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How to use mobile phone in Japan


 In today’s information society, mobile phones have become essential for survival in any country. Foreigners who come to Japan are no exception, and it is essential to use mobile phones as quickly as possible in order to lead a safer and more comfortable life. This article therefore summarizes how mobile phones can be made available in Japan.

1. The mobile phone market in Japan

 As of December 2021, the average monthly usage fee for smartphone users in Japan was 4,617 yen, which is lower than in the USA, Germany and South Korea. In recent years, mobile phone prices have been lowered due to the entry of budget smartphones and government policies.

2. Who can sign up for a mobile phone?

 To sign a new mobile phone contract, you will be screened. The individual’s ability to pay, such as whether there have been any past payment arrears when paying in installments, or whether the contract has been forcibly terminated by that mobile phone company in the past, is examined. Therefore, when signing a new mobile phone contract, you will need to stay in Japan for a sufficient period of time. To sign a contract with a major mobile phone company, you need to stay in Japan for at least three months. This is due to concerns that if the period of stay is short, the customer may return to their country before completing payment of the charges. However, it is possible to sign up for a mobile phone even if your stay is less than three months. You can buy a budget smartphone or a SIM card sold at airports and use a mobile phone.

3. How to start using the phone

This section explains the process for those who stay in Japan for more than three months and are signing a new contract.

(1) Decide on the products to be purchased

 You have the option of purchasing both a mobile phone and a SIM card, or only a SIM card. If you wish to use your existing SIM-free smartphone in Japan, you may purchase only the SIM card. However, you need to check in advance whether the smartphone is compatible with the SIM card of the mobile phone company. Of course, if you want to buy a new mobile phone in Japan, you may do so.

(2) Choosing a plan

 Each company has its own monthly price plan, so choose which plan you would like to use. Each company offers a variety of plans, including options. You can decide which plan to choose by consulting staff at the shop.

(3) Decide on payment method

 Most people offer ‘credit card in the name of the subscriber’ or ‘account transfer’. For credit cards, the credit card must be in the name of the contractor, and VISA and Mastercard are accepted as brands. For direct debit, a bank account at a Japanese bank is required. Payment methods may vary from one mobile phone company to another, so check in advance.

(4) Contract

 Finally, complete the contract procedure and have the sales staff do the initial set-up.

4. Documents required for a new contract

(1) Identity documents

 Passport, residence card

(2) Payment information

 Credit card in the name of the contractor to be used for payment, or cash card or bank book of the bank account to be used for payment.

These two are definitely required, but there may be other documents required by each mobile phone company, so please check before going to a mobile phone shop and be prepared.

5. Examples of mobile phone companies

docomo, au and SoftBank are the major mobile phone companies in Japan, and each company also has a foreign language consultation service.

The following table shows the patterns available for purchase from each company.

CompaniesSIM card + PhoneSIM card OnlyWebsite
Rakuten Mobile楽天モバイル 
Y! Mobileワイモバイル 
UQ mobile【公式】UQ mobile(モバイル)│格安スマホ/格安SIMで通話もネットもおトクに 
GTN mobile×GTNモバイル 

6. Summary

 It is possible for foreigners to sign up for a mobile phone contract in Japan. Before going to a mobile phone shop, call the company or check their website in advance to ensure you have all the necessary items.

If you are thinking of moving but have not yet decided on a new place to live:

SUGEE Housing, operated by SUGEE, is a real estate agent service specializing with foreign nationals. We have English-speaking consultants ready to assist you in your apartment hunting. If you are looking for a new place to live in Japan, please feel free to contact us.

Talk to a SUGEE consultant:


[1] Relo Club, Limited. “外国人労働者受け入れの盲点。意外と知らない外国人の携帯電話契約の壁.” RELO総務人事タイムズ, 2021, Retrieved 24th May 2022 from 

[2] MOBA CITY. “新規契約とMNP(携帯乗り換え)の違い!手続きの流れは?.” 2021, Retrieved 24th May 2022 from 

[3] ICT Research & Consulting Inc. “2022年1月 スマートフォン料金と通信品質の海外比較に関する調査.” 2022, Retrieved 24th May 2022 from 

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