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questions about prepaid phones 2008/6/19 14:13
I know there are threads about prepaid phones but most are at least three years old and the most recent ones only had info I already knew.
So I would like to clarify some things.

I have a Finnish 3G phone that works in Japan. But using it is so very expensive I thought I should get a Japanese phone too.
I have already a vodafone 903T which uses USIM card (unlocked), but I read there are no prepaid (U)SIM cards available. So I guess my best option is prepaid phone? (As I prefer the prepaid system so I won't have too many suprises when I return)

So...
If I get a prepaid phone I don't have to return it anywhere like the rental phones, correct? (I'm aware they would stop working after a while and wouldn't work in Finland anyways.)

And with Prepaid I only have to pay for the phone and the prepaid cards. There wouldn't be any additional cost?
Is there some kind of system that shows how much money is left? (I've never used even Finnish prepaid cards, so I have no idea of the whole system. x__x)

I already checked a few prepaid phone sites and most said I wouldn't be able to use e-mail and internet. Those two however are the main reasons I would get the phone for in the first place. So are there any prepaid phones(/companies) which would support these? and could you possibly recommend some?

Thank you.
by Liisa  

Softbank prepaid phone 2008/6/19 15:04
I have a Softbank (formerly Vodafone) prepaid phone. It costs 7000 yen for the phone, and 3000 yen or 5000 yen for a phone card. You can use email but not internet with the phone. You can buy phone cards (aka recharge your phone) at most convenience stores.
by al rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/19 16:55
First thing to think about is that only residents of Japan can get prepaid Japanese phones (you hint that you may be a resident though). If you are on a tourist visa then you can't buy a prepaid and your only option is to get a rental phone or rental SIM card.

I have already a vodafone 903T which uses USIM card (unlocked), but I read there are no prepaid (U)SIM cards available.

Some rental companies offer SIM card rentals. The last time I checked they cost roughly the same as renting a phone if not more expensive. I see no advantage of renting a SIM over renting a phone except that you can carry 1 phone around instead of 2.

So I guess my best option is prepaid phone? (As I prefer the prepaid system so I won't have too many suprises when I return)

Are you a resident of Japan? If so then you can get a prepaid although I'm not sure if they sell ones with overseas functionality (except for the non-japanese prepaids I've seen at Narita Airport but that's a whole different type of phone.) If your are a resident you also can get a subscription plan phone. There are many offered with overseas capabilities. Please note that it is difficult if not impossible to unlock Japanese phones as they are tied to a specific carrier.

If I get a prepaid phone I don't have to return it anywhere like the rental phones, correct?

Correct. You would own the phone.

And with Prepaid I only have to pay for the phone and the prepaid cards. There wouldn't be any additional cost?

Correct

Is there some kind of system that shows how much money is left?

Yes, there is a toll free number you call to manage your account including checking your balance, adding to your balance, checking voicemail, etc. Some companies offer this service in English and/or online.

I already checked a few prepaid phone sites and most said I wouldn't be able to use e-mail and internet. Those two however are the main reasons I would get the phone for in the first place.

Virtually every prepaid I've seen had email, although not all had internet. Shop around. Email should be a function, although internet may only be available on the more expensive phones. Also, data transfer rates for the internet are expensive.

Let us know what your visa status is and we can give you better advice. However, if you are a traveler then your only option is to rent.

Here's a list of companies at Narita Airport that offer rentals. Some offer prepaids but I'm not sure exactly how this works and I wonder if it's legal. I can't recommend any though as I haven't used them personally.

http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/guide/service/list/svc_19.ht...
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/19 16:56
also here's some more general info on mobile phones:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2223.html
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

prepaid 2008/6/19 22:11
I bought my daughter a 3G prepaid phone two months ago. It was a Softbank 705Px.
It cost 9800 yen, plus the prepaid card.

You call 1400 to find out the money balance. You can change the written language on the phone, as well as the spoken language when using the toll free number.

I do know that "visitors" to Japan seem to be able to buy a prepaid phone at the Shibuya Softbank, but mostly no where else!!!!
by Sandy rate this post as useful

oh sorry 2008/6/20 04:57
yllwsmrf - Forgot totally. I am so sorry.
No I am not a resident of Japan, but I do have Japanese friends who would be able to pick up the phone for me if being a resident is mandatory.
(Though this might not be legal? But I don't see much wrong in it, as there is no extra cost or anything like that for the person who picks it up. And I wouldn't of course use the phone for anything illegal.)

