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Staying connected: getting a phone in Japan

Mobile/cellular phones

There are three main mobile phone (keitai denwa) carriers in Japan: NTT Docomo, Softbank, and AU by KDDI. All offer phones with English functionality. Charges vary depending on the package and usually cost from about 1,000 yen to 10,000 yen per month. Each company has different requirements in order to sign up for a plan. If you go to a major electronics store such as Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera, there will most likely be a person who speaks some English. Alternatively, check the mobile carrier’s website for branches with English speaking staff. Some companies are now offering pre-paid mobile phones that require no monthly fee or plan purchase, but work mostly on pre-paid cards. Pre-paid mobile phones generally have basic functions such as text messaging but may not have internet access.

Most mobile phone carriers will require a bank account to sign up for a regular phone plan (usually a one or two-year plan). With this, your monthly dues will be automatically withdrawn from your account. Payments can also be made at store branches or convenience stores for those who receive their bills in the post. For pre-paid phones, there will be a flat fee for the cost of the phone and for usage you will need to purchase pre-paid cards.


SIM Only Services

SIM only services have become increasing popular in recent years since the government deregulated the mobile service market. A SIM only service will allow you to use your existing smartphone in Japan. Here are a few companies that offer this service:


Land-lines (home phone lines)

You’re most likely going to need more than basic Japanese for this; the best thing to do is to go to a major electronics store (e.g. Yodobashi Camera, BIC Camera, K’s Denki, Kojima Denki) as they usually have special packages that allow you to buy a land-line. It would be helpful to provide the representative with your address as choice of telephone service providers will differ by area. For more details on the requirements, please visit the electronics store in your area and speak to a representative.

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