Due to different technologies, cell phones from your home country may not work in Japan. The major technical reason is that the Japanese Government decided years ago to adopt their ‘Made in Japan’ PDC system rather than implement the GSM standard used in North America and Europe mobile phone systems.

Can I Use My Phone In Japan?

However, this also depends on your local telephone carrier, the style and type of your phone, and the details in your local mobile phone plan or subscription. The best is to get in touch with your local service provider for details concerning your particular phone.

There are three things that are required in order for your mobile phone to work in Tokyo:

  1. Compatibility with the Japanese network – The only foreign mobile phones that work in Tokyo are some 3rd generation models. However, the number of compatible mobile phones is increasing.
  2. International roaming plan – With an international roaming plan (from your home service provider), you use your own phone and number but are charged international roaming rates. This is likely to be expensive.
  3. Rental SIM card – Alternatively, with a rental SIM card (from a Japanese provider), you use your own mobile phone with a Japanese phone number and lower rates.

Unless you own a third-generation – which will allow your mobile phone to communicate with the telecom networks in Japan, we recommend the idea of renting a cell phone while in Tokyo. It is usually best to arrange this before you come to Japan.

How To Rent A Phone In Japan

Renting is the most economical and simple way for the average traveler to get a phone and typically requires just a picture ID and a credit card. Many companies have kiosks at the airports, while other companies will mail a phone to your hotel.

Depending on the company, you can return the phones at the airport or through the mail. The fees for the rental of cell phones vary and usually consist of the daily rental fee (typically 250-1000 yen per day) plus a usage fee (typically 70-200 yen per minute domestic outgoing, incoming calls are free). All of the companies at the airports have same-day rentals, while some companies offer discounts for advanced reservations.

Renting A Portable WIFI In Tokyo

You can get a data-only plan on a rental portable wifi if you don’t need to make calls with a traditional phone number. thins will be useful if you are traveling with a family or have a lot of devices that need to connect to the net, such as a laptop or tablet along with your mobile phone.

Phone Manners In Japan

Talking on a mobile phone while riding the subway is considered inappropriate. Messages asking passengers not to make calls and to switch their mobile phones to silent mode (“public mode” or “manners mode” in Japanese) are played frequently. This, combined with the low per-message price, has made e-mailing from cell phones extremely popular among Japanese people of all ages.

See also: Should I Buy/Rent A Mobile Phone Or SIM In Japan?

Tokyo Trip Checklist

  • To make sure you have all the important things covered see my first-time-in-Tokyo guide
  • Get your 1,2 or 3-day Tokyo Unlimited Subway Pass to easily get around Tokyo
  • If you want to travel on bullet trains you can save big with a Japan Rail Pass. Here’s why is worth it.
  • You’ll need a prepaid sim or Portable WIFI to stay connected in Tokyo.
  • Check out my detailed Tokyo packing list to make sure you’re prepared.
  • The best site to book hotels in Tokyo is almost always Booking.com. And remember to book early, especially during busy times.
  • For travel insurance (which you need) Word Nomads offer great coverage in Japan and are highly recommended.

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