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Gov’t proposes measures to make it easier for foreign visitors to get mobile phones

48 Comments

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has proposed measures to make it easier for foreigners staying in Japan for a short time and who do not have a residence card to apply for mobile phone contracts.

Major mobile service providers and distributors have been asked to implement identity verification procedures by using customer’s passports and also to provide multilingual assistance at their stores, Sankei Shimbun reported.

The measures are in response to the number of foreign workers which is expected to increase from April under revisions to Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, as well as the many visitors coming for the Rugby World Cup this year and the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Currently, major mobile providers in Japan, such as NTT Docomo and SoftBank, require that non-Japanese show their alien registration card or have a Japanese bank account to get a mobile phone, which can be complicated for tourists and short-term residents.

Furthermore, the current regulations prohibit foreign visitors staying in Japan for less than three months to register for a mobile contract because carriers claim they lack the necessary means to verify the authenticity of passports. The ministry plans to alleviate this problem by providing stores with devices that can read biometric passports embedded with an electronic microprocessor chip.

In addition, the ministry hopes to provide multilingual service support at mobile phone stores and sales outlets by introducing interpretation support via video-phone calls and staff who can speak multiple languages. It also is requesting carriers prepare contracts in other languages besides Japanese.

© Japan Today

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48 Comments
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Great, now I can join the hordes of smartphone zombies who send messages via LINE and play games on rush-hour station platforms and while crossing the street at busy intersections (while ignoring their toddlers).

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

Are all the people who wrote or mentioned in this article 80 years old? Getting a "phone" isn't the issue for short time visitors - it's getting a local SIM card for the handset you bring with you.

In other countries I get them in convenience stores. I pop the cards in my unlocked handset from Japan and I'm good to go for only a few dollars.

They're prepaid and can be topped up at the stores. What's the point of "contracts" or acquiring handsets? Are the Japanese authorities, telecoms or the person who wrote this article that far out of the loop?

24 ( +25 / -1 )

In other countries I get them in convenience stores. I pop the cards in my unlocked handset from Japan and I'm good to go for only a few dollars.

How is that different from japan?

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

How is that different from japan?

Explained in the article above.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

No it’s not. There’s nothing about SIM cards in the article.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

"...carriers claim they lack the necessary means to verify the authenticity of passports..." Then why do they ask for them?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

JeffLee, you say: "Are the Japanese authorities, telecoms or the person who wrote this article that far out of the loop?"

Yes.

In most countries it is so quick and easy. It takes no longer than it takes to get a cup of coffee in a convenience store, no endless forms to fill in.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

If i travel HK from Europe, i carry unlocked phone and buy sim card at 7-11 store or any train station easily.

So this can't be easily done in Japan?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Japan will be joining a number of countries which require photos of passports for SIM cards. Currently a passport number is needed but no copy of a passport. (I got one for my niece last May)

Indonesia, South Africa, and Singapore require passports. Some countries require a "local" address or a "local" credit card which can be more of a hassle than a passport.

At least payment methods should be unrestricted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No it’s not. There’s nothing about SIM cards in the article.

I think he was referring to the contract to a purchase a SIM that is required in Japan for the big 3 carriers but not in other countries, where you can pick them up at street vendors or corner stores.

However, I'm pretty sure companies like Rakuten and Mobal already offer prepaid SIMS for visitors that don't require a contract. I might be wrong.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

why does a short term visitor need a phone contract, which are usually yearly?

there are thousands of mobile phone shops in japan. Each one probably employs 5-8 staff. These staff can then scan your passport and get all your private details. This can be sold on the internet to criminals or copied to make fake passports.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I forgot that Australia also requires a passport.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

However, I'm pretty sure companies like Rakuten and Mobal already offer prepaid SIMS for visitors that don't require a contract. I might be wrong.

You’re not wrong. You can buy SIM cards at the airport out of a vending machine. I believe they sell them at some combini as well, though I’ve never actually looked. You can also order them online.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well, let's see the picture a bit bigger than just a mobile contract (if u have a wife.. she can do for u anyway), foreigner cannot because they need to be able to read the contract, and this goes for bank, health insurance, car insurance, home insurance, etc... for a country like Japan, the system in place is just way behind other country like Thailand. I could open a bank account with a non b visa, i can have a mobile contract also, why? Because they have documents in ENGLISH ! Also, please... Sony Playstation... if u read me... Add english in your store !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Took 5 minutes for my nephew to get one at Haneda airport, where there are 2 or 3 outlets there offering the service. He was staying for 3 weeks. Paid with credit card, showed his passport. Simple, quick, easy.

