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How do we use our cell phones in Japan? 2007/3/4 11:13
United States
My Mom and I are leaving from the U.S. to Japan soon. I have a Samsung Blackjack and Mom a Samsung Sync (Quad Phones w/3 G). How do we dial each other's cell phones while in Japan? Also, how do we dial Japanese phone numbers from our cell phones while in Japan? We know what to do to call the U.S. from Japan, but not Japanese local numbers or to each other cell phones while we are in Japan. Thanks.
by sue m  

3G Phones + tips 2007/3/4 16:32
In addition to the post I made earlier, in regards to the latest Cingular USA and T-Mobile USA 3G phones that are being launched/have been launched in 2006/2007 -- THE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE MODELS AS OF 3/2007 WILL NOT WORK IN JAPAN because the 3G frequencies/standards they use is not the same as that used in Japan!

(Yes, all Cingular 3G phones out as of 3/2007, including the Blackjack and Sync will not work in Japan.)

(Yep, the other USA 3G phones that use a 2100Mhz frequency will also not work because the communicatons standard used isn't the same as that used in Japan, and the entire phone wasn't designed to work in Japan anyways.)

(yep, the Cingular BlackJack 3G is not the same as the Samsung i600 3G frequency. If you have the imported i600 PDA, you can roam in Japan with it.)

Everyone is currently WAITING to see if there will be a dual-band/tri-band/etc. version of a 3G phone that will let you run over the Cingular 3G network, the T-Mobile 3G network and Japan's 3G network (all of which are different and run on different frequencies!!).

Maddening, but true! (USA is a MESS when it comes to cellular standards!)

1) To roam in Japan using any phone bought outside Japan, you will need to roam using a 3G phone (specifically UMTS/WCDMA 2100Mhz).

If it's only GSM, it won't work. If it's CDMA, it won't work. etc.

It must be 3G/UMTS/WCDMA 2100 (not all need to be there, but you must see either 3G, UMTS or WCDMA + 2100Mhz) - you'll see this noted on the specifications. It isn't the same as the USA 2100Mhz used either! Read wikipedia for the specifications for UMTS/WCDMA.

You MUST have a 3G phone! (Currently, that means an imported European/Asian 3G WCDMA 2100Mhz phone, not a Cingular USA or T-Mobile USA 3G phone as of 3/2007, which won't work.)

2) If you're phone only does regular, slow GSM frequencies (single, dual, tri, quad band), it won't work if it's not 3G as well.

3) Most of the new 3G phones you search for using the Phone Finder feature at www.gsmarena.com will work in Japan.

eg. All of the 3G Nokias, 3G Samsungs, etc.

Thus, Nokia 6233, 6280, N73, E61, Samsung Z510, Z400, Z540, Z560, Z720, Sony K618i, K800i, W850i, etc will all work in Japan....

I've roamed using a 6233 Nokia into Tokyo and WAP, SMS, Voice all worked fine on my T-Mobile USA plan.

4) ... BUT!!! you must have the following:
a) Your provider must have an active roaming agreement with partners in Japan. You can look this up on your providers website under International Roaming.
If it doesn't list Japan, forget about roaming!

b) You must have your plan enabled with International Roaming turned ON! eg. T-Mobile USA will not roam unless you add their free WorldClass feature to your plan before landing in Japan.
If this is not active, even if you have active roaming partners, you can't roam!

5) If you buy/rent/borrow/use any Japanese provider SIM in your phone, you must:
a) Have a Japanese SIM that is compatible with the standard 3G/GSM phone
b) The Japanese provider allows this (ie. doesn't block the SIM).
c) Your phone is fully UNLOCKED! (If it can't take any and all SIM cards, it's not unlocked.)

eg. you can now rent $1-3/day Vodafone SIM cards to use in your 3G phone when you bring it to their sales counter in Narita, etc. You save $$$$ by using a local phone number and provider plan (instead of roaming on your own plan above).

6) Roaming on your own plan (not #5 above) = very expensive charges.
You can easily get a $200-400 USD bill in a week or two of calls roaming in Japan.
Think $1.99 per minute!

#5 above greatly reduces the costs, as does SMS texting on your own plan.


That said, a cheap Nokia 6151 for $150, or Nokia 6233 for $250 are reliable, solid phones that'll roam and work w/o a problem in Japan and Europe.

Unlocked, they give you access to all of the necessary network settings to use it all over, and are good for use in Japan's noisy cities!

(trust me, you think the 6233 filling an entire huge room with music over the loudspeakers is loud? Once you land in Tokyo, you'll realize how much noisier Japan really is, and you'll thank yourself that the phone has such a loud loudspeaker and regular speaker!)

Phones with loud speakers are highly recommended -- it'll be impossible, literally, to hear quiter phones in Tokyo's city streets.


