Getting Around Japan – Pocket WiFi

When you’re running around an unfamiliar country, navigating streets and transportation, the last thing you want is to be without Internet – especially when getting it is pretty easy and affordable.

TL;DR: This is totally worth it. Affordable, fast and convenient. If you’re convinced, skip to Step 3. Need more convincing? Keep reading.

Pocket WiFi – What is it?

In Japan, Pocket WiFi is just another name for a mobile hotspot. Speeds vary based on where you’re staying (country vs. city) and what package you get.

Step One: Contact Your Mobile Provider

T-Mobile coverage in Tokyo and surrounding area
T-Mobile coverage in Tokyo and surrounding area

Before anything else, it’s best to know what your current phone service provides. We both have T-Mobile, which for us meant free international data, text, and $0.20 per minute for calls. Knowing this, we decided not to get a Pocket WiFi from the airport because it would be provided at our AirBnB. No problem right? Wrong.

We got turned around at the train station and that slow as molasses Internet had us frustrated and waiting while holding our bags after a 9+ hour commute at 11pm. I also made the mistake of saving everything on dropbox and it wouldn’t download the PDF no matter how many times I tried. I ended up using my broken, grade-school level Japanese to ask for directions.

During our second week, in between AirBnBs, we didn’t have WiFi and while we were getting around okay, it was tough to do any research on things to do in the area. Rather than pay the $25/day fee for hotel WiFi, we ended up sitting in the lobby of our hotel and ordering one from Global Advanced for around $10/day (because it was the first one on Google and easy enough to figure out).

Note: We couldn’t find a single store in Nagoya that rented Pocket WiFi on a short term basis, and only monthly contracts were available. All signs pointed to either finding an online service that would deliver or going back to the airport. 

Step Two: Check your options

Pocket WiFi in our AirBnB
Pocket WiFi in our AirBnB

If you’re staying at an AirBnB, we noticed a lot of them provide a Pocket WiFi that you can take around with you. Another reason to book AirBnB!

Hotels, on the other hand, will typically charge a ridiculous fee (the one we stayed at was $25/day) and it’s only available in your hotel room. If that’s the case, it’s not only more affordable, but also way more convenient to pick up a Pocket WiFi at the airport.

Step Three: Order!

A quick google search will show you dozens of options, and since I already went through this, I’ll summarize the top 5 results. This is totally just based on Google’s magical gnome search algorithms, so feel free to research away!

Company Speed Cost per day (Day 1-5) Additional Days Additional Charges Delivery Fee
Global Advanced Communication 75Mbps 990 JPY 300 JPY None None
Pupuru 75Mbps 800 JPY 800 JPY 1,500 JPY Registration 800 – 1,000 JPY
Japan Wireless 75Mbps 990 – 730 JPY None 500 JPY
Japan Rail Pass  75Mbps $8 – $10 USD None None
CD Japan 220Mbps 730 JPY Discounted None 540 JPY

Things to note:

  • Japan Wireless and Japan Rail Pass costs vary based on the number of days.
  • None of the companies charge a return postage fee, and they all come with a postage paid envelope to send the device back in.
  • Many offer insurance, but we were reckless and didn’t get any 🙂
  • While all pricing was based on “unlimited” data usage, all of the companies have fine print stating that speeds will be reduced drastically after a certain GB of usage (usually around the 10GB mark over the last 3 days).
  • There was only one time we hit that mark (Whoops. Dropbox was syncing photos!) and we were both connected to it.

Protip: Pack a battery charger

Dead WiFi = No WiFi. When used consistently, most Pocket WiFi devices last around 8 hours. Which could work for us on a lazy day, but not so much on the kind of adventures Ryan likes to have. 😉

We brought this Epic Charger to End all Chargers by RavPower and it saved us from dead WiFi and charged up everyone’s phones as well. I won’t lie – it’s a beast of a charger and weights a pound, but without it we would have missed the amazing opportunity to take photos in alllllll the hats!

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