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Japanese Mobile Phone Carriers And Budget SIM Cards - A Guide

cell phone in fall in japan

Translated by Ken

Written by Jacky Chen

2020.09.04 Bookmark

Smartphones are an essential part of living in Japan and the rest of the world. What mobile phone carriers and plans are available in Japan? This article covers major Japanese mobile companies, like SoftBank, and low-cost cell phone provider options, like LINE and Rakuten Mobile.

Japan's Major Mobile Phone Carriers and Low-Cost Options

Mobile phone service in Japan is essential for everyday life. This article covers options ideal for many different types of mobile phone users and budgets.

First, we'll introduce low-cost carriers with SIM cards that allow users to save on yen while still receiving reliable calls, data, and phone service.

The second half of the article features the three telecommunication companies with the most extensive base of mobile phone customers in Japan. You can easily find their shops in nearly every city in the country. All three companies offer reliable calling, data, steady connections, and comprehensive customer service. We recommend any one of them for people whose priority is service quality.

Budget Smartphone Service and SIM Cards in Japan

In exchange for reliable speeds and extensive support, a phone contract with one of the three major carriers may cost up to 10,000 yen per month. If you're looking to save money, we recommend checking out one of the budget smartphones and SIM options. The basic plans start from around 2,000 yen/month.

The table below shows the basic monthly fees of each service along with the data limit and the charges for phone calls in Japan. Some of these services might have special discount campaigns so please check each official website for details.

    Company Monthly fee Data limit National phone calls
  • 2,280 yen up to 3 GB 10 minutes free
  • Rakuten Mobile
  • 2,980 yen No limit No limit
  • HIS Mobile
  • 2,480 yen up to 3 GB No limit
  • Y!Mobile
  • 2,680 yen up to 3 GB 10 minutes free
  • UQ mobile
  • 1,980 yen up to 3GB 20 yen/30 seconds
  • LINE Mobile
  • 1,480 yen up to 3 GB 20 yen/30 seconds
  • IIJmio
  • 1,600 yen up to 3 GB 20 yen/30 seconds

*The fees do not include the initial costs.

1. GTN Mobile

GTN MOBILE: A Japanese Mobile Phone Service With Multilingual Support

Picture courtesy of GTN MOBILE
GTN Mobile is geared specifically for residents who aren't Japanese nationals. They offer multilingual support and allow contracts with a certificate of residence and student ID card.

In addition to affordable rates, the plans do not have a contract period. The service is great if you are in Japan for a working holiday, study abroad program, or a short visit.

With GTN Mobile, you can pay your monthly bills at a convenience store. You do not need a Japanese bank account or credit card. Of course, you can also pay with a bank account or credit card.

As a bonus, if you register from the link below, you'll receive a 1,000 yen Amazon gift card!

GTN Mobile
Official Website

2. Rakuten Mobile

Rakuten Mobile

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
Rakuten Mobile, operated by the e-commerce company Rakuten, is a newcomer to the carrier business having started in 2018. There are no contract periods, and you will earn double Rakuten points if you shop on its online marketplace.

Rakuten Mobile
Official Website (Japanese)

3. HIS Mobile

HIS Mobile is a phone service offered by Japan's major travel agency, H.I.S. They offer both budget domestic SIM cards and international SIMs.

HIS Mobile
Official Website (Japanese)

4. IIJmio

Starting in 2012, IIJmio is an older budget carrier in comparison to other companies. The low-price plans are especially popular among international students.

Official Website

5. Y!mobile

Introduction to Japanese Telecom Companies

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
To purchase a SIM card from Y!mobile, you can visit one of their stores or select Softbank stores.

While most budget SIMs use data lines from the major carriers, Y!mobile directly uses Softbank's line, which is its parent company. This enables Y!mobile to offer more reliable connections.

Official Website

6. UQ Mobile

Introduction to Japanese Telecom Companies

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
UQ Mobile reportedly has the fastest data speeds despite being a budget mobile phone service provider. They offer unique ways to save extra money, such as a data savings mode that turns off data usage for social media platforms.

UQ Mobile
Official Website (Japanese)

7. LINE Mobile

Introduction to Japanese Telecom Companies

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
You can register for LINE Mobile online. With simple menu options, the registration process is easy to understand. Users can choose to use cellular lines from Softbank, Docomo, and au.

Additionally, LINE Mobile offers a plan that does not count social media towards the total data usage.

LINE Mobile
Official Website (Japanese)

Major Mobile Phone Carriers in Japan

1. NTT Docomo

Which Telecommunications Company Do You Want in Japan?

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
NTT Docomo boasts the largest share of smartphone users in Japan. They are known for their stable and consistent speeds. Due to their expansive cellular coverage, you'll stay connected in most parts of the country.

Additionally, Docomo offers a point program called d Point (Japanese). You can earn and use points through your phone bill and make purchases at affiliated stores.

NTT Docomo
Official Website
In-store Support
Store Locations
Coverage Area Map

2. au

Which Telecommunications Company Do You Want in Japan?

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
The second-largest phone carrier in Japan is au. Their commercial series, “Santaro,” which features heroes from Japanese folklore, is popular overseas, too.

Au has a wide variety of phone plans and, similar to Docomo, its cellular coverage is extensive.

Official Website
In-store Support
Store Locations
Coverage Area Map (Japanese)

3. SoftBank

Which Telecommunications Company Do You Want in Japan?

Picture courtesy of PR TIMES
SoftBank is known for its commercials featuring a cute white dog. In addition to selling mobile phones and cellular plans, SoftBank also owns the Fukuoka Hawks, a professional baseball team in Japan.

Yahoo! Japan is part of the SoftBank group, so SoftBank users can earn benefits for Yahoo! premium members (Japanese) when shopping and traveling (some plans are not eligible).

Official Website
In-store Support
Store Locations
Coverage Area Map

Important Points

While none of these carriers will encounter any issues in cities, some are more suitable for rural areas than others. Make sure to check the coverage map before choosing a carrier.

Also, certain plans have set contract periods. If you opt-out in the middle of your contract period, you will likely be required to pay a cancellation fee. Check the terms and conditions before choosing a plan.

Since Japan has three major mobile carriers, the stores may be busy. Prepare your passport, Japanese cash card, and residence card in advance to ensure a smooth registration process.

Find the Best Mobile Phone Plan in Japan

Both major carriers and budget SIMs have their pros and cons. Consider your priorities to find the right mobile carrier and plan for you. After securing a smartphone plan, you will have an easier time applying for jobs and filling out necessary registration forms.

Main image courtesy of Pixta

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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