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Phones in Japan

We recommend that all our team members have a mobile phone in order to be easily contacted and in the case of emergency. We highly recommend using a smartphone in Japan, as we primarily communicate via Matrix as a team, and most people in Japan communicate using LINE. Please see recommended apps at the end of this section.

Device

Bring One From Home

If you already own a phone from your home country, it is compatible with GSM SIM cards, and is unlocked, then you can use that here in Japan. Unlocking your smartphone may require some work, but will save you a lot of money. Most GSM phones can be unlocked so long as you are not still paying for it. The first place to turn is the network carrier to which your phone is locked. They will often unlock it for free upon request. The second place to turn is an IMEI unlock service provider. There are many online, just be cautious of choosing one that is well reviewed. One such company is DoctorSIM.

Purchasing in Japan

If you do not have a device, you can purchase a SIM-free (unlocked) smartphone from places such as Amazon or Expansys in Japan for around ¥20,000 for a basic smartphone, ¥40,000 for a mid-range smartphone or ¥90,000 for a high-end smartphone. You can also find them in second hand shops.

Side note: If you get a phone with Saifu-keitai (mobile wallet) function, you can use your phone to make payments at many shops and public transport, as well as logging in to the government ID system (MyNumber). The latest iPhones from overseas tend to also have this function.

SIM Card

There are many different companies that offer affordable plans, which include data and a phone number. You can find a list of the most popular plans at Kakaku.com.

You can purchase a SIM card and set up a plan online. Calling time is usually not included in the cost, so you will be charged per minute for any calls, though most people call using a messenger app like LINE for free or little cost.

Most of these companies require a credit card. If you do not have (or don't wish to use) a credit card, as of now you have 4 choices of plans that accept payment via Japanese bank transfer:

  • Line Mobile allows you to apply for and use a Line Pay Card (which you can also use at shops) that you can link with a Japanese bank account. Costs are ¥1,210 (500MB data) or ¥1,628 (3GB data) per month.

  • UQ Mobile accepts payment via bank transfer if you sign up in a store (not online). Cost is ¥2,178 (3GB data) per month.

  • Y!mobile accepts payment via bank transfer if you sign up in a store (not online). Cost is ¥2,948 (3GB data) per month.

  • Rakuten Mobile accepts payment via bank transfer (though this charges you an extra ¥108 per month). This would cost ¥3,278 (unlimited data) per month.

  • Element - Main tool used to communicate as a team within YWAM Sendai
  • LINE - This is the most popular messaging app in Japan. Most people you meet will ask to add you on LINE
  • Yurekuru Call - Disaster warning system in English
  • Google Maps - Reliable maps in Japan
  • Google Translate - Extremely helpful, especially the translate from a picture function
  • Japan Transit Planner by Jorudan Co. - Helps you find train and bus times and plan journeys
  • Japan Connected-free WiFi by NTT Broadband Platform - Register once and use free WiFi hotspots all over the country