Data service, phone and international calling all included.

Has anyone in the government even been there besides Aso, Abe and Kono?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ok, I'm five years behind but in 2014, getting a sim for an unlocked phone in Japan was nigh on impossible. I couldn't just walk into a store and get a PAYG sim like I can in Europe. They told me it was to 'stop illegal crime'. My phone wouldn't work in Japan and it was a right pain as I was there for 6 months on a tourist visa. I had no working phone! I survived on free wifi at 7/11 (plus lots of coffee!) Japan lost 6 months of PAYG credit from me so from a business point of view it was silly. Whenever I went to Denmark, I always bought a Danish PAYG sim and simply added £10 credit. If I went back to DK in the year, I could just top up with more credit. Danish friends could call me and I could call them. Now, it's changed a bit for Europe. My UK phone is free to recieve calls in Denmark (it wasn't always) and a call to a Danish number is much cheaper so I tend to use my UK phone now. I always thought this was a silly law in Japan so I'm glad it's changing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I work at narita airport and sell sim card and nobody have international calling. I'd like to know the service?

Took 5 minutes for my nephew to get one at Haneda airport, where there are 2 or 3 outlets there offering the service. He was staying for 3 weeks. Paid with credit card, showed his passport. Simple, quick, easy. 

Data service, phone and international calling all included.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or did he ordered online and pick it up? Coz you can have sim online with data&voice easy peasy

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If i travel HK from Europe, i carry unlocked phone and buy sim card at 7-11 store or any train station easily.

So this can't be easily done in Japan?

Nope. This is part of how state control works in Japan. At one level it is about controlling criminality but I think generally Japan likes keeping control of who does what.

It is largely irrelevant now because you can buy Internet only SIM cards and use the Internet to make calls.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

btw... did you know that it's even harder for japanese who live oversea to buy a pre paid voice sim card.. i need to copy their passport, driver license , stamp on passport and boarding pass. Soon maybe dna sample lol. This is all because of the ore-ore scam

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am holidaying in Tokyo now and I ordered a pocket wifi router online from a Japanese company before I arrived. You can pick up the router at some major airports or pay an extra small fee to have it delivered to your hotel or residential address. I cannot make phone calls but nowadays who makes phone call anyway? You can use message apps like WhatsApp, Line etc to send messages, pics, voice mail and even voice call others. The best thing is you can connect multiple devices to it. I can use Google Map on my 8" tablet while my wife is using her phone suffering the net. You just need a credit card, an email address and you can complete the order online in 5 minutes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most tourists visiting Japan don’t need a phone sim, just a data sim as sold at 7-11 etc.

Most tourists speak little to no functional Japanese so probably most couldn’t get past ‘hello’ on the phone anyway.

Data sims are very useful. This helps tourists use Google Maps, and transport. So useful. Use Skype or iMessage, Messenger etc to stay in touch if the family/friends if they go to different places when in Japan.

Of course sending emails, look up Japanes restaurants websites on the English language sites etc

About 15 years too late this idea of needing a phone number...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yoshisan - what are the costs for that?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Strangerland

"There’s nothing about SIM cards in the article."

Yeah, (sigh) that's my point.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yoshisan - what are the costs for that?

About ¥9,200 for 15 days unlimited data. It is cheaper than last time I was here 2 years ago. I think it is because there is more completion now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am holidaying in Tokyo now and I ordered a pocket wifi router online from a Japanese company before I arrived.

You have to watch your daily DATA use because it's not unlimited even when it says so. Most are limited to 10GB over three days when you will have you speed throttled. No such thing as "unlimited DATA" just means your speed will be throttled back to 212KBps for 24 hours. Check the small print.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@zichi

Thanks for your information. Free Wi-Fi at the hotel so I only use it while I am out. As long as I stay away from YouTube I should be fine.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That's too expensive !!!

Our sim card are 6900 yens for 31 days unlimited data...

About ¥9,200 for 15 days unlimited data. It is cheaper than last time I was here 2 years ago

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@John Beara

I know there maybe cheaper options but I do not want to spend time to look around. I do not mind paying more for convenience. Plus I hate changing Sim card on phones.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

yoshisan88

@zichi Thanks for your information. Free Wi-Fi at the hotel so I only use it while I am out. As long as I stay away from YouTube I should be fine.

