“Thank the lord I have arrived at Beppu safe and sound. I would like to contact my family/friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband to tell them I am all fine, but I am not near a wifi signal. I would like to contact my friends and family without being dependent on wifi only. How can I get a sim card in Japan?” If you are asking this question, then this guide is for you!
Too often do I hear from students that they have no clue where to start to find a mere sim card to contact their family and friends. Probably, in your home country getting a sim card is easy peasy. All you require is to pay some fee and show them your ID card and voilà, sim card in the pocket! Unfortunately, this is not the case in Japan. It requires some paperwork and patience.
This guide will assume you already have a smartphone prior to your arrival in Beppu. As such this guide will focus on getting a viable sim card, one that works and receives internet. If you do not have a mobile phone, I strongly recommend you to go to a shop to buy a mobile phone, for example, at AU or Docomo. The AU shop at Kyomachi (in front of AP House 4) has a clerk that speaks (proper) English who can help you find a mobile phone that suits your needs. Docomo does not have a clerk that is proficient in the English language, but if you are able to communicate well in the Japanese language, maybe it is a good thing to give it a try. From all the stories I heard so far, these companies have the best services. All other companies have a terrible reputation, and it is maybe better to avoid them.
Do note that buying a mobile phone in Japan can be quite expensive. In 2017, an iPhone 7 with a 2-year contract, with internet and a phone number was about ¥8000 per month(!).
Furthermore, first and foremost, ask yourself the question: ‘’Is my mobile phone sim card locked now?” If the answer is yes, please contact your service provider in your home country to unlock your mobile phone. All you require is to give them your IMEI code, and they will unlock it for you. This IMEI code can be found in your settings. Google it if you cannot find the IMEI code of your phone.
Back to that juicy sim card. If your mobile phone is not sim card locked, we can then proceed to acquire a sim card. Several providers provide a cheap sim card in Japan which you probably cannot find by merely using Google. These sim cards providers are IIJmio, Rakuten Mobile, and Line Mobile. Their data plans are extremely cheap, and their services are great. This guide, however, cannot make a claim which is the best choice as it all really depends on your personal preferences.
To give you an example: Line Mobile provides a sim card with or without a phone number. A sim card without a phone number, only internet connection, is without a subscription. With a phone number, you will have a subscription for one year, and you pay slightly more. Line mobile furthermore, provides several types of data plans of 1GB, 3GB, 5GB, and 10GB. IIJmio has data plans ranging from 3GB, 6GB, and 10GB per month. Rakuten Mobile has data plans ranging from 3.1GB up to 30GB. It all depends on your budget and your internet behaviour. Please be realistic with your choice. You probably do not need 30GB to watch cat videos :p.
The nice thing about these sim card providers is that you can always adjust your data plan either going up or down without paying any fee. You only pay the data plan for that month. I highly recommend you to take your time and read through the data plans at your own leisure. Do not make any hasty decisions just because you’re desperate to have internet. Patience is a virtue, and it pays off. You can read all about the cheap sim cards in here.
Yes, everything is in Japanese, unfortunately. You might not have a Japanese friend just yet to help you translate everything, or your Kanji level is not that great just yet. Luckily, there is something beautiful out there to help you going. If you are not using Google Chrome as your internet browser, start using it! Google Chrome has an option to translate the webpage you are watching. All you have to do is go to a website and “right click” -> “Translate to English.” And it will translate everything from Japanese to English. The translation is not perfect, but it will help you a lot. Use this neat trick to wade yourself through.
What to prepare when ordering a sim card:
-Your Japanese Residence card
-Your name in Katakana
-Your address (preferably in Japanese)
-A credit card
-And….. a phone number…..
Yes, you will need to provide a phone number to apply for a sim card. And also, if you do not have a credit card and you would like to order a credit card in Japan; you will need a phone number too, but in order to have a phone number you will need a credit card…..
Yes, yes, I know it is problematic. The chicken and the egg situation. You will need a credit card. If you do not have one, you might want to apply for one at Co-Op, which is a store on the APU campus. In this situation, ask your senpai (senior student), your TA or your ‘buddy’ to use their phone number for the time being. You can change the phone number, later on, online through the service provider’s website to your new phone number.
When you have successfully applied for a sim card, it will be in no-time in your mailbox. Put the sim card in your phone and moshi moshi!