【2021 Version】The Best MVNOs for Working Holidays

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photo by Titanas

Working Holiday visa is a unique visa that is only issued to people aged 18 to 30 who are from the countries that have agreements with Japan. The best thing about working holiday is that you can work in Japan to supplement your travel expenses. When you search a job in Japan, a mobile phone is one of the essential items because most employers would ask applicants’ phone numbers to contact them. However, a working holiday visa allows only 12months stay in Japan. That means, working holiday makers cannot meet 24months minimum contract period imposed by major phone companies. In such a case, Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) can be the best option. With MVNO plan, you can use your own mobile phone purchased outside Japan by changing SIM cards. As well as mobile phone number, MVNO offers cheaper rate compared to major phone companies.

 

The pros and cons of Japanese carriers

Using the Big-Name Carriers to Contract a Phone and a SIM

Using the Big-Name Carriers to Contract a Phone and a SIM
If you choose docomo, au, SoftBank, you’ll be required to sign 2 contracts: one for a phone and the other for a SIM.

Pros

  • There’s a lot of branches throughout Japan that offer a wide range of support.
  • If you use the phone for at least 2 years, (basically, if you complete your contract) a discount will be applied that makes the cost of the phone free.
  • The plans are cheap (in other words, there are a lot of discounts you can choose from)

Cons

  • You need to buy a phone at the carrier.
  • There is a chance that you may not be able to use your phone back in your home country.
  • Data is expensive.
  • Data-only plans do not exist (Calling is usually a mandatory part of almost all
  • If you break your contract within 2 years, you have to pay a fee.
  • If you break your contract within 2 years, you have to pay the remaining balance in full upfront.

Using Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to Acquire a SIM

You can use your existing device to sign up for a SIM

Pros

  • Data is cheap compared to the big-3 carriers.
  • The minimum contract is one year.
  • You can use your own SIM-free machine.

 Cons

  • Not as much support compared to the big-3 carriers listed above (not as many branches)
  • You need a SIM-free machine that actually works in Japan.
  • Calling is slightly expensive.
  • You need to do the initialization on your own.

Purchasing a Pre-paid SIM

Using a prepaid SIM with your device usually comes at no additional costs other than the amount you initially paid upfront to purchase the SIM because most plans are single-use.

Pros

  • No contracts, no hassle.
  • No fees for breaking a contract.
  • No additional fees.
  • Ability to use a machine you already own.

Cons

  • The duration for pre-paid SIMs are best suited for short term stays.
  • Not as much support compared to the big-3 carriers listed above (not as many branches)
  • Data is a bit expensive.
  • Recharging the SIM may be a bit of a hassle.
  • You need a SIM-free machine that actually works in Japan.

Considering limited 1 year duration of working holiday visa and total communication costs, getting MVNO is the best option for working holiday visa holders. You will need a SIM-free device to purchase a SIM from MVNO. If your device unfortunately does not meet Japanese standards, you can purchase a SIM-free budget smartphone sold in Japan. However, such a budget smartphone may not work in your country, so ask a shop staff about specifications of the phone.

 

Plans of MVNO

There are three types of MVNO plan.

Phone + SMS + Data

You can make phone calls, send SMS and use data.

SMS + Data

You can send SMS and use data. Most commonly used free-call app in Japan “LINE” requires a SMS vilification. There is only a slight difference in prices between Data only plan and SMS and data plans, normally 100 – 150yen difference. It is recommended to have SMS on your phone while you live in Japan.

Data only

You can use data only, thus low price. This is the best plan if you only want to use the internet with no phone numbers and SMS.

If you are going to look for a job, you are definitely need a phone number. Also, you cannot call emergencies by your free-call app in Japan. Phone + SMS + Data plan is most recommended for working holiday makers.

 

Data Usage

Monthly data size would be your prime concern when you make a contract with MVNO. While each carrier provides various plans with monthly data of such as 1GB, 10GB or even unlimited, 3GB plans are typically popular. This is because most sharehouses, backpackers or guesthouses normally have free Wi-Fi connection, then guests do not need to use data on their mobile phones unless they go out. Therefore, a majority of people tend to choose plans with rather small data to keep their communication expenses down.

 

MVNO Carrier SIM 3GB Plan Comparison Chart

Depending on the plan you choose, MVNOs offer several different choices. The following chart summarizes the information for 3GB plans of different MVNOs.

