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Japan Cell Phones
Renting Cell Phones and Buying SIM Cards

Because of frequency compatibility problems, most U.S. produced cell phones won't work in Japan. 3G or W-CDMA types usually work in Japan but you really should call your provider and check on this before proceeding.

Japan Cell Phones and Renting a Phone
If you don't want to get tied into a long contract by buying a cell phone in Japan and really only intend on staying a few weeks or a few months then renting a cell phone or buying a SIM card is probably the best option for you.

Japan CellphonesJapan Cellphones or Smartphones

If you'll be a new arrival to Japan for teaching or sight seeing and now know that your phone won't be compatible with the frequencies used in Japan then you have a few options to consider.

Such as renting a smart phone or getting a Japanese SIM card for your phone. This simply allows you access to their network via the SIM.

Using Your Existing Phone With a SIM Card
If you want to use your existing phone with a SIM card then you have a few options. You can buy a SIM Card (outside of Japan) and put it in your own GSM compatible phone. (Basically the SIM card will let you hook you into a compatible network. This also allows cheaper rates. And you'll be issued a new phone number.)

Rates are not bad especially if you call off peak hours. When returning the phone you can drop it in the mail with a self-addressed envelope that they provide you with or at the airport for most companies.

Japan Cell Phones: Renting in Japan Can Be a Hassle
If you choose to rent a phone in Japan, you'll have to bring your gaijin card, passport and also have to deal with rental agents who sometimes don't speak English. Sometimes, even a bank account is necessary. That's why the smartest route is to rent one before going to Japan.

Pre-paid SIM Cards are Available in Japan
Right off the bat we need to say that if you are intending on using your existing cell-phone then you can pick up a data only  4 G SIM card in Narita, Haneda or Osaka airports. You can also buy them online. Note that if you are going the prepaid route then make sure your phone is unlocked. Japan has been a bit late to this game but are loosening up After Docomo rolled out the first cads in 2017 

You can however buy SIM cards before going over to Japan. One thing to keep in mind is that if you'll be traveling to 2 or 3 countries you'll need a multi-country SIM card. But if you intend on only visiting Japan, then a single country SIM card or country specific SIM card will save you some money as you can take advantage of cheaper local rates.

Japan Cell Phones: Other Options
We don't recommend it because of how high the rates are but you can simply buy an international calling plan or roaming plan. You can keep your phone and number but it's all for a price. If you guessed you'll be charged an arm and a leg per second, you guessed right. More info. on getting cellphone service in Japan here.

Japan Cellphones - Prepaid phones

Another work around is getting a prepaid cell phone. Students studying Japanese here often go this route. If your stay in Japan will be relatively short they will ask you to pay for the whole phone straight up-front.

But this is not etched in stone as every shop varies on their policies regarding this.  They will run around 6,000 yen. Softbank is the best place to buy one. They are competent and have English speaking staff. You can also buy prepaid cellphones at  Don Quijote. Note that a prepaid card is the best option for short stays. If you have signed into a 1 year contract or more with an English school pre-paid is not the way to go.

They sell  3,000 yen and 5,000 yen cards. Be aware that the cards expire in 60 days so if  you didn't burn through your minutes you'll lose them. You can always recharge them at your local Softbank or 7-11 Holdings.

As with most things in Japan documentation is critical. You will most likely need a bank account so be sure to bring your bank book as proof. Also you'll need a gaijin card (also called a zairyu card) and a passport.

Japan Cellphones and Texting Options

Another service you can tap into on the cheap is their texting options. For only 300 yen you can send unlimited texts to anywhere in the world for 30 days. If you want to renew it just kick out another 300 yen and you'll get another month.

Lastly the cheapest of all workarounds is to use your computer and Skype to handle your communication needs. The only problem with this is that you'll be tied to your computer and finding an internet cafe and then paying the cafe their rental fee adds up pretty quickly. But if you have internet access at your hotel, youth hostel or where ever you're staying and have or have access to a computer this will definitely save you some money.

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