If you’re wondering how best to stay connected while you’re traveling around 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 collect 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. 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 and rental periods. Routers use 3G, 4G, WiMAX or LTE and tend to come in 3-, 7-, 14- and 30-day packages. You can sometimes combine a router with a cellphone for discounted rates on both.
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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
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 3G in one day can see speeds slow down). The rental rate is ¥900 per day, but cheapo readers get a special discount, meaning that a five-day router rental will cost you just ¥3,888. You can pick up and drop off your device for free at the airport. Also, you can get medical insurance as an add-on, which is pretty neat.
Cheapo tip: If you’re traveling from Singapore, this portable 4G wifi router will probably work out cheaper. You can pick it up and drop it off in central Singapore.
For everyone else, 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 there is a delivery fee of ¥540.
The standard wifi router provided by Rental Wifi is also a 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 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 for heavy usage
If the data/speed restrictions in the above section unsettled you, you might be better off with a router from Japan Wireless. The Business Wifi plan gives you download 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 quite a bit higher though, starting at ¥3,650 for two days and climbing up to ¥12,150 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. 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 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 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 three days, you get throttled for a 24-hour period. Rental for 30 days is ¥9,160, with a delivery fee of just over ¥1,000.
The SoftBank Pocket WiFi 501HW 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 187.5Mbps and uploads of up to 37.5Mbps. Fees start at ¥1,740 for three days and are capped at ¥8,700 for a month (excluding tax). Round-trip postage costs ¥1,000. If you rent for 4-6 months, rates really plummet. This router plan is actually a pretty good option for short-term stays too.
4. Very short trips
If you’re making a super short trip, the Ninja Wifi router is a good choice—you’re looking at about ¥2,300 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 around ¥580 per day (but don’t forget to add in postage fees of ¥1,000). There are also slower, capped packages, which cost a bit less.
A quick word about insurance: This 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 zillions in stress reduction. The last thing you want is a router return nightmare just before you jet out of Japan!
This post was last updated in December 2017.
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