There are a variety of ways to stay connected to the internet while traveling in Japan. However, this is a quickly evolving industry where services and rates are constantly changing. Although this is not an exhaustive list, the following are some of the common solutions currently available.
Hotels (0 to 2000 yen per 24 hour period)
Many hotels and some ryokan in Japan offer free internet in their guest rooms. A few hotels, typically the higher end Western chains, charge for internet access based on 24 hour periods. Access is usually provided as wired internet via LAN cable, but wireless networks are also common. At older hotels you may have to borrow and install some hardware in order to connect to the internet in your room. Many hotels also provide wireless internet or public computers in their lobby or business center.
In remote places, such as national parks or rural hot spring resorts, quite a few hotels, ryokan and minshuku may not provide internet access of any kind. Hotel reservation websites, such as Japanican, have details on internet availability and offer the option to filter for places with internet access.
Wireless (Wi-Fi) Hotspots
Both paid and free wireless (Wi-Fi) hotspots are available in Japan. Laptops and mobile devices can connect to publicly accessible hotspots found around airports, train stations, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
Cellular phone and mobile internet rental kiosks at Narita Airport
- Free Wi-Fi Hotspots
Although far from ubiquitous, free public Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly widespread in Japan. Free public networks can be found around major airports and train stations, tourist information centers and major shopping streets. A few cities, such as Kyoto and Fukuoka, have also begun to introduce free public networks in their central districts. In addition, several nationwide convenience store and cafe chains provide free Wi-Fi access to their customers.
Registration is required to use most of these services, and in some cases must be done in advance. While some of the networks offer sign up pages in English, others do not. A few networks are also limited to specific devices (e.g. iphone only) or restrict the content that can be accessed.
The following are some of the most useful free public Wi-Fi networks for foreign tourists in Japan:
- Major Airports
Most major international airports, including Tokyo's Narita and Haneda Airports, Nagoya's Central Japan Airport, Osaka's Kansai Airport and Fukuoka Airport. Registration can be done on the spot.
Thousands of hotels, restaurants and shops nationwide. Registration can be done on the spot.
Thousands of 7-Eleven convenience stores, Denny's family restaurants, Ito Yokado and Seibu department stores and other locations nationwide. Registration can be done on the spot.
- NTT East Free Wifi
Thousands of wifi spots across Eastern Japan (including Tokyo) for free use by foreign tourists. A card with login ID and password can be picked up at a number of designated places around Eastern Japan (see official website for a list) by presenting your passport.
Hundreds of Starbucks coffee shops nationwide. Registration must be done in advance.
- JR East Free Wi-Fi
Major JR railway stations in central Tokyo, including Tokyo, Akihabara, Ueno, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya Stations. Registration can be done on the spot.
Along the Ginza shopping street in Tokyo. No registration necessary.
- Japan Free Wifi
In many buildings of the Marunouchi district west of Tokyo Station, including Marunouchi Building, Shin-Marunouchi Building, Oazo Building and more. Registration can be done on the spot.
In many areas on the street and inside selected buildings along the Omotesando Avenue in Harajuku. No registration necessary.
- Tokyo Metro Manta
Tokyo Metro, one of the city's two subway operators, is offering free wifi at selected stations on a trial basis until late January 2014, and plans to extend the service to all stations in the future. The service is limited to smart phones and requires installation of the free Manta application.
Around a large number of bus stops, subway and train stations, cafes and restaurants in central Kyoto. Registration must be done in advance.
- Shijo Musen LAN
Along Kyoto's Shijo Dori shopping street. No registration necessary.
In Western Japan:
- JR West Free Wi-Fi
About a dozen major JR railway stations in the Kansai Region and along the Sanyo Shinkansen, including Kyoto, Osaka, Shin-Osaka, Sannomiya, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata. A "guest code" has to be obtained before entering Japan.
- Fukuoka City Wi-Fi
Subway stations and selected public buildings in Fukuoka. Registration can be done on the spot.