Yes be careful with video which can eat up the DATA, at about 1GB/hour. I moved house last December and had to use my iPhone for about two weeks while I waited for fibre optic to be installed. I knew it was coming so I just about checked out every possibility to bridge the gap. In the end for me, the cheapest was using my iPhone and because I was buying DATA I wasn't throttled. During the two weeks I bought an additional 15GB after my 1GB limit which worked out at ¥1000/GB.

There are still wifi at many places like outside convenience stores, public libraries, rail stations. Some cities like Kobe offer free wifi to visitors for two weeks. There are also many internet cafes. Starbucks etc.

One of the better services is Sakura Mobile for those looking. But there are others too.

https://www.sakuramobile.jp/?gclid=CjwKCAjwp_zkBRBBEiwAndwD9cNoXBNh1kc0qxI-a9E6PraOw4_TVY-kzA3HiE4kcNcWG5A_ohHqKxoCvt4QAvD_BwE

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All the services state "unlimited DATA" but it is not. Throttled DATA speeds

https://sakuramobile.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360020266412-I-am-confused-about-unlimited-data-What-does-unlimited-data-service-mean-

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Stop these ridiculous roaming fees and it will be fixed for good!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Notice a trend here. More and more these days we read articles of the Japanese government wanting to make things easier for foreigners. A thing here, and thing there, so on.

Not bad for such a 'xenophobic' country, huh?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So this can't be easily done in Japan?

What can be done easily in Japan?

There seem to be many assumptions about what 'tourists' need. Just because one is in Japan for less than 90 days doesn't mean that one only needs data. Needs are individual, a simple fact often lost in Japan.

I was recently in Tokyo for studies on a tourist visa for separate periods of two and three months. While I used email, Skype and texting more than the telephone, I needed a Japanese phone number to be able to register (as required) at the police box and in several other instances.

I also needed to make international calls to certain people and businesses (medical insurance for one) which I could not access any other way. Leaving the apartment to find a pay phone for such services or using the pricey hotel/apartment rate was not an option.

It's also much more convenient to carry a phone to do everything while away from one's residence. Lugging a laptop or tablet around is a nuisance.

Since flip-phone days in the early naughts, I have tried numerous purveyors, rental services or SIM card swaps, and the phone service was always problematic for all of them. This is compounded if (as I do) you have an android phone not an iPhone. It is much more convenient to have use of my data base of contacts and information on my personal phone than it is to deal with the Japanese system.

In addition, it takes hours of research to consider the various options available to visitors in Japan. Determining the hidden costs and apples to oranges plans takes forever--especially if you are low-to mid level tech savvy. People travelling to other countries do not have these hindrances. They plop in a prepaid SIM. When it runs out they get another. Easy!

What is easy in Japan? Achieving high levels of frustration due to absolutely unnecessary aggravation.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have Sprint phone from US and works just fine in Japan for a $5 per month fee on Masayoshi Son network. Very convenient and very cheap. No need to get a phone in Japan. Actually, my Sprint phone works much better in Japan on SoftBank network than in US on Sprint. Why Japanese wireless providers don't rent phones? They could rent phones and for security charge a refundable deposit in cash or by credit card.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

NCIS: "Great, now I can join the hordes of smartphone zombies who send messages via LINE and play games on rush-hour station platforms and while crossing the street at busy intersections (while ignoring their toddlers)."

I find it funny that in a comment mocking people you claim as zombies you say you will be forced to do what they do simply because foreign visitors will have easier access to cellphones. How sad is that?

In any case, relax... you can just walk with the newspaper and read about the PROPOSALS, since this will never make it past Japan's infamous protectionist measures. Remember, it was only three years ago that the government forced phone companies to allow people to unlock their phones if they chose, which was a shock to a community that has dealt with nothing but illegal price fixing since WWII ended (and before, likely). They're not about to allow people to use phones like they have in the rest of the world for the last 20 years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

NCIS: "Great, now I can join the hordes of smartphone zombies who send messages via LINE and play games on rush-hour station platforms and while crossing the street at busy intersections (while ignoring their toddlers)."