Sandy - Visitors would be able buy prepaid phones from Shibuya Softbank. That is interesting! I had the impression they needed at least the alien registration card. Or is this just a store policy?
If this is however the case do you have any idea wether it would be possible to get one from other Softbanks too?
As I am starting my trip from Nagoya and not going to Tokyo until after two weeks so it seems foolish to get the phone when half of the trip is gone.
Also, I try to keep the costs as minimum as I can (being a student after all), so have you any idea of the price range? Was the 9800yen phone of the more cheaper or expensive ones?
by Liisa rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/20 08:46
I do know that "visitors" to Japan seem to be able to buy a prepaid phone at the Shibuya Softbank, but mostly no where else!!!!

I remember that you mentioned this before, but I'm reluctant to recommend this as it seems like it may have been a mistake or misinterpretation of the rules. I checked the softbank website and all the documents required to register are intended to to prove identity and Japanese residency. The problem may come from the fact that they don't specify that your address you register with must be a Japanese address. It seems like a very liberal interpretation of these rules could allow travelers to obtain prepaids although it seems like it would be illegal.

Sandy, is your daughter a resident of Japan?

Liisa-
If you have friends here they could definitely get you a prepaid phone.

One thing to note is that for short time use, a prepaid may not be as cost effective as renting, especially if you are staying less than 4 weeks or if you don't use up all the credit that you buy.

Check out some of the companies on the internet. This one is often recommended on this site:

http://www.myjapanphone.com/rental_details.html

With the prices they offer vs buying a prepaid I'd say that it would be cheaper to rent regardless of how long you intend to stay in Japan.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

resident 2008/6/20 12:55
I am a resident in Japan, along with my wife and daughter.
I bought my daughter's 3G phone at softbank in Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara, as they didn't have the model my daughter wanted at Shibuya. I was asked before ANYTHING, if I was a resident and if I had an Alien Registration Card.

Before my wife and daughter got here(November 2006), I went to SoftBank Shibuya to buy a prepaid for my wife. I didn't know the procedure at the time, but they asked for my PASSPORT, not my Alien Registration Card, and completed the transaction in that way!!!

When I went to SoftBank two months ago, to get my daughter's phone, I was AGAIN asked for my passport, not my Alien Registration Card!!
My conclusion is that SoftBank Shibuya will STILL sell prepaid phones to foreigners on visitor status.
by Sandy rate this post as useful

Other question 2008/6/20 23:40
What price range are you looking at for a Japanese prepaid phone that can do email? I'm not really interested in any function besides calling and mailing. Also, what are the rates per minute and per e-mail in general?
by Giel rate this post as useful

. 2008/6/21 00:24
When I went to SoftBank two months ago, to get my daughter's phone, I was AGAIN asked for my passport, not my Alien Registration Card!!
My conclusion is that SoftBank Shibuya will STILL sell prepaid phones to foreigners on visitor status.

I'm not sure if that can be a jumped conclusion, maybe they saw that you didn't have a "Temporary Visitors Permit" stamped in your visa pages? Therefore didn't ask more eg for a ARC, Or did you have a Temporary Visitors Permit stamp and they sold you one anyway, or did they not even look at the visa page at all.
by John rate this post as useful

. 2008/6/21 00:27
Anyone can get a ARC, I think its a matter of not being a temporary visitor status. I know someone in Japan on temporary visitor status, but they have an ARC, but they still can't open a bank account since their status is "temporary visitor".

I don't know about the Shibuya location or how their employees operate, but legally their not supposed to do that.
Though there's always ways around, eg like mentioned a Japanese friend, or friend with residency status gets one for you.
by John rate this post as useful

passport 2008/6/21 22:58
As I recall(18 months ago), they just photocopied the passport details page.
by Sandy rate this post as useful

To Liisa 2008/6/23 05:02
Yes, you can buy a (U)SIM card. I did buy it from Softbank for 0 yen. All you need is you passport and probably a document (sorry I don't remember) which proves your domicile in Japan. Of course you will also have to by and a 3.000 or 5.000 yen prepaid card to charge you account.
As for the mobile phone you intend to use in Japan, it depends on the phone you have. But in the worst case you would have to buy one such as the 811T, 902T...etc. If you are lucky you may find one in this site. (for ex., Forum Categories--„Offer Goods, or Forum Categories--„ Moving Sales)

I hope this fragment of information proves useful.
by Fr rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/23 11:30
Before my wife and daughter got here(November 2006), I went to SoftBank Shibuya to buy a prepaid for my wife. I didn't know the procedure at the time, but they asked for my PASSPORT, not my Alien Registration Card, and completed the transaction in that way!!!