- Wifi Free Street Tenchika
In the Tenchika underground shopping arcade in Fukuoka. No registration necessary.
- Paid Wi-Fi Hotspots (a few hundred yen per day)
Paid Wi-Fi hotspots are far more common than free ones, offering thousands of locations nationwide. Most offer subscription based services aimed at residents; however, a few allow short term access on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. A one-day pass typically costs around 300-800 yen and gives you access to all of that company's locations (and their affiliates) for a 24-hour period.
Registration interfaces are often only provided in Japanese, and some services require a Japanese credit card or address. The following are a few of the rare nationwide services that provide English registration interfaces and accept foreign credit cards:
- BB Mobile Point
Thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and public spaces nationwide. Plans are available for six-hour or one-week periods.
- Softbank Wi-Fi Spot
Thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and public spaces nationwide. Generally targeted at Softbank subscribers, but 24-hour plans are also available to non-subscribers.
Thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and public spaces nationwide. Various plans are available from six-hour to one-week packages.
Fon offers thousands of hot spots operated by its members across Japan. Fon members can use the hot spots for free, while non-members can purchase plans online.
- Skype WiFi
A special partnership between Skype and several of Japan's major Wi-Fi providers (including BB Mobile Point, Wi2 and Fon listed above) allows you to use the Skype WiFi application to bypass the Japanese login and pay for internet access in your own currency via your Skype account. Usage is charged by the minute and relatively expensive for heavy users.
Personal Hotspots (1000 to 1500 yen per day)
Personal hotspots (also called mifi, portable hotspot, personal Wi-Fi, pocket Wi-Fi, etc.) are small, battery powered devices that use the cellular phone network to create a local wireless network. They are easy to set up, provide reasonably fast internet, work anywhere there is cell phone service, allow multiple devices to connect at once and are relatively inexpensive. Personal hotspots are available to rent at major Japanese airports or via the internet for delivery to your home or hotel.
USB Modems (500 to 1500 yen per day)
USB modems are available to directly connect a laptop to the internet via the cellular phone network. They are offered by the same companies that rent personal hotspots, and have similar coverage and speeds. Conversely, they tend to be less expensive and require no batteries or charging, but they can only be used with one device at a time. USB modems are available to rent at major Japanese airports or via the internet for delivery to your home or hotel.
Rental and Prepaid SIM cards (from 1500 yen per day or 6000 yen per month)
Those who wish to use their own mobile phones or tablets to directly access the internet in Japan can get rental or prepaid SIM cards that allow for unlimited internet access via the cellular phone network. They are available to rent or purchase at major Japanese airports or via the internet for delivery to your home or hotel. Your device must not be locked to a specific provider to utilize these services.
Sim cards of some major cell phone carriers. From left to right: Softbank, Docomo, au.
International Roaming (Varies by carrier)
International roaming is a convenient, albeit expensive way to access the internet during your travels. In order to do so, your device must be able to operate in Japan and your carrier needs to have roaming agreements with a Japanese provider. Be aware that international roaming can be extremely expensive, so check with your home provider for specific details, pricing and eventual plans.
Internet Cafes and Manga Kissa (from 400 yen per hour)
Internet cafes, known as netto cafe (ネットカフェ) or manga kissa (漫画喫茶 or マンガ喫茶), rent out internet connected computers at hourly rates. Most offer discounted rates for longer blocks of time or special overnight deals. While internet cafes are often located near major stations, they may be difficult to find as they tend to be in inconspicuous locations with signs only in Japanese. Also, some internet cafe chains require that you sign up for a membership and pay a small registration fee.
Internet Kiosks (100 yen per 10 minutes)
Although increasingly rare, coin operated internet kiosks can still be found around some major train stations, tourist information centers and airports. They are also occasionally found at hotels and libraries. Coin operated internet kiosks usually only accept 100 yen coins.
An internet cafe with a rare sign in English
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