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Survive and Thrive in Japan – Wi-Fi in Tokyo

Whether it is about keeping up with the Tokyo 2020 games or share your Olympics and Paralympics experience, here is what you need to know about access to public Wi-Fi around Tokyo and other Wi-Fi options to always stay connected during your travel.

BY Karolina Höglind

Kichijouji Public Wifi
Over the air: the approach of the Olympic and Paralympic games has encouraged the spread of publicly available Wi-Fi

When travelling in a different country, having access to the internet gives a sense of security, and for some it might even be a necessity. Finding an open public wireless access point in Tokyo is not always an easy task. Just heading over to the nearest café, might not do it, and it is safe to assume that if it’s a smaller, older café, you won’t have any luck. For many people, planning on how to stay connected throughout the trip is a vital step in their preparation – and it should probably be one for you too.

Public Wi-Fi and getting connected

As the Tokyo 2020 Games grow near, the Japanese government is putting effort into making Wi-Fi more accessible to tourists. If you are visiting Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games you will probably be pleased to hear that all the arenas for the games will have open Wi-Fi accessible to the spectators. So, you will have no trouble staying updated, or sharing your experience in real-time.

Outside the arenas you can find wireless hot-spots open for tourists. Look for the “Japan. Free Wi-Fi” mark, or look up where to access it at the Japan Toursim Agency’s Japan Free Wi-fi website. Download the app “Japan Connected Free Wi-Fi” to find and easily connect to open Wi-Fi locations. You can read more about it at NTT’s website.

One of your best chances to hit up an internet access point is at your hotel. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi for their guests but you can always check with your accommodation to be sure. When out exploring Tokyo, you can often hit up a connection spot while on the move, as most subway lines, such as Tokyo Metro, as well as a selection of JR East stations offer free Wi-Fi. Find more information about where and how to get connected on the official website of each railway company.

JR east-Wifi

Stay online when on the move: free Wi-Fi is available at many of the major train stations around Tokyo

Public Wi-Fi is also available in some popular tourist areas. For example, you can access public Wi-Fi around the main streets in both Omotesando and Roppongi.
Be aware that in order to connect to public hot-spots you will most likely need to register your email and accept the terms and conditions.

Although it is still not something to take for granted, the number of cafes and restaurants with free Wi-Fi has been increasing over the past years. When searching for a place to sit down where you can get an internet connection, try a bigger cafe chain or a newer cafe with many young people. Keep an eye out for a sign that says free Wi-Fi, and get the password from the shop to access it.

Japanese mobile network operator Docomo provides a Wi-Fi hotspot service, where you can sign up for a plan which lets you freely connect to a number of public Wi-Fis. It’s good if you want to avoid worrying about handling an extra devices or SIM card, and has wide access to a fast and secure network. Read more over at Docomo NTT’s page Docomo Wi-Fi for Visitors.

The Convenient Pocket Wi-Fi

The pocket Wi-Fi is small, portable Wi-Fi router that is easy to bring with you anywhere. Just like your regular Wi-Fi router, several devices can be connected at the same time. It is so convenient, many people residing in Tokyo have their own to be able to have fast internet access with them at all times.

Pocket Wi-Fi

The world in your pocket: a portable pocket Wi-Fi is a convenient way to make sure you are always connected.

Recently, pocket Wi-Fis have gained a lot of popularity amongst travelers as well. It is one extra device to keep charged but the convenience is undeniable. With benefits such as the possibility to connect more than one device at the same time it is a great solution for group-travels, at least if you are planning on sticking together most of the time.

Many companies also offer short-term plans for tourists, such as, Softbank, Ninja WiFi, and Japan Mobile. With an array of data-plans to choose from, you can find the deal that works best for you, and the speed or data limit you are looking for. If you are planning to use the internet a lot, an unlimited data plan might be a good idea.

Once you have set your mind on one, you should make an online reservation at least a few days before you need it. Don’t forget to add insurance if you don’t want to worry about something happening to your pocket Wi-Fi during the trip. Usually you can choose between picking it up at the airport upon arriving in Japan, or having it sent straight to you at your accommodation. Making a reservation in advance guarantees availability but it’s possible to get one without a reservation as well. To return it at the end of your trip, simply post it using a pre-paid return envelope, or drop it off at the airport on your way back home–easy!

SIM Wi-Fi

Cheap and widely available temporary SIM cards let you plug-in and play into Japanese cellular data networks

The simple short-term SIM card

The short term SIM card is an alternative to the pocket Wi-Fi for someone looking to be online at all times, but who doesn’t want the hassle of an extra device to charge and keep track of. You can pre-register for a SIM card online, but you don’t need to as you can also find them in designated vending machines and over the counters at the airport, as well as in major technology retailers around Tokyo, such as Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera. Make sure that your phone is not locked to a mobile provider and confirm what size your sim card is before getting one!

Since the SIM card is only useable for a short period of time, there is no need to return it. As with pocket Wi-Fi, you can choose between various data plans, and lengths of use. Most plans are data only and offered by companies such as Rakuten Mobile, and U-Mobile. One of the few, or perhaps even the only one, which includes voice calls as well is Mobile Japan.

Summary

Access to public Wi-Fi in Tokyo has increased over the past years, but it can still be a hassle to find. If a reliable internet connection is important for you to have during your stay, it might be better to find an alternative to only relying on public Wi-Fi. There are many options to fit your budgets and needs to help you make the most of your trip.

Karolina Höglind
Swedish 5 years living in Tokyo

Sweden born and bred Tokyoite. She started her journey to Japan as many others, through watching Sailor Moon on TV from a young age. Now her interest stretches out to culture, food and social issues. While studying at a Japanese university, she worked as an editor for a Tokyo-based culture magazine and as a radio host. She now spends her time as an office worker by day and Tokyo explorer by night.

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