I find it funny that in a comment mocking people you claim as zombies you say you will be forced to do what they do simply because foreign visitors will have easier access to cellphones. How sad is that?

In any case, relax... you can just walk with the newspaper and read about the PROPOSALS, since this will never make it past Japan's infamous protectionist measures. Remember, it was only three years ago that the government forced phone companies to allow people to unlock their phones if they chose, which was a shock to a community that has dealt with nothing but illegal price fixing since WWII ended (and before, likely). They're not about to allow people to use phones like they have in the rest of the world for the last 20 years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

NCIS: "Great, now I can join the hordes of smartphone zombies who send messages via LINE and play games on rush-hour station platforms and while crossing the street at busy intersections (while ignoring their toddlers)."

I find it funny that in a comment mocking people you claim as zombies you say you will be forced to do what they do simply because foreign visitors will have easier access to cellphones. How sad is that?

In any case, relax... you can just walk with the newspaper and read about the PROPOSALS, since this will never make it past Japan's infamous protectionist measures. Remember, it was only three years ago that the government forced phone companies to allow people to unlock their phones if they chose, which was a shock to a community that has dealt with nothing but illegal price fixing since WWII ended (and before, likely). They're not about to allow people to use phones like they have in the rest of the world for the last 20 years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That's what I love about my Google phone. I don't have to buy sim cards, I don't have deal with anyone. I simply turn off my phone before leaving home and turn it back on when I land in Japan. Good to go. AND it's good in a 130 some countries. That was main selling point when I was looking for my first smartphone.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan should implement more prepaid SIM cards and drop their prices. It’s just ridiculous how expensive it is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"That's what I love about my Google phone. I don't have to buy sim cards, I don't have deal with anyone. I simply turn off my phone before leaving home and turn it back on when I land in Japan. Good to go. AND it's good in a 130 some countries. That was main selling point when I was looking for my first smartphone."

No troubles with GoogleFi on trains and in Tokyo?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Other than the security factor, the government should require the telephone companies to make such changes. Too much micromanagement on the part of Japan can hamper and reduce productivity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just to clarify for those of you who think you can get a VOICE-capable SIM in Japan as easily as other countries. No. You cannot. You can easily purchase a DATA-only SIM. But, VOICE-capable SIMs and phones require ridiculous amounts of ID and verification.

That is because the government thinks that criminals would use voice-capable phones and SIMs for crimes if they were easy get with no ID required. But, with all of the voice-capable APPS that can run on data-only plans, that becomes moot. Of course, the JP gov't is years behind understanding the technology, so the rules remained. Even the above-mentioned changes are still behind the times: No ID for data-only SIMs, while still requiring ID for voice SIMs, even if it's been eased slightly. Ridiculous.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dirk TToday 12:13 pm JST

No troubles with GoogleFi on trains and in Tokyo?

It works fine in Kansai area. I believe it uses Softbank's network, IIRC. No reason to think it won't work well in Tokyo.

However, our particular phones use SIM cards. I've read that some folks with phones that have eSIMs (SIM embedded in the phone's circuitry) have had some issues losing signal. So, you may want to take that into account.

In any case, if you have any issues with Fi, you can always buy a data-only SIM from an MVNO like IIJmio, UQ, U-Mobile, etc), and use an app for voice dialing. (FB Messenger, Hangouts, Facetime, LINE, etc.)

Also, for short periods such as business trips and vacations, even the big 3 (Docomo, Au, Softbank) offer visitor/tourist data-only SIMs right at the airports.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

zichiMar. 30 10:04 pm JST

All the services state "unlimited DATA" but it is not. Throttled DATA speeds

It most definitely is unlimited data. They may reduce the speed after a certain point, but you can still UL/DL an unlimited amount of data, albeit at a slower speed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I got my phone service from Mobal. I needed to upload a copy of my passport, but the process was pretty painless - https://www.mobal.com/japan-sim-card/

My plan has unlimited data, but it gets throttled if I use more than 7GB. Last month I went over that, but the data still worked. It was too slow for video, but was fine for social media, which is what I mostly use it for.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

garypen

well if you are happy with 212 Kbps then yes unlimited DATA but I haven't used those speeds since I had dial-up modems 20 years ago. Facetime Skype video are DATA eaters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There is no fair usage policy for purchased data. For 128kbps~200kbps unlimited data connections, a fair usage policy of 366MB/3days is applied in order to keep network qualities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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