So besides looking at the Phone Finder in GSM Arena, then reading their user and full reviews, also read the full reviews at www.mobile-review.com. Then, pop on over to howardforums.com for the in-depth chat.

These three sites WILL get you what you need to know about these phones, and help you get them up and running fast (and unlocked if possible).

Unlocking? If it's generally not listed in HowardForums or IUnlock.com (or even seen on ebay.com), forget it.

Oh, and generally, most Japanese phones, even if unlocked, are poor choices -- usually:
a) no T9 or other rapid word entry system. So you must slowly enter each character.
b) no MMS/WAP unlock. So no surfing the web or sending photo messages
c) limited MP3 playback. Japan loves to limit phones to AAC playback
d) very expensive vs. models found outside Japan
e) some features don't work outside Japan.
eg. double-byte Japanase Kanji/hiragana/katakana characters are all filtered out at the provider server level in the USA for the most part from SMS/MMS messages.
(If you have a Japanese-character phone, and it has a full POP/IMAP email system, then you can probably get away with sending characters okay....)
f) button locks.
eg. some buttons for the web are programmed to go only to that provider's site in Japan. Can't change it and it won't work outside Japan.

Some EU/Asia models that are imported by providers and sold there under different model #s maybe similar.

eg. most Nokias are similar to their EU counterparts, with the exception that they include Japanese character support and some customization of the menus, WAP, etc.
But, Samsungs are typically mostly feature locked. You can get the phone unlocked to use voice/sms, but forget about WAP,MMS,etc.


That said, at the very minimum, the unlocked Nokia 6233 works fine in Japan and USA, will roam in EU, and has been tested to roam just fine by me for voice, wap, sms.

Calls are made as normal:
999-999-9999 for calls to USA numbers
+CountrycodeCitycodePhonenumber for calls to Japanese numbers, typically starting with +81....

Cingular and T-Mobile USA have international calling webpages that will explain current procedures.
by adorable rate this post as useful

i'm perplexed 2007/3/5 02:10
Whoa! Why did Cingular say it would work in japan? I spent money on these phones just so that i can use them in japan.
by sue m rate this post as useful

. 2007/3/5 04:38
I don't know about the cellphones but many US based phones don't work in Japan, you might be able to get a SIM card from your provided and rent a phone in Japan and place the SIM card in it.

Now assuming for some reason your phones did work, you would dial as normal any US based telephone number.

If you are dialing a Japanese number you would have to dial out internationally (i'm not sure what the numbers maybe on your carrier) but you'll need to dial out, plus country code of japan which is (+81).
Either case you'll get a nice heavy monthly bill with either international roaming, or international outgoing calls.
by John rate this post as useful

SMS MESSAGING 2007/3/5 15:38
Does this apply to sms as well? My son is going to japan towards the end of the year and I want him to message me to let me know he is ok. Will this work with his nokia phone on international roaming?? Thanks
by JENNY rate this post as useful

. 2007/3/5 16:03
Depends on the network you're roaming on. He can always email you and avoid paying all together.
by John rate this post as useful

price? 2007/3/5 17:03
Very useful info, one of the better posts on this board :)

I'm using a European 3G phone (LG L600V) so I should be fine.
You are talking about ''free'' email. Does that mean you are always connected to umts by default? (in Belgium we get a small connection charge each time you connect to G3 to browse or send emails). Emailing and browsing would be costless then?
by Jimmy Van Hecke rate this post as useful

Another question 2007/3/5 17:18
Thank you for that excellent answer above. I am living in America now but plan to study in Japan for half a year. I will return to the US at least for a few more years, so I want to ask specifically -

You listed some phones that should work in US and Japan. If I buy one of those 3G phones, unlocked, could I simply go to Japan and purchase a simcard there that would be functional? Then when I return, I can sign-up for a service like T-Mobile? What phones can do this?

Sorry if you already covered this. I have heard and read so many different things that I want to be completely sure before I pay $300 for a phone that doesn't do what I need it to.
by Liuxuesheng rate this post as useful

. 2007/3/5 17:20
Sorry I meant to say, using a PC to send an email message notifying of safe arrival.
by John rate this post as useful

Cingular phones 2007/3/14 06:08
I see the earlier message says Cingular phones won't work in Japan, but 2 are listed with 2100 MHz frequency and say they will work in Japan - the Cingular 8525 and PalmOne Treo 750. Is that not correct?
by Slaughter rate this post as useful

Roaming 2007/3/16 00:33
How do we dial each other's cell phones while in Japan?

