【2018 Version】Comparison of Short-term Prepaid SIM

photo by mroach

A smartphone is one of must-have items when traveling abroad. You can easily look up whatever you need to know on your phone within a few minutes. In fact, there are so many foreign tourists tapping on their smartphones to search something on Japanese streets. Yes smartphones are super handy, only if it is connected to the internet. While public Wifi services in Japan have been significantly improved, these are still not a little far away from perfect. If you want a stable internet connection all the time in Japan, consider getting a prepaid SIM. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased at main international airports in Japan, so that you can change SIMs in your smartphone and start using it immediately after your arrival in Japan.

 

Smartphones commonly used in Japan

To use your overseas model device with a prepaid SIM card in Japan, your device must be SIM-free. But some SIM-free devices bought in overseas may not work in Japan as they are not suitable to Japanese communications standards. The followings are examples of smartphones commonly used in Japan that can also be purchased worldwide.

  • Apple iPhone
  • Samsung GALAXY(Global Model)
  • Sony Xperia(Global Model)

It is a good idea to enquire your mobile phone carrier in your country whether your phone is suitable to use in Japan. If your model is unfit to Japanese standards, don’t fret; all you’ll need to do is rent a portable Wi-Fi station (like a MiFi hotspot).

 

Things to Consider When Choosing a Prepaid SIM

Validity period

Prepaid SIM is typically designed in order for convenience of tourists, then its validity period tend to be short. A SIM card with the shortest period is valid for 7 days. The longer a validity period is, the larger data supply is given and the higher the price becomes. It is recommended to purchase a SIM card that covers the entire period of your stay in Japan.

Recharging

Some SIM plan are data-rechargeable and others are not. In addition, there are SIMs that extend validity period when recharged while other rechargeable SIM don’t allow validity extensions. If you are staying in Japan for a short period of time and will use data a lot, purchase a data-rechargeable one. By the way, you need to recharge your prepaid SIM before you run out of data, otherwise you need to connect to Wifi to recharge.

Data Supply

The most important thing when choosing a prepaid SIM is data size. Most SIMs come with fixed data supply to be used throughout validity period, but some SIMs have capped daily data usage. Data supply of prepaid SIMs is limited except for SIMs that allow unlimited data usage. It is recommended to use a prepaid SIM with a combination with public Wifi. Also, it is important to research public Wifi availability in the area you are going to visit before you purchase a prepaid SIM.

Service Type

Most of prepaid SIMs are data only, but there are few plans that come with both data and calling. Data and calling plans are more expensive than data only plans. These are suitable for people who want to make phone calls from your mobile phone.

Where to purchase

Prepaid SIM are available from many shops across Japan such as stores in international airports, convenience stores, tourist information centers and home electronics stores. For tourists, the best place to purchase a prepaid SIM can be shops in airports.

 

What you can do with 1GB of data

To choose the right plan for your travel, it is important to know what you can do with your mobile phone with 1GB data.

  • YouTube (Low-Quality): Approximately 333 minutes
  • SMS (300 characters): Approximately 205,000 messages
  • News Websites: Approximately 3,400 pages
  • Google Maps (enlarging an area within Tokyo): Approximately 812 times
  • Skype: (Voice Calling) Approximately 1,400 minutes / (Video Calling) Approximately 160 minutes
  • FaceTime (Video Calling): Approximately 420 minutes

* The above is an estimate that may change depending on the environment. 

 

Comparison of SIM Cards Available for Purchase at the Airport

Name Duration of Use Price Data Service Recharge SIM Size Airport
BIGLOBE
NINJA SIM
30
Days
4900
yen
3GB Data 2000Yen/1GB
(31 Days Extension)
Standard
micro
nano 
Narita
Haneda
Kansai
Centrair
New Chitose
30
Days
7700
yen
7GB
Unari-kun SIM 7
Days
4000
yen
Unlimited Data × micro
nano
Narita
15
Days
5500
yen
Unlimited Japan
Prepaid SIM
7
Days
4000
yen
Unlimited Data × micro
nano 
Haneda
Kansai
15
Days
5500
yen
Prepaid SIM
for Travel
31
Days
2480
yen
1GB Data 1500Yen/500MB Standard
micro
nano
Narita
Haneda
Centrair
Kansai
New Chitose
JAPAN
TRAVEL SIM
30
Days
2460
yen
1GB Data
Calling
1500Yen/500MB
3000Yen/2GB
Standard
micro
nano
Narita
Haneda
90
Days
3790
yen
2GB Kansai
Fukuoka
Melbourne
Sydney
Prepaid
LTE SIM
30
Days
3700
yen
2GB Data 2838Yen/1GB Standard
micro
nano
Narita
Haneda
Kansai
New Chitose
Sendai
Toyama
Naha
180
Days
 13500
yen
12GB
Prepaid SIM
for JAPAN
7
Days
2980
yen
100MB/day Data × Standard
micro
nano
Narita
Haneda
Kansai
Centrair
Komatsu
Kagoshima
Fukuoka
Naha
14
Days
3500
yen
U-mobile
Prepaid
7
Days
1834
yen
200MB/day Data × micro
nano
Hakodate
Narita
Haneda
Fukuoka
Kansai
Saga
Toyama 
Kumamoto
15
Days
2760
yen
Wi-Ho!
Prepaid SIM
7
Days
3800
yen
2GB  Data 1834Yen/1GB micro
nano
Narita
Haneda
Kansai
New Chitose
Fukuoka
30
Days
5500
yen
5GB 
Wi-Ho!
Prepaid SIM
15
Days
5500
yen
1GB  Data
Calling
×
7500
yen
3GB

※Actual price varies by store.

 

Summary

If you are using large size of data

If you are a big data user, either of Unari-kun SIM or Unlimited Japan Prepaid SIM is the best for you. You can choose 7days plan or 15days with unlimited data. This is the best deal for those who stay in Japan for 1-2 weeks.

If you want to top up data

Among all rechargeable SIMs, BIGLOBE NINJA SIM is the most cost-efficient. It has a long validity period of 30days. Top up 1GB costs 2000yen and the validity period is extended by 31days on each recharge.

If you want to keep down the cost

U-mobile is the best SIM for those who want to cut down the travel costs as much as possible. There are 7days, 15days and 30days plan with 200MB per day. If free Wifi is available in your accommodation and you are happy to use public Wifi while you are outside, 200MB is plenty to just look up on online map or quickly search about your destinations.

If you think the quality of service is important 

While most of prepaid SIM come with only data plans, Wi-Ho!Prepaid SIM and JAPAN TRAVEL SIM are only prepaid SIM that enable both data usage and phone calling service. In addition, Wi-Ho!Prepaid SIM comes with 10minutes free calling and multi-language customer service. This will be a great help for foreign tourists who do not speak Japanese.

 


Related Article:
【2018 Version】The Best MVNOs for Working Holidays
【2018 Version】Stay Connected! A Guide to Japan’s Free Wi-Fi Spots


 

 

あきらことほ

Writer

あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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