Japan is a country known for its technological advancements, and its mobile landscape is no exception. With a wide range of options available, choosing the right SIM card can be overwhelming, even for me as a Japanese. In this article, we will explore the most affordable SIMs for both short-term and long-term stays in Japan. Whether you are visiting for a few days or planning to stay for an extended period, we have got you covered.
The Most Affordable SIMs for Short-Term Stays in Japan
For short-term stays in Japan, there are several affordable SIM card options available.
One of the best options is eSIM, because with eSIM, the entire process is done online. There is no need to go to a store or buy online and wait for the SIM card to arrive.
We recommend the following three eSIMs.
- Kimochi eSIM
- Nomad eSIM
The best recommendation is the “Kimochi eSIM”. The reason is that they have an English page, and their plans are flexible and inexpensive. A comparison of the three eSIMs is as follows
|English Page||Available||Partially Available||Not available|
|Flexibility||You can choose data usage per day and usage period||All the plans are for 30 days||only 2 plans available|
|from JPY 1,980|
|internet speed after internet data finishes||128kbps||128kbps||128kbps|
To check if “Kimochi eSIM” works with your phone, please call *#06#（star, hash, zero, six, hash）on the phone app. If you see EID number on the screen, “Kimochi eSIM” works with your phone.
You can access “KImochi eSIM” official website from the button below. Tap the Japanese flag in the upper right corner to bring up the language selection menu and choose English.
“Kimochi eSIM” Official Website
The Most Affordable SIMs for Long-Term Stays in Japan
For long-term stays in Japan, contract-based SIM cards offer more affordable rates.
The three major cellular carriers in Japan, NTT docomo, au, and SoftBank, are well known, but they are not the only options available today. In fact, I used to use NTT docomo, but now I don’t use any of these three carriers.
Instead, I use the following three carriers.
- HIS Mobile
- Rakuten Mobile
I now use LINEMO and HIS Mobile for my work phone and Rakuten Mobile for my personal phone. The reason I use SIMs from two carriers for my work phone is to be prepared for signal interference.
I did some information gathering beforehand and actually used other carriers (Excite Mobile, J:COM Mobile, povo 2.0, etc.), but I have now settled on these three carriers.
Even with three carriers, my monthly cell phone bill is less than 2,500 yen. However, in many cases, one will be sufficient. I will explain when three carriers are recommended. I have been using each carrier for more than a year, so I am familiar with their features and recommended cases.
A simple way to choose from these options is as follows.
- You have Wi-Fi at home and don’t watch many videos outside: LINEMO
- You just want cheap: HIS Mobile
- You want to use a lot of internet and phone calls on your phone: Rakuten Mobile
And here are the results of a detailed comparison.
|Internet Speed||Fast internet anytime, anywhere||Sometimes slows down||Fast internet anytime, anywhere|
|Other Features||Unlimited LINE talk, voice and video calls||20GB plan comes with unlimited 5-minute phone calls||Unlimited domestic calls with the app|
|English page||Available||Not available||Available|
Now let’s look at each of these carriers.
LINEMO is operated by SoftBank. LINEMO offers the same signal as SoftBank for 990 yen per month (3GB). Even if you use up your 3GB, you can still use the Internet at low speed（300kbps）. In addition, you can use LINE talk, voice and video calls as much as you want at lightning speed. You will be able to get by on 990 yen per month.
Please note that the 20GB/month plan is not cheap at 2,728 yen.
If you have Wi-Fi in your home and don’t watch a lot of video outside, LINEMO is your best option.
There is also an article about LINEMO.
The official LINEMO website can be accessed by clicking on the following button.
HISモバイル（HIS Mobile） utilizes the networks of NTT docomo but offer more affordable plans.
The cheapest plan is 290 yen per month for 500 MB, 3 GB for 770 yen, and 20 GB for 2,190 yen. Moreover, the 20GB plan comes with 5 minutes of unlimited calls.
However, since the company borrows lines from NTT docomo, there are times when the Internet is slow, such as during the daytime on weekdays. Another disadvantage is the initial cost of 3,300 yen. Furthermore, HIS Mobile has no English page.
If you want cheap anyway, HIS Mobile is recommended. If you are not confident in your Japanese, ask a Japanese friend to help you with the application.
There is also a post on HIS Mobile.
You can access the official website of HIS Mobile from the following button.
HIS Mobile Official Website
Rakuten Mobile is the fourth telecommunications carrier after NTT docomo, au, and SoftBank.
Monthly charges are automatically determined as follows: 1,078 yen for up to 3 GB and 2,178 yen for up to 20 GB. In addition, unlimited internet usage is available for 3,278 yen after 20 GB!
Another great feature is that domestic calls are free with the Rakuten Link app (free calls are not available with certain phone numbers).
If you want to use a lot of internet and phone calls on your smartphone, Rakuten Mobile is the right choice.
There is also a detailed post about Rakuten Mobile.
You can access the official Rakuten Mobile website by clicking the following button.
If you see a page in Japanese, you can switch to English by clicking “English” in the upper right corner.
Tips for Saving Money on Mobile Data in Japan
While SIM cards provide convenient access to mobile data, it is important to use it wisely to avoid excessive charges. One way to save money is to take advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots available in many public areas, such as train stations, cafes, and shopping malls. Additionally, consider downloading offline maps and translation apps to reduce your reliance on mobile data. If you are traveling with a group, consider sharing a portable Wi-Fi device instead of purchasing individual SIM cards. This can be a more cost-effective option, especially for longer stays.
Choosing the right SIM card for your stay in Japan depends on various factors, including the duration of your stay, data requirements, and budget. By considering these factors and comparing the features and benefits of different SIM cards, you can find the most affordable option that meets your needs. Whether you opt for a prepaid SIM card for short-term stays or a contract-based SIM card for long-term stays, having a reliable internet connection will enhance your experience in Japan. Stay connected, explore with ease, and make the most of your time in this captivating country.
Now that you have a better understanding of Japan’s mobile landscape and the most affordable SIMs for short-term and long-term stays, it’s time to choose the right SIM card for your needs. Explore the options mentioned in this article, compare their features and prices, and make an informed decision. As a Japanese, I sincerely wish you a pleasant time in Japan without worrying about your SIM card!
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