Where is the best place to buy a SIM card for travel in Japan?

Are you planning a trip to Japan? If you've ever traveled abroad, you know how important it is to be able to access Instagram, messaging apps, and Google Maps while on the go. In 2024, prepaid SIM cards available in Japan have increased data capacity, improved communication speeds, and are surprisingly convenient. In addition to prepaid SIM cards, eSIM for travellers to Japan options have also become more abundant. eSIMs are on the rise, while physical prepaid SIM cards remain popular.

About Prepaid SIM Cards with Phone Numbers

In Japan, Prepaid SIM cards with phone numbers are rarely available for travelers. Those visiting Japan can only purchase SIM cards dedicated to data communication. Acquiring a phone number in Japan involves stringent personal verification, making it challenging for travelers. Although some are sold at certain airport locations, SIM cards with phone numbers require advance reservations and procedures, making spontaneous purchases difficult. Be cautious of companies advertising Prepaid SIM cards with phone numbers, as they may provide illegal services. Even with data-only SIM cards, apps like Skype and WhatsApp can be used for calls during your trip to Japan.

Reserving Online vs. Buying at the Airpor

Reserving Online vs. Buying at the Airport

There are three methods to purchase a SIM card for use in Japan:

  • Reserve online before arrival and pick up at a Japanese airport or hotel.
  • Reserve online before arrival from platforms like Amazon and receive it in your home country.
  • Purchase directly at shops in Japanese airports.

Reserve online before arrival and pick up at a Japanese airport or hotel.

This is the most recommended method. Purchasing from Japanese online services offers competitive prices, and they deliver throughout Japan. You can start using the SIM card immediately upon arrival. Additionally, if your plans change and you can't make it to Japan, cancellation fees are often lower.

Reserve online before arrival from platforms like Amazon and receive it in your home country.

As these cards are not sold in Japan, the sales commission is higher. However, since you receive the card before coming to Japan, there's no risk of not being able to pick it up, providing peace of mind.

Purchase directly at shops in Japanese airports.

During peak travel seasons, shops selling SIM cards at airports may run out of stock, leaving you unable to purchase one. Also, prices at the airport shops are slightly higher due to airport fees.

Method Advantages Disadvantages
1. Reserve online before arrival and pick up at a Japanese airport or hotel. - Highly recommended method.
- Prices are lower when purchased from Japanese online services.
- Delivery available throughout Japan.
- Immediate usage upon arrival.
- Affordable cancellation fees if plans change.
2. Reserve online before arrival from platforms like Amazon and receive it in your home country. - No risk of being unable to pick up, as it arrives before coming to Japan. - Higher SIM card sales commission, as it's not sold in Japan.
3. Purchase directly at shops in Japanese airports. - Convenient during travel season. - Risk of shops running out of stock.
- Slightly higher prices due to airport fees.

What kind of SIM card/eSIM should you buy for use in Japan?

About Network

To communicate comfortably in Japan, you need to buy a SIM card/eSIM with a stable network. There are four major carriers in Japan, but to put it simply, if you buy a SIM card or eSIM that uses the networks of either Docomo or Softbank, you will be able to connect to many places and have stable communications. SIM cards with docomo network
eSIMs with docomo network

Data capacity

A data capacity of 1GB per day is considered sufficient. Calculate based on the number of days you will be staying and buy a SIM card or eSIM card with a higher capacity. If you want to use your smartphone as a hotspot, it's better to have more data capacity. 50GB or more should be enough. Also, consider buying SIM cards or eSIMs that are not prohibited from being used as hotspots. How Much Data Do You Need for Traveling in Japan?

Before your trip, reserve a SIM card through a Japanese online service. It's the most cost-effective and reliable option.

Forgot to reserve a Prepaid SIM card?

If you cannot purchase a Prepaid SIM card upon arriving in Japan, consider the following three alternative methods:

  1. eSIM Option:

    • If eSIM is available for your device, buying an eSIM is the most convenient option.
    • You can purchase an eSIM that allows you to communicate in Japan anytime, anywhere.
    • eSIM for Japan Travel
  2. Electronics Retailers in Certain Cities:

    • In some major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, you can buy Prepaid SIM cards at certain electronics retailers.
    • Consider visiting large electronics retailers such as Yodobashi Camera; it's often more cost-effective than purchasing at the airport.
    • Yodobashi Camera's website
  3. CDJapan Rental Delivery Service:

    • If you choose to purchase through CDJapan Rental, they can deliver the SIM card to your hotel.
    • Explore the options available on CDJapan Rental's website.

Please review each method and choose the one that best suits your needs.

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