NILS Fukuoka Times

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Getting a Mobile Phone Plan in Japan


Phone Plans For International Students


When being overseas, especially in a non-English-speaking country like Japan, you really need a cell phone. Not forgetting to mention those with data plan is of course ideal. Having a cell phone in Japan is crucial to keep in contact with friends and to sign up for services. You just won’t get around very well without one. Depending on how long you’re staying, short term or long term, you have a few options available to you.

Phone Rental

If you need a local number during your stay, then you can rent a phone from a variety of outlets, both online and in a variety of stores. If you are new to the country, moving into accommodation and chose to do it online, this will be tricky as you will need to know your address to arrange a delivery. If you choose to pick-up from the store, you will need to know where the shop is located. You may also need to pay a deposit and your choice of phones will be limited to the old-style flip phones or cheap, slow-speed smartphones. There are some companies which allow you to rent iPhones and high-end Android phones but it will definitely come with a big price tag. Furthermore, you will also pay for calls on top, which adds an unseen cost to your final bill. These are just some of the things to consider when thinking about renting a cell phone in Japan.

SIM Cards

phone-rentalsim card

Of course, not all Japanese cell phone plans even require an actual phone! A cheaper alternative to cell phone rental is to use your current phone as an IP phone, making and receiving calls through internet services like Skype and LINE. You can do this by renting a SIM Card from Sakura Mobile. This lets you keep your current phone while enjoying the benefits of the super-fast Japanese mobile internet. Check with your provider to see if your handset is unlocked first — before you fly, of course!

Long-Term Students

Prepaid Phones

For those who wish to stay longer, it’s still possible in a few places to get a cell phone in Japan that is purchased along with a credit balance and can be used to make calls and send messages. These phones will have a local telephone number, but that aside, offer very few advantages over other options. The phones are usually older and tend to be aimed towards those who use their phones for calls and nothing else. Premium call pricing also means they are not the most economical option, and topping them up often requires visiting a physical store to buy credit.

Any cell phone in Japan will be domestically marketed, meaning that all the paperwork will be in Japanese, as are all bills and customer support. If you run into problems, you will more than likely end up visiting a store to resolve any issues.

Finally, due to the basic nature of these phones you might find yourself carrying around two devices in order to access the internet. With smaller screens and older technology, even if you can access the internet it may well be too cumbersome to bother with, depending on how patient you are. This is not to mention the cost of data, which combined with voice and messaging is more expensive than other options.

2-Year Plan

Japanese cell phone plans are usually bought through a two-year contract with one of the major phone operators and are an option for those looking to stay in Japan to study for a longer period. These plans give access to voice calls, messages and data, ensuring you have everything at your fingertips.

If you do not already have a cell phone in Japan, then this can be an attractive option especially for students staying a long time. The vast majority of these plans come with a choice of handset depending on how much you want to pay. If you already have a phone then your choices become much more limited, as most plans are only available with a phone.

Keep in mind that you are liable for the entire two-year period of your contract, which will also require that you have a two-year visa. If you are here for a shorter stay, then you will not be eligible. In one of the great ironic twists, some providers require an address and phone number before you can sign the contract, which presents obvious problems for new arrivals!

For those who like to use the internet frequently while travelling, or like to send a lot of messages, Japanese cell phone plans can usually be tailored to suit you with extra minutes or data—but be careful, as these extras tend to quickly add up.


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