Plan

Initial
Cost

Monthly
Fee

Minimum
Contract Period

Phone
Option

Call Rate
(Domestic)

Cancellation
Fee

Rakuten UN-LIMIT VI

¥1078
(3GB)

Free Domestic Calls Via App

Free Domestic Calls by App

DMM mobile 3GB

¥3734

¥1500
(3GB)

End of contract month

10min free call
¥850 /month

¥20/30sec

UQ mobile Kurikoshi Plan S

¥3300

¥1480
(3GB)

10min free call
¥770/month*

¥22/30sec

Biglobe Mobile 3GB

¥3734

First 6 Mth ¥440, ¥1320 afterwards

12 months

10min free call
¥913 / month *

¥10/30 sec

¥1000

IImio Minimum Start

¥3734

¥990
(3GB)

End of following month from 1st day

3min free call with anyone & 10min with family ¥660/ month

¥11/30 sec

NO cancellation within minimum contract period

OCN Mobile ONE3GB

¥3734

¥1628
(3GB)

10min free call
¥935 / month *

¥11/30 sec

NifMo with Phone Call SIM3GB

¥3300

¥1760
(3GB)

x

10min free call
¥913 / month *

¥10/30 sec

Y U mobile

¥3740

¥1639
(5GB)

10min free call
¥858 / month *

¥11/30 sec

b-mobile Just Fit SIM 3GB

¥3000

¥1290
(3GB)

5 min free call
¥500 / month *

¥10/30 sec

LIBMO with Phone Call3GB

¥3300

First 6 Mth ¥1078, ¥1738 afterwards

12 months

10min free call
¥935 / month *

¥11/30 sec

¥9500

Rocket Mobile Phone Plan 3GB

¥3740

¥1540
(3GB)

12 months

¥22/30 sec

¥9500

mineo D Plan 5GB

¥3740

¥1518
(5GB)

x

10min free call
¥935 / month *

¥11/30 sec

x

Aeon Mobile Phone 4GB

¥3300

¥1738
(4GB)

x

10min free call
¥935 / month *

¥11/30 sec

x

BIC SIM Minimum Start Plan 3GB

¥3674

¥1760
(3GB)

12 months

10 min foxed rate ¥913/ month *

¥11/30 sec

12months – No. of months in use ×1000円

Yamada New Mobile 3.3GB

¥3733

¥1375
(3.3GB)

12 months

10min free call
¥880/ month *

¥11/30 sec

\ 10780

ANSIM 3GB Plan

¥3300

¥1760
(3GB)

12 months

¥22/30 sec

¥8800

※The above is tax excluded.
※Cancellation fee applies if terminated during a minimum contract period.
※Termination fees do not include MNP fees, which arise when you port your phone number to a different carrier.
※*:when phone app is used.

SMS and call fees are often overlooked when using a MVNO SIM. Receiving calls is free of charge, but calling to other phones is charged. Also, while receiving SMS is free, sending domestic SMS message costs 3-30yen per message and international messages cost 50 – 500yen per message. In addition, there is monthly fees of 2-3yen called “Universal service fee” which is to maintain the service system.

 

Summary

Best customer support

MVNO contracts are mainly made online. However, most of those websites are written only in Japanese. If you are not confident in your Japanese language skill and have no one to help you, it is recommended to choose a carrier that has branch shops. AEON Mobile customers can have customer support at more than 200 shops across Japan operated by AEON Group. Also, AEON SIMs allow 4GB with no minimum contract period. ANSIM by AsahiNet accepts online application via their English website as well as general enquiries for those who do not speak Japanese.

Best phone call deal

One downside of MVNO SIMs is expensive rates for phone calls. All carriers charge 22yen every 30 seconds for phone calls. The rates are discounted to 10-11yen every 30 seconds if their own call app is used. Also, most of the MVNO providers offer 3 to 10 minutes free call services. Among these plans, Rakuten UN-LIMIT VI offers the greatest phone option with unlimited free domestic calls via their free call app no matter that receiver uses other company’s line.

Best value deals

If you simply want to cut down your phone cost, choose Rakuten UN-LIMIT VI. In addition to the low monthly rate of 1078yen, there is no initial costs. This is outstanding offer compared to other providers. Also, IImio Minimum Start offers the lowest monthly rate. On the other hand, Biglobe Mobile offers super cheap monthly rate of 440yen for first 6 months which is a great advantage for people who are going to stay for a short time. They have a 12months minimum contract period and charges 1000yen for cancellation within this period, but the cost is minor. Therefore, if you are planning to leave Japan before 12th month, this may be the cheapest option.


Related Article:
【2021 Version】Comparison of Short-term Prepaid SIM
【2021 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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