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  • There are 3 major mobile phone operators in Japan, NTTdocomo, SoftBank, and au/KDDI. For data access, PuPuRu resells the E-mobile service to foreigners at expensive but still bearable costs.
  • Now only SoftBank has 3G/UMTS SIM card based prepaid service. (As of Feb 2009)
SoftBank 3G covers all major cities in Japan.

  • There is no GSM/EDGE/GPRS service within Japan.

Sally's Rental service:
Sally's Rental offers data only SIM card rental. www.sallysrental.com for details.

  • Unlimited data usage SIM rental for a week is 3,255 yen.
  • 1GB limited SIM rental (standard and micro) is also available.

eConnect Japan service:
They offer prepaid sim card and portable WiFi router for travelers. The product is delivered to your hotel and picked up at the check-in counter.
Find out more athttp://www.econnectjapan.com/ (English)

  • Prepaid SIM card (both U-SIM and Micro SIM) for 1GB or 30 Days at ¥4100.
  • Pocket WiFi rental from ¥980 per day, up tp 55% discount.
  • Smartphone rental from ¥1480 per day, up to 40% discount.

SoftBank prepaid service:

There is no data access available using a SoftBank prepaid SIM. You have to buy the SIM card with a handset, at first. Store staff will not sell you a prepaid SIM card without a phone. You can only make voice calls and send text messages/MMS.

You can put the SIM card in your own phone, but MMS will not work on a non-Softbank branded handset (unless you are willing to spend considerable time hacking your phone).

  • APN: softbank
Username: ai@softbank
Password: softbank

  • Note: SoftBank is formerly vodafone Japan.
vodafone UK's SIM can be used in Japan via SoftBank network.
Maybe other vodafone's SIMs are as the same, but not for sure.

  • You can find SoftBank shops in Narita Airport.
Terminal 1: 1F(ground fl.) and 4F
Terminal 2: B1F

  • The following Tokyo stores have English speaking staff: Roppongi and Omotedando. Others are listed here http://mb.softbank.jp/en/customer_support/shops.html

PuPuRu service

PuPuRu also offers voice options, but in the next only data services will be described.

E-Mobile Data Service

Costs are flat. Costs depend on when you start and end the service, not only how long you use. Better not use the service bridging two months.
One unlimited traffic month usage costs about 75 Euros.
You get an USB key with self-installing software, a data only SIM and unlimited traffic. They can send it anywhere in Japan. Your hotel or if you wish already at your landing airport. Even with jet lag and with the initial "Lost in Translation" effect is a 5 minute matter to understand where to go in the airport and get the package. You will then return it simply by using a self addressed already stamped envelope they provide and posting it in any postbox right before leaving Japan (also from the airport, if you want to use it till the very last second). As simple as that.

You get about 1.5 Mbit/s inbound bandwidth and about 500 Kb/s outbound (Maximum is 8/Mb/s, but as everywhere you never reach this limit).
  • Coverage is by far not comparable to the 3G network. Though it uses (if I am not wrong) a 3G network (maybe a subset of the DoCoMo network) you may be in places with 3G coverage but no Internet access.
  • Coverage is good in cities, along main railways and highways. No go in mountains or hills (if steep, which is always the case in Japan!). Anyway you can check the coverage on their site and the maps are accurate.
  • Handovers work, so you can begin a VOIP conversation in your car and it lasts while you are traveling until you are under coverage.
  • You should use the USB dongle. It is not allowed to put the SIM in other devices. Therefore at least in principle you cannot use your smartphone to connect to Internet. This limits a bit your flexibility, being bound to use a PC which as small it can be, cannot be carried everywhere. I guess that introducing the SIM in a 3G phone and configuring the right APN (which is clearly given in the documentation) it would work, but I do not know if and how they may spot you and block the service.

NOTE: E-Mobile uses UMTS band IX frequencies. It is next to impossible(if at all) to find any phone supporting those frequencies and accept SIM card.



300kbps 2980 yen/month unlimited , micro- or regular SIM. No activation required, ready to use. Does not support VoIP or streaming. So Skype doesn't work.

http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/1gb/index.html (in Japanese only)

1GB HSDPA micro- or regular , 3480yen for up to 1 month or 1GB of data, whichever comes first. Can be ordered online or purchased in stores (Yodobashi, BIC etc., in Tokyo, availability in other cities is limited).

This is the same card as eConnect but 1410yen cheaper after shipping and pre-activation.

http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/sim_mp/index.html (in Japanese only)
HSDPA micro-SIM 5280/month
1-month card can only be ordered on-line. Card will be delivered to an address in Japan (can be a hotel), on a specific date you specify.

The card must then be activated (English service is available, just say you want English) either
1) using a Japanese mobile phone calling a toll free number, OR
2) using a land line, with a toll call that lasts ~15-30 minutes.
When you call using land line, they will have to call you back at the Japanese phone number you provide, and activate the card for 10 days. A confirmation code will be sent by snail mail (takes 2 business days including Saturday). When you call/email them back with that code, the card will be fully activated.

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