When you are both roaming and you want to phone each other it is going to be expensive for both of you. Say that you are from country A and both use your phones roaming in country B. You'll need to dial internationally from country B to the phone number in country A and the provider in A will then decide to forward the call internationally onto the phone in country B. This means both you are the other person are going to be charged for an international call while your phone probably gets charged the even more expensive roaming fees for the international call.
by Kappa rate this post as useful

answers 2007/3/24 06:02
1) IF cingular has any 2100Mhz 3G WCDMA/UMTS compatible phones that ARE specifically compatible on the 2100mhz network used in Japan, then yes, you can roam in Japan. Otherwise, it's on the 2100Mhz frequency, but not compatible with Japan's different 2100Mhz 3G.

2) The cingular 8525 looks like the HTC tytn series, and with the Treo 750, you can roam in Japan using these two Japan compatible 3G devices. Nothing else they carry will work at this time:

3) Any of the phones I suggested can be brought into Japan, you can then rent a SIM card from Vodafone, etc., and have access to a local number with reduced rates on the import phone. (rental SIM)

However whether they'll actually let you activate a -post-paid- plan with an import is another matter I haven't any information on.... (post-paid SIM)

And that same phone can then be easily activated in the USA on any GSM carrier once you're back -- they don't care if you use your own phone or not - they'll give you an activated SIM card with your plan signup.

But i'd take any free phone they're offering at the same time so you can use it as a backup or sell it for money.

4) Vodafone/Softbank Japan's rental page here explains it all:


Basically 105 yen per day for a rental SIM with FREE!!!! incoming calls (Almost all Japanese phones have free incoming no matter how long you talk).

Should be quite affordable for 6 months in Japan, esp. given the alternatives such as Skype, etc.

5) Text messages also work just fine roaming, so you can use this as a low cost method of staying in touch.

by adorable rate this post as useful

Telestial Explorer SIM (TravelSIM) 2007/4/6 00:55
I just got back from Tokyo and wanted to add this in case some one is wondering.

The Explorer SIM from Telestial.com (= TravelSIM) worked very well in Japan with the Cingular 8525. The phone needs to be unlocked but I had no problems getting the unlock code from Cingular. The Explorer SIM is a little cheaper than using SoftBank's rental SIM (55cents/min vs 105yen/min).

One thing about the Explorer SIM: You have to use the dialer program that comes with the SIM card. On the 8525, a program called ''SIM Menu'' showed up in the Programs list and all calls had to be made using this application. Dialing from the Cingular dialer did not work.

Also, one bad thing about using these International Roaming SIM cards is that if another person tries to call you from their cell phone, they must have international dialing enabled. This wasn't a big deal for me but if you plan on having people calling you, the SoftBank rental SIM might be more convenient.
by jj rate this post as useful

Samsung Blackjack Works 2007/5/9 00:55
I posted the original question as to what cell phones work in Japan.

While in Japan, my Samsung Blackjack 3G phone that I have through Cingular DID work in Japan. So all that said that it would not work, were wrong! IT DOES WORK!!!!
by sue m rate this post as useful

RELATED QUESTION: 2007/5/10 07:17
Does anyone know if it's possible to buy (or rent) a PRE-PAID cellphone for use within Japan?

We will be visiting my parents near Tokyo later this year. They only have a land line and I thought it'd be easier if I had a cell phone (as opposed to using a payphone) when my husband & I are traveling (and baby is with Grandma :)
by Jennifer rate this post as useful

RELATED QUESTION: CONT 2007/5/10 07:23
Regarding my question about buying PREPAID cell phones for use in Japan: I'd like to buy it IN Japan when I get there (figured that would be easier). It's not necessary to get one before we go. So any stores in Tokyo, leads, how-tos would be appreciated.
by Jennifer rate this post as useful

Mobile phones 2007/5/10 08:02

You can rent a phone when you arrive at Narita Airport. I don't think these are prepaid, though. You need to be a registered alien to buy a prepaid mobile phone, so that won't be an option if you are just visiting for a few weeks.
by Dave in Saitama rate this post as useful

You can rent a phone at the airport. 2007/5/10 19:33
According to this site (related to 2007) it is possible to rent a phone at the airport.
by Tokyo-veteran rate this post as useful

Cingular 8525 works fine in Japan 2007/6/29 08:45
Take exception to your "3G Cingular phones as of 3/2007"

My 8525 works fine in Japan and its an awesome Smartphone
by Jay rate this post as useful

Cingular 8525/Softbank X01HT 2007/7/10 17:48
The Cingular 8525 is the same phone (hardware-wise) as the Softbank X01HT. THey should be quad-band (i.e., can use them worldwide if you have the proper SIM card.)

I have successfully used an X01HT in the US on T-mobile. Interestingly enough, though, I bought a SIM from a Cingular store and my X01 didnt like it (kept popping the 'invalid SIM' message.)
by Kokodoko rate this post as useful

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