Using the phone and the Internet while in Japan

Public telephones can be found everywhere in Japan. Green and grey telephones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins as well as prepaid cards. IC card phones only accept prepaid IC cards. A local call will cost you ¥10 per minute. If 100 Y coins are used, the phone does not give change. To make a call to Japan: dial 00 + 81 + city code without the leading zero + the caller’s number. International calls can be made from grey telephones or IC card phones, which are labelled “International & Domestic Card/Coin Telephone”.

It is possible to make local and international calls with prepaid cards issued by several companies, such as the Moshi Moshi card, from any pay phone. These prepaid cards are sold in supermarkets, convenience stores (Family Mart, 7-Eleven) and station kiosks. Alternatively, you can also go to an Internet café and use calling software such as Skype.

Mobile phones in Japan

– Activate the “international” option: it is usually activated by default. Otherwise, remember to contact your operator to subscribe to the (free) option. However, be sure to do so at least 48 hours before departure.

– Roaming: this is a system of international agreements between operators. In concrete terms, this means that when you arrive in a country, the new local network is automatically displayed. You quickly receive a text message from your operator offering a more or less advantageous traveller’s pack, including a limited package of telephone consumption and Internet connection.

– Foreign packages included: some operators offer packages where 35 days of roaming per year are offered worldwide. You can therefore accumulate several trips abroad without worrying about the bill on your return. Please note that although SMS, MMS and calls are often unlimited, the Internet connection is limited. Other operators offer roaming all year round to certain destinations. Ask your operator for more information.

– Namely: a tri-band or quad-band phone is required in Japan, where only 3G or 4G mobiles work. To make sure your device is compatible with your destination, check with your operator.

– Buy a prepaid SIM card locally: Upon arrival, simply buy a local prepaid SIM card like those available at www.simoptions.com/ for instance. There are many operators (KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and Vodaphone). You can also find mobile phone shops in major cities, train stations or at the airport. You will then be given a local telephone number. Please note that you can no longer be reached on your usual number but only on this new number.

Before paying, try this SIM card in your phone – previously unblocked – to check if it is compatible. For a short stay, you can buy a prepaid phone, without subscription, with the AU operator.

SIM card offers are valid and complementary: count (mobile data only) ¥2,500-3,200 or €21-27 for 7 days. For 2 weeks, ¥3,500-4,000, i.e. €29-34.

– Another very practical solution is the possibility to rent a Japanese mobile phone (Cell Phone Rental) for the duration of your stay upon arrival at the airport, from the companies SoftBank, KDDI, DoCoMo and Mobile Center (there are others, these are the best known). They are at interesting and reasonable prices.

Internet connection in Japan

– Connecting to the Wi-Fi gives you free access to the web. Be careful, if you don’t have a package with free roaming, don’t connect to the 3G or 4G networks, or your bill may increase. The wisest thing to do is to deactivate the “data abroad” connection.

You can also switch your mobile phone to “Airplane” mode and then activate Wi-Fi. Be careful, however, as the “Airplane” mode prevents you from receiving calls and messages.

Most hotels (sometimes restaurants and bars) have a free network.

– Cheap Internet in Japan: there is a free Japan connected Free Wi-Fi app, which allows you to connect to available hotspots. Another solution is the pocket connection for smartphones and tablets to connect them to 4G with Pocket Wi-Fi, starting at ¥3,000 for 1 or 2 days, very degressive prices (¥5,700 for 10 days).

Another option, a Data SIM card for Japan (duration 7, 15 or 30 days), which allows you to stay connected to the Internet (but does not allow you to be called or to make phone calls). 2 card formats: Micro and Nano. Of course, you must have a recent unlocked phone and check with your operator to find out if it is compatible with your device.