However, if you use 10GB+ in a month, you get throttled to 200 kbps (slow!). Rental for 30 days is about ¥9,159, with a delivery fee of just over ¥1,000.
The SoftBank Pocket WiFi 501HW from Kyushu Wifi Rental (despite the name, they operate countrywide) is another viable option, giving you unlimited data on the SoftBank LTE network at download speeds of up to 187.5Mbps and uploads of up to 37.5Mbps. Fees are capped at ¥9,396 for a month. Round-trip postage costs just over ¥1,000. If you rent for 4-6 months, rates really plummet. This router plan is a pretty good option for short-term stays too.
4. Best mobile wifi router for very short trips to Japan
If you’re making a super short trip, the Ninja Wifi router is a good choice—you’re looking at ¥2,041 for three days, thanks to the special cheapo discount.
Getting one of the Kyushu Wifi Rental routers is another economical option. Their SoftBank Pocket WiFi 501HW costs ¥626 per day (but don’t forget to add in postage fees of ¥1,000). There are also slower and capped packages, which cost a bit less.
Do I need wifi router insurance?
Insurance is optional when you rent a wifi router, but be sensible and go for at least a basic plan—it will set you back maybe ¥500–¥3,000 in total, but will save you potentially zillions in stress reduction. The last thing you want is a router return nightmare just before you jet out of Japan!
Is free wifi available in Japan?
The short answer? Um, sort of. While there are free wifi hotspots in Japan, there are nowhere near as many as there should be, and sometimes connecting can be tricky. It’s not advisable to rely exclusively on free wifi while traveling around Tokyo and the rest of the country–unless you’re cool with an enforced digital detox. Read more about connecting to the internet in Japan.
While we do our best to ensure the information here is correct, it is subject to change. Post regularly updated. Last update: October 9, 2018.
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