The mobile phone is an incredible piece of technology, changing the way we keep in touch. Nowhere is this more true than in Japan, where keitai are constantly glued to people’s eyes, ears and fingers. Indeed, for anybody living in Japan who wants a social or professional life in any sense, the cell phone has become an indispensable tool. Cell phone numbers usually take the form 090-1234-5678, always with eleven digits. It is common in Japan to always write your mobile phone number in this format.
Amagase / Wikimedia
To get your first mobile phone in Japan you will need to go down to the local electronics store or, if you already know what you want then direct to the relevant service proivder. Below, you’ll find a list of service providers in Japan, along with links to their websites.
At the store, you’ll first have to make a choice: contract or prepaid. Choose contract if you’re going to stay 2 years or more, prepaid if you’re going to stay less than a year. The area in between is tough, since most of the cell phone companies won’t offer any significant discount on handsets unless you sign up for a 2-year contract, but doing prepaid for more than a year doesn’t quite make sense. With prepaid service, you’ll probably miss out on Internet and other cool features on your phone.
Whatever you choose, you’re going to need to show ID (gaijin card) to prove you’re 20 years old or over – this is the legal age for signing up for a cell phone. Also, your gaijin card might be required to show the company that you’re in the country for a while and won’t skip out on the bill. Some companies may also ask for your Proof of Address form (from your local city office) and even proof that you will be in the country for at least 2 years (if you’re doing a 2-year contract).
Also, if you’re doing a contract, you’re going to need to have a Japanese bank account and all the info with you. Softbank has an excellent English sub-site with a full breakdown of the process involved.
Japanese Network Providers:
Docomo – the mobile unit of national telecom company NTT has the best coverage across Japan and one of the most innovative on-line platforms available.
au by KDDI – The number 2 carrier in the market, au boasts strong coverage in most of Japan and a great range of designer handsets
Softbank – Fast growing Softbank has limited coverage (even in some cities) but an innovative selection of handsets and services that currently includes the iPhone