Mobile Phones

In Japan, you will have the option of getting a mobile phone (a flip phone, known as ketai) or a smartphone (called sumaato fon or sumaho), and it is highly recommended that you get one as soon as possible.


First, you’ll need to decide what phone company you want to join. Different companies offer different types of phones (a given model may only operate for one company). Phones are on display pretty much everywhere, so you can go and take a look at the latest offerings before you make your decision.Your decision will be influenced by the following factors:


  • Bilingual function (strongly recommended)
  • Color and size
  • Water resistance
  • Internet or e-mail access
  • Digital camera

Don’t worry if after a few weeks you realize that the metallic pink “Hello Kitty” phone you bought was not the best idea you’ve ever had, you should be able to change models and still keep your number (but it will cost you to do so).
Rates and plans vary from company to company:
2. AU
The table below shows rates offered by each company under its cheapest plans. Each company offers at least five different plans, with different monthly rates, free call time, rates per min, etc. In addition, companies occasionally run special offers that provide a few bonuses as sign-up perks. Basically, you’ll need to look in the company brochures at all the different plans on offer and then choose which will be the most appropriate package for your needs. You can switch plans at any time and at no extra cost. These days you can usually pick up an English guide to plans/phones in shops like Yamada Denki.
Phone Company AU DoCoMo Softbank
(Plan Name) (SS Plan(CDMA-1X subscription service) (Type SS) (White Plan)
Monthly Rate w/1-year contract* ¥3,600 ¥3,600 ¥980[inc. tax]
Monthly Free Call Allowance* ¥1000 <max. 25min> ¥1000 <max. 25min> ¥0
Call Charges/min.* \20/30sec \20/30sec to Softbank handsets 1:00am – 9:00pm – Free 9:00pm – 1:00am – \20/30sec to other carriers’ handsets \20/30sec (all day)
Text Charges* C-mail \3/message EZ mail \.27/packet (requires EZweb@mail Plan (\200/month)) SMS and Short Mail \5/transmission to Softbank handsets SMS/ Sky Mail – Free S! Mail (MMS) – Free to other carriers’ handsets SMS/SkyMail-\3/sent message S! Mail (MMS) – \3-\200 

* Written 2012 (Please ensure that the aforementioned is correct).

* Amounts do not include tax or special offers.



Additionally, there are other, cheaper mobile service options for those of you who want to get more bang for your buck and don’t necessarily care about the what model phone you have.



Iijmio is online only and sells Japanese sim cards, smartphones, and service through NTT Docomo. If you use IIJmio, you may use your credit card to pay in one lump sum or monthly. Some plans, which include a new phone, sim card, and 3GB of data start as low as ¥2,880/month for 24 months.



Y!mobile has some cheap options for mobile phones and service plans through Softbank. There are Y!mobile shops around Toyama, so you can visit one to check out what phone models they have available. Y!mobile’s smallest data plans (1 GB) start at ¥1,980/month, and it’s largest (7 GB) start at ¥3,696/month.




1. Once you’ve decided what you want, go to any shop that has mobile phones on display and take the following items:


  • Your hanko (the stamp that you use on important documents)
  • Your gaikokujin ID card (It’s best to wait until you receive your card. Most of the time they won’t sell you a phone without it.) However if you get a copy of your TOUROKU GENHYO KISAIJIKOU SHOUMEISHO – the certificate that says you are registered as an alien, costs a few hundred yen, can be bought when you register for your card or at any other time, this can work instead.
  • Your bank details (and preferably your bank book), in order for monthly direct debits to be arranged.
  • If possible, take someone who can speak Japanese. It will make the entire process run much more smoothly.
  • If you have the English Guide to plans/phones bring that too. If you circle which features you want, it makes the application process easier.
Tell the clerk which phone and plan you want, and fill out the application form he or she gives you. You will have to wait about 30 minutes while your details are sent to the company, your line is connected and your battery is charged. Once all that is done, you’re ready to start calling all your friends to inform them of your latest purchase!


2. All of these companies require you to subscribe for a certain period of time – usually at least a year – or they charge a cancellation fee.


3. Try to find out which service most of your friends will be getting, because this makes a difference in text messaging (typically JETs tend to get Softbank). In Japan, it is usually cheaper to text phones of the same company. If you don’t use the same company as your friends, you will have to use a more expensive form of messaging. For example, AU users send C-mail to other AU users for a flat rate of \3 per message. This is cheaper than sending EZ mail, which is required to send messages to non-AU users. DoCoMo has a similar system, and it’s free for Softbank users to send each other messages under the White Plan most of the time. Also, you can use a phone number to send mail to people with the same company, but you need an email address (usually free) to message people using other companies. There is no difference in call charge, however (except for Softbank).


4. For the most part, there are no free nights and weekends in Japan.




Perhaps a lengthy contract and monthly payments don’t appeal to you. Maybe you don’t expect to use your keitai all that much. If so, there is another option. At many convenience stores around Toyama, you can purchase a card-based keitai. These are relatively simple phones that use a cost-based phone card rather than a contract. The card phone option is admittedly a little more limited than a contract phone. You have no real choice of phone options – only one or two phones are generally offered, and often the only difference between them will be the color. However, many of these phones are bilingual, and if a simple phone will fill your needs, this may be the way to go.


It is much simpler to acquire a “Kaado-keitai” (card phone) than a contract-based phone. Simply find a convenience store (ie. Circle K, Lawsons, Family Mart, etc) that carries phones, fill out a relatively basic form with your name and address and pay for the phone. Once you have the phone, you add minutes to your call time by buying phone cards for the phone – usually in the 2,000 to 3,000 yen range – and adding them to your account. While card phones are marginally more expensive than regular keitai, receiving calls is free, and if you aren’t spending hours a day on the phone, the convenience might make it worth your while. NB: Pay Phones: If you don’t want to buy a keitai, it can be really cheap to use public pay phones, but ONLY if you buy phone cards at a convenience store instead of using cash. The cards are available at any conbini (Japanese term for convenience store). Just ask for a “fon-kaddo.”

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