I believe that November 2006 was before they changed the law to where you need to be a resident to get a prepaid phone. At that time it should have been ok, but now that the law has changed you should have to show residency.

When I went to SoftBank two months ago, to get my daughter's phone, I was AGAIN asked for my passport, not my Alien Registration Card!!
My conclusion is that SoftBank Shibuya will STILL sell prepaid phones to foreigners on visitor status.


I agree with John that I wouldn't make the same assumption based on your experience. The can see from your passport if you have temporary visitor status, and may have assumed that your having a (non temporary) visa was enough to satisfy the residency question in their mind. However, based on Softbank's own rules, they should have also asked to see either your Alien Registration card or some other proof of residency.

Regardless, to the original poster, I still believe that you will save money by renting a cellphone instead of buying a prepaid.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

April 2008/6/23 12:27
They changed the law in April 2006. I was aware of the law, but I went there anyway to see about what I could do to get a phone for my wife. I got the phone based on passport only.

I think I might go down there again and ask them about it.
by Sandy rate this post as useful

. 2008/6/23 17:37
Here is the link to how to buy a prepaid (U)SIM card from softbank:

http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/prepaid/3G/index.html

Have a useful and wonderful browsing.
by Fr rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/23 18:44
They changed the law in April 2006. I was aware of the law, but I went there anyway to see about what I could do to get a phone for my wife. I got the phone based on passport only.

I see, I thought that it was changed in early 2007 but must have mixed up the years.

I think I might go down there again and ask them about it.

Thanks Sandy, that would be great if you could do that. I was gonna go the other day but just didn't have enough time. I'll also try calling them tomorrow and see if we can get this thing cleared up so that we can make sure that we're putting out accurate and legal advice.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/24 14:11
Sandy,

I called up Softbank Shibuya and Softbank Roppongi and you are correct in that you do not need residency to buy a prepaid. You can purchase one with your passport, and the address of your hotel.

I asked the Softbank rep if there was a law stating that you needed residency to buy a prepaid and he said that there was no such law. From what I can find out it appears that the law only requires that the cell phone seller verifies your identity. How they do that varies between companies and even between shops. Sellers may have and may continue to require an Alien Registration Card as that proof.

So for those interested in a prepaid, it is confirmed that you can get them from Softbank Shibuya and Roppongi, and I would assume the other major Tokyo branches as well. Although they are currently out of stock at both stores.

Some other things I learned from the rep while I had him on the phone is that the current base prepaid handset costs 5380 yen. Prepaids can be used overseas. They are SIM locked and Softbank won't unlock it for you (the guy said that it was illegal to do so in Japan).
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Ok!! 2008/6/24 15:36
Ok, that's interesting, isn't it??
Some of the other shops I've been into, definitely asked for an alien registration card, but both times (as you've found out) that I've been into the Shibuya shop, only required passport.

It's strange, but I'm sure the Softbank website said passport was not enough!!!!
by Sandy rate this post as useful

... 2008/6/24 16:45
It says it on this page:

http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/prepaid/3G/steps/contract.html

Passport
  1. The passport you use should be still valid at the time of application and your name, address and birth date printed inside must be identical to those written on the application form.
  2. The passport must also include your current address.


* If this document contains a different address from that specified on the application form, you must submit separate proof of your current address.


It continues at the bottom to state what constitutes proof of address:

Proof of your current address

  1. One of the certificates, such as a certificate of resident registration (original copy), a receipt of utilities payments (for electricity, gas, or water charges) or printed material issued by government and public offices, all of which should have been issued within three (3) months or less after the issue date.
  2. The applicant's name and current address must also be included on the certificates mentioned above.
  3. If an address different to that on the application form is printed on the Document ID, however, the applicant's name and current address must be identical to those described on the certificate (addressed to the applicant himself/herself).


It seems that the address of a hotel wouldn't qualify under Softbank's own Terms and Conditions.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

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