Be sure to secure your iPhone or Android Smartphone whenever you travel. Precautions will help prevent disaster.
The iPhone or any Android Smartphone is an essential tool when traveling to Japan, Japan for tourists of any country. Google maps, travel guides, language translation, and many other apps are extremely useful. We used them all the time. Using our American AT&T iPhone in Japan was tricky. Most newer Verizon iPhones from the USA work internationally, since they use CDMA technology and include a SIM card slot. Verizon does carry several “World Phones” which work with SIM Cards, check with Verizon to see if you have one of these. We have done the research on our last trip and are sharing the findings with you.
Travel Tips for Japan
Yelp of Japan – Tabelog
We also have articles on using prepaid SIM cards in other countries:
Be sure to read our restaurant reviews for Japan:
Here are some tips on using your iPhone in Japan
You can only use foreign SIM cards in an unlocked iPhone or Android Smartphone. A locked smartphone only works on the original cell phone carrier. Most cell phone carriers in the US, including AT&T, allow you to unlock Smartphones after your 2 year contract or Next plan has been fulfilled. T-Mobile requires 18 months of payments or full payment before they will unlock a cell phone under contract. You can alternately purchase an unlocked Smartphone from Amazon, eBay, etc.
If you prefer to unlock your iPhone, you can try jailbreaking it. Jailbreaking and unlocking iPhones are not easy tasks. One slip and you may have bricked your expensive smartphone. You can buy a unlocked used iPhone from eBay or Craigslist. iPhone 5’s typically cost around $200.
This article also applies to using prepaid SIM Cards in the iPhone 6, 5s, 5c, 5, 4s, 4, and iPad with 4G or LTE. Android Smartphones utilizing GSM technology are also supported.
Different Smartphones use different sized SIM cards. Most foreign cell phone carriers sell smaller micro-SIM (iPhone 4, 4S, iPad) and nano-SIM (iPhone 6, 5, 5s, 5c, iPad mini and Air) for use in a variety of Smartphones. You should remove the SIM card from your phone before you attempt to purchase a prepaid SIM card in another country.
Main cellphone carriers in Japan
Japan is one of the few countries in the world that do not allow travelers to buy a fully functioning SIM card for their phone. They are worried about security and have only recently opened up the market, allowing visitors to more easily purchase a data only SIM card.
Previously, the only iPhone cellphone carrier in Japan is SoftBank. Japan is also very security conscious, so they do not allow vendors to simply sell a SIM card. You need to show a passport to rent a SIM card or mobile router.
Where to Buy
After visiting Tokyo and renting a Wi-Fi Router ahead of time, we found the easiest way to get a SIM card for your iPhone or Android Smartphone is to purchase one from a local electronic store.
We recommend Yodobashi Camera, which has several locations in Tokyo. Here is a picture of their board listing all the SIM’s they sell! The Yodobashi Akiba in Akihabara is massive. 8 floors of electronics heaven, with far more items than any store in the USA. We could spend all day there.
They also had a promotion for 2 weeks of free Wi-Fi service to anyone with a passport. Other stores like BIC camera may also have this promotion. They will give you a login for these Wireless Wi-Fi Hot spots:
- mobilepoint or mobilepoint1 or mobilepoint2
The Japan Travel SIM costs ¥3790, includes 2GB of data, and stays active for 3 months. No voice or text support. Use the Android and iOS Apps Skype and Whatsapp to do this! It is available in regular (full size), Micro and Mini sizes.
Renting ahead of time
You can alternatively rent a SIM card or pocket Wi-Fi router through several firms. They will send it to your hotel, making it very convenient. When you’re finished, you simply drop the postage paid envelope in any mailbox.
Companies offering this service at similar prices:
- So-net – Sony
- cdjapan.co.jp – we used this service. Seven days of unlimited data but the first 70MB’s each day at full speed. ¥3150 – this is way too little!
Always have the store activate the phone and load the card before you leave.
Turn your iPhone off and on again to get the new settings to load.
These instructions should work for other smartphones including Android smartphones that support American GSM networks from AT&T and T-Mobile.