Where Can I Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Japan? Introducing recommended prepaid SIM cards for travelers to Japan.

Recently, there’s been a rise in the use of eSIM, but it comes with its own set of risks. If activation fails or if you accidentally delete the eSIM, you might find yourself unable to use it even if there’s remaining data capacity.

On the other hand, physical SIM cards have several advantages over eSIM. As long as the SIM card isn’t damaged, you can use it for data communication, and it remains functional even if you change your device. Currently, physical SIM cards are more popular than eSIM.

For those traveling to Japan, the question arises: where can you buy a Prepaid SIM card?

Since Prepaid SIM cards are not available everywhere, it’s essential to know where to find them before coming to Japan.This article outlines the following information regarding prepaid SIM cards in Japan.

What you can do with a Japanese Prepaid SIM card(eSIM)

There are three types of SIMs in Japan “data-only”, “data + SMS”, and “data + voice call”.
Most prepaid SIM cards sold in Japan are data-only. Some of them can be used for SMS. SIM cards with numbers that can be used for Voice Call in Japan are rarely sold, and various procedures are required to purchase them.

DataSMSVoice Call
Prepaid SIM card/eSIMΔX

Prepaid SIM cards and eSIMs, available at airports or online, are designed exclusively for data communication. There are two types available: one that expires when the data is used up within a specific period and another that ends when the allotted data capacity for the period is exhausted.

These are primarily intended for short-term usage and may not be suitable for extended periods.

Quality of Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIMs in Japan

Most of all Prepaid SIM cards and eSIMs available in Japan are provided by MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators). During peak hours, typically between 12:00 and 14:00, or in crowded locations, the communication speed may slow down. This is due to the limited communication bandwidth offered by MVNOs, making it challenging to handle numerous communications simultaneously.

For those who require stable and fast communication in Japan, it is advisable to consider renting a Pocket Wi-Fi. The network of Pocket Wi-Fi in Japan is provided by major telecommunications carriers, not MVNOs. It is designed to handle large volumes of communication, even during peak hours or in crowded places, ensuring a consistently high-quality communication experience.
Pocket Wi-Fi Japan

Where to buy a prepaid SIM in Japan

In Japan, you can purchase a prepaid SIM card at the following places

Airport

Stores
Vending Machines

Prepaid SIM cards available at airports are relatively expensive.

Consumer electronics stores

Bic Camera
Yodobashi Camera
Yamada Denki
Nojima, etc.

Many well-known Prepaid SIM cards are sold and have good communication quality.

Convenience Store

Seven-Eleven
Family Mart
LAWSON
Ministop, etc.

Prepaid SIMs are not sold in all stores, but only in a limited number of stores.
Do not expect to be able to buy them anywhere in Japan.

Investigation Result: Are prepaid SIM cards from Japanese convenience stores good quality? prices high?

Online Store

telecommunications company
Amazon,Yahoo,Rakuten,etc

How to buy from Amazon in Japan and pick up at the hotel

With the exception of prepaid SIM cards sold directly by telecommunications companies, many types are available in online stores. Note that Prepaid SIMs with low prices and large data capacities are not of good quality.

Points to note when buying a prepaid SIM card at online store

For Japanese individuals contracted with major telecommunications companies, it is common to purchase data communication capacity in increments of 1GB. Prepaid SIM cards and eSIMs are also offered by MVNOs, and the pricing for data capacity is comparatively more affordable than that of major carriers.

Understanding the pricing structures for data capacity offered by both major carriers and MVNOs allows you to grasp the range of price levels for data communication capacity in Japan.

Major companiesMVNO
3GB2000 JPY1500 JPY
5GB3000 JPY2000 JPY
10GB4000 JPY3000 JPY

(Sep 2023)

Please note that Prepaid SIMs cheaper than this price range may not be of good quality.

How to Buy Prepaid SIM Cards at Low Prices

A relatively inexpensive way to purchase a prepaid SIM card is to order online and receive it at a Japanese address.
You may think that there is no such thing as an address in Japan, but an address is ok, such as the hotel where you are staying.
Prepaid SIM cards are sold relatively low price at the following three Japanese online shopping malls. By setting the delivery address to the hotel where you are staying in Japan, you will be able to purchase a Prepaid SIM card at a relatively low cost in the price range that Japanese people purchase.

Purchasing at online shopping malls requires an understanding of Japanese, However, Amazon’s language-switching feature makes it relatively easy to make purchases even if you do not understand Japanese.

4 Recommended Japanese prepaid SIM cards

Online stores’ Prepaid SIM cards

I introduce prepaid SIM cards handled by online stores for foreign visitors to Japan. Since These online stores specialize in travelers to Japan, so they accept orders in English and deliver anywhere in Japan.

Unlimited Data SoftBank Prepaid SIM card
¥7100

DataUnlimited
NetworkSoftBank
Period31 days

When I checked their Japanese website , this prepaid SIM card is not available and is only sold on the English and Chinese web pages. This is a prepaid SIM card designed specifically for foreign customers. This prepaid SIM card has a definite period of availability and is a bit more expensive, but it seems to offer unlimited communication.

Amazon

Once you have booked a hotel in Japan, purchase a prepaid SIM card from Amazon.co.jp and have it delivered to the hotel where you are staying.
Amazon will deliver it to your hotel within 3 days of ordering.

Softbank 10GB Prepaid SIM
¥3,280

Data25GB
Networkdocomo (MVNO)


docomo 15GB Prepaid SIM
¥2600

Data15GB
Networkdocomo (MVNO)

Data Communication quality is a little lower due to MVNO SIM, but data capacity is larger than other prepaid SIM cards

The difference in communication speed between MVNO SIMs and those of major carriers varies greatly depending on the time of day.
MVNO communication speeds often drop to less than half. You might be felt slow speeds with a MVNO’s prepaid SIM, for example when watching YouTube video on your smartphone. However The speed is fine for use with a smartphone.
If you want to watch videos, rent a Pocket Wi-Fi instead of a Prepaid SIM.
Most Pocket Wi-Fi uses the networks of major carriers for data transmission, so the speed is faster and more stable than with Prepaid SIM cards or eSIMs.

rent a Pocket Wi-Fi

If you want high-capacity data communication

If you need more than 50 GB of data, there are few high-capacity plans on Prepaid SIM cards, and even if there were large capacities, the quality of the transmission speed is often poor.
If you want data communications that exceed 50GB, rent a Pocket Wi-Fi.
Pocket Wi-Fi is an essential item for visitors to Japan, as it provides convenient, easy, and stable Internet access.

2024 Best Pocket WiFi Rental at Narita Airport – Japan Pocket WiFi Rental Comparison