If you’re wondering how best to stay connected while you’re traveling through Japan, a wifi router might be the solution. Easier to set up than SIM cards, especially useful if you have multiple devices (e.g. two phones, a tablet, laptop and so on), and super simple to get and drop off, wifi routers are a clever choice. Here we explain how you can go about renting 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 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 router will be ready for collection at the airport when you arrive, or delivered to your hotel room/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 yen. 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, with big variations in data allowances, connectivity speeds, coverage (DoCoMo tends to be the best on this front), and rental periods. Routers use 3G, 4G or LTE and tend to come in 3, 7, 14 and 30-day packages. You can often 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. And no, we don’t receive any monies from these companies for recommending them. Sadly.
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.
1. Best value
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 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 3GB over three days, speeds are reduced for a 24-hour period. Rental fees start at 3,800 yen for five days (not three, yay for you!), going up to 11,400 yen for 30. Thereafter, rates drop significantly. There is a delivery fee of 540 yen.
The standard wifi router provided by Rental Wifi is another good pick for stays of a couple of weeks or under. Relying on DoCoMo and offering download speeds of up to 75Mbps and uploads of up to 25Mbps, the router includes unlimited data (though it gets slowed down until the next calendar month if 10GB gets chowed). Fees start at 3,160 yen for four days and go up to 12 430 yen for 30. Delivery is free.
2. Best for heavy usage
If the data/speed restrictions in the above section unsettled you, you’ll probably be better off with a router from Japan Wireless. The Business Wifi plan gives you downloads speeds of up to 75Mbps and proper unlimited data (with no throttling as a threat, last we heard) on the Y!mobile LTE network. Rates are a bit higher, starting at 3,650 yen for two days and climbing up to 12,150 yen for a month-long rental. There is also a Premium Wifi option that uses the SoftBank LTE network and has download speeds of up to 187 Mbps, but is a few hundred yen more expensive. Airport pickup is free and delivery is 500 yen.
3. Best 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 one of the most economical options. Running on the Emobile network (which seems to include SoftBank coverage), these routers come with unlimited data and download speeds of up to 110Mbps. Rental for 30 days is 8,980 yen, with a delivery fee of 1,000 yen.
The SoftBank Pocket WiFi 304HW from Kyushu Wifi Rental (they operate countrywide) is another viable option, giving you unlimited data on the SoftBank LTE network at download speeds of up to 110Mbps and uploads of up to 10Mbps. Fees start at 1,740 yen for three days and are capped at 8,700 yen for a month (excluding tax). Delivery costs 1,000 yen. If you rent for 4-6 months, rates really plummet. This router plan is actually a very good option for short-term stays too.
4. Very short trips
If you’re stopping by for a very short trip, one of Japan Pocket Wifi’s plans will probably be the most economical. They start at 1,200 yen for three days.
A quick word about insurance: This is optional when you rent a wifi router, but be sensible and go for it—it will set you back maybe 500-3,000 yen in total, but will save you zillions in stress reduction. The last thing you want is a router return nightmare just before you jet out of Japan!
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