In a country as technologically advanced as Japan, you might not think that getting online would be a problem – but that’s not always the case. Although internet access is available all over the place, it’s not always easy to make use of if you’re not a resident with a local mobile phone subscription.
That’s not to say that you can’t get online, though – it just takes a bit of planning. Here are the best methods I’ve found over the years.
In Europe and the USA hotels almost always offer WiFi internet, albeit sometimes for a small charge. In Japan, internet access in hotels has traditionally been offered via a cable instead, and although this is slowly changing – a few chains, such as Dormy Inn, are rolling out free guest WiFi – it’s worth being prepared.
Take a laptop with a standard Ethernet network port, or the required adapter, and a short cable – the 1m patch cables designed for use in server racks are cheap and perfect. In the hotel, look for an Ethernet port (often with no label) on the desk, near the power sockets – you should just be able to plug in and go online, with no security or passwords required.
On your Phone
Your UK/Euro/US phone contract might offer data roaming into Japan – but god knows it won’t be cheap. If you plan to use, say, Google Maps, you should get a local phone connection for a few days instead.
If you have an unlocked smartphone I recommend using a B-Mobile Prepaid visitor SIM. You buy online for around 4,000 yen before leaving for Japan, and they send a package to any address you choose (via the courier Kuroneko Yamato). Pop the SIM card into your phone, and it connects to the Japanese DoCoMo network, giving you 3G data fast enough to google, use maps, send email, etc. Apple’s iMessage service also works, but you can’t make calls.
I’ve used the service many times now – always the 14 day option – each time having the card delivered to a hotel, and it’s always worked perfectly. You can order a SIM here.