【2019 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. Also, there are SIMs that extend validity period when recharged while other rechargeable SIMs don’t allow for validity period 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. Normally, 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 would 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

Valid for

Price

Data

Service

Recharge

SIM size

Airport

BIGLOBE
NINJA SIM

30days

4900yen

3GB

Data

2000yen/1GB
(Extends 31days)

Stadard
micro
nano 

Narita/Hanrda/
Kansai/
Chubu/Shin-Chitose

30days

 7700yen

7GB

Unari-kun SIM

7days

4000yen

Unlimited

Data

×

micro
nano

Narita

15days

5500yen

30days

6500yen

Unlimited Japan
Prepaid SIM

7days

 4000yen

Unlimited

 Data

×

micro
nano 

Haneda/Kansai

15days

5500yen

Prepaid SIM
for Travel

31days

2680yen

3GB

Data

1500yen/500MB

Standard
micro
nano

Narita/Haneda/
Chubu/Kansai/
Shin-Chitose

JAPAN
TRAVEL SIM

30days

2460yen

1GB

Data
Call

1500yen/500MB
3000yen/2GB

Sandard
micro
nano

Narita/Haneda

90days

3790yen

2GB

Kansai/Fukuoka/
Melbourne/Sydney

Prepaid
LTE SIM

10days

2315yen

2.1GB

Data

2838yen/1GB

Standard
micro
nano

Narita/Haneda/
Kansai/
Shin-Chitose/Sendai/
Toyama/Naha

10days

3704yen

Unlimited

30days

4167yen

2.4GB

60days

 5093yen

3.2GB

Prepaid SIM
for JAPAN

7days

2980yen

100MB/dday

Data

×

Standard
micro
nano

Narita/Haneda/
Kansai/Chubu/
Komatsu/
Kagoshima/
Fukuoka/Naha

14days

3500yen

U-mobile
Prepaid

7days

1834yen

200MB/day

Data

×

micro
nano

Hakodate/Narita/
Haneda/Fukuoka/
Kansai/Saga/
Toyama/
Kumamoto

15days

2760yen

U-mobile
Prepaid irodori   

7日days

 2500yen

2GB 

Data

x   

Standard
micro
nano

Hakodate/Narita/
Haneda/Fukuoka/
Kansai/Saga/
Toyama/
Kumamoto

 7days

 5000yen

 Unlimited

 15days

 4000yen

3.5GB 

Wi-Ho!
Prepaid SIM

7days

3800yen

2GB 

Data

1834yen/1GB

nano

Narita/Haneda/
Kansai/Shin-Chitose/
Fukuoka

30days

5500yen

5GB 

Wi-Ho!
Prepaid SIM

15days

5500yen

1GB 

Data Call

×

nano

Narita/Haneda/
Kansai/Shin-Chitose/
Fukuoka

7500yen

3GB

JAPAN PREPAID
SIM

7days

2400yen

1GB

Data 

Standard
micro
nano  

Narita/Haneda/
Chubu/Kansai/
Shin-Chitose/Fukuoka  

280yen

3GB

380yen

Unlimited

15days

3500yen

3GB

5800yen

10GB

6800yen

Unlimited

30days

 980yen

Unlimited 

JAPAN PREPAID
SIM

15日days

5500yen

1GB

Data Call 

x 

nano 

Narita/Haneda/
Chubu/Kansai/
Shin-Chitose/Fukuoka    

750yen

3GB

※Actual price varies by store.

 

Summary

If you are using large size of data

If you are a data user, a plan with unlimited data use such as Unari-kun SIMUnlimited Japan Prepaid SIM、Prepaid LTE SIM or JAPAN PREPAID SIM is best for you. Validity period can be selected from 7days, 15days and 30days that is adequate to cover a short trip up to one month.

If you want to top up data

Among all rechargeable SIMs, BIGLOBE NINJA SIM is the most cost-efficient with 30days validity. Also recharging costs only 2000yen/GB and comes with extra 31days validity. On the other hand, Prepaid SIM for Travel offers 31days plan with 3GB which is similar to BIGLOBE NINJA. However, recharging costs 1500yen/500MB while the price of the SIM itself is only 2,680yen. This plan is for people who don’t use lots of data but want to have recharge option just in case.

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 little 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 go out, 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, JAPAN TRAVEL SIM and JAPAN PREPAID SIM offer data and calling plan. 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:
【2019 Version】The Best MVNOs for Working Holidays
【2019 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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