How To Get A Japanese Phone Number: A Guide For Foreigners

How To Get A Japanese Phone Number: A Guide For Foreigners

While visiting Japan for the first time, I learned that my family’s phone plan included international benefits such as unlimited text and data.

But then I moved to Japan and learned that the international plan only lasted for 3 months. While that’s great and all, it made it difficult to sign up for things that required a Japanese phone number.

Once those three months were up, I finally got myself a Japanese phone number. So if you need help with getting a phone number in Japan, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a foreigner’s guide on how to get a Japanese phone number.

Why do you need a Japanese phone number? 

Having a Japanese phone number will let you get a bank account, sign an apartment or house lease, get a subscription service, etc. At the very least, it will make your life in Japan much easier.

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What type of Japanese phone plan are you looking for? 

Major Japanese phone carriers have two types of plans to choose from when getting a SIM card

Voice + data plan

Any voice and data plans include having a Japanese number attached to your phone via a SIM or eSIM card.

Regardless of the carrier, all providers charge a set-up fee of about 3,300 yen and a monthly fee based on your data plan. 

When you make a phone call, you use the cellular network that your carrier provides. Otherwise, you can make calls over Wi-Fi, such as with LINE or Facetime Audio.

Data-only SIMs

Data-only SIMs are cheaper as they do not include a Japanese phone number.  Depending on the carrier, you can add SMS capabilities for a small fee of under 100 yen per month, while others offer SMS + data plans. 

The SIM capability allows you to receive verification codes, which is useful for online and app registration. 

How much does it cost to get a Japanese phone number?

japanese phone provider comparison chart

Various Japanese phone number plan comparison

Japanese phone companies are either a major network such as Softbank or a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). MVNOs tend to have better pricing and deals when it comes to voice calls, data, SMS, or a combination of the three.

Mobal

mobal

You’ve probably seen their sponsor's ads with English and Japanese Youtubers in Japan. 

While Mobal’s SIM card caters to international travelers visiting Japan, it offers long-term plans for those staying for more than 90 days.

Their sim card will cost ¥2,970 with various monthly fees depending on how much data you want.

Data Allowance

Monthly Fee

1GB

¥1,650

5GB (Most Popular)

¥3,190

10GB

¥3,630

30GB

¥4,378

Mobal’s price plan comparison

Mobal offers English support, accepts various foreign credit cards, and the majority of profits go to various charities .

Sakura mobile

sakura mobile long term stay

Their pocket wifi is pretty well-known, but did you also know that Sakura Mobile offers long-term Japanese phone plans, too?

Sakura Mobile operates under Docomo, which is one of Japan’s largest and most reliable networks.

With only three plans plus a ¥5,500 activation fee, their services might be a bit pricey. But if you travel a lot or are a regular data usage user, then Sakura Mobile's plan might be for you. Plus if you are a student, you will get a discount.

Additionally, they have English support and accept credit cards outside of Japan.

IIJmio

IIJmio translated page

While not the most English-friendly, IIJmio offers different plans at a much lower cost than most Japanese network operators. 

The initial fees will cost ¥3,300, and the SIM or eSIM card itself will cost between ¥200 and ¥400. But with 5 plans ranging from 2GB to 55GB of data and costing between 400 to 2000 yen per month, you will pay the least amount with IIJmio in the long run. 

If you still think the pricing is a bit high, IIJmio has various campaigns that essentially halve their Japanese phone plan prices.

Data Allowance

Monthly Fee

2GB

¥850

(¥450 for the current campaign)

5GB (Most Popular)

¥990

(¥550 for the current campaign)

10GB

¥1,500

(¥1,060 for the current campaign)

20GB

¥2,000

(¥1,560 for the current campaign)

50-55GB

¥3,900

(¥1,950 for the current campaign)

IIJmio’s price plan comparison

You can figure out which one of their plans is right for you with IIJmio’s plan simulator . Then you can sign up with IIJmio’s English page .

They always run campaigns (on their Japanese site) at all times of the year, so you can sign up and start using them at a significant discount.

The overall process of getting a Japanese phone number

how to get a japanese number step by step

1. Choose a Japanese phone plan

This article introduced Mobal, Sakura Mobile, and IIjmio, but there are also Rakuten Mobile, AU, Docomo, and Softbank which are major Japanese cellular service providers.

Make sure your phone is unlocked so that the phone can use an overseas mobile provider. Without an “unlocked” phone, you will not be able to connect to these providers.

2. Apply online or in-store

Many Japanese phone providers will let you apply online, but depending on the service, they might request more information.

In general, be sure to have an email address, bank account or credit card number, and identification such as your Japanese driver's license, My Number, or Residency card.

If you are struggling to apply online via the company’s Japanese site, you can make a reservation at one of their stores so a staff member can help you.

3. Wait for the SIM card

If you applied online with Mobal or Sakura Mobile, you can pick it up at one of their locations or have the SIM delivered to you.

But if you applied with IIJmio, delivery can take about 3-4 days after your ID has been verified.

4. Activate the SIM card

Once you have your SIM card, insert it into your phone.

Depending on the provider, the SIM card will automatically activate once inserted, or you will need to configure the connection in your phone settings. The phone provider will give you instructions on how to do so.

And if you are struggling with that, contact their support center.

How to get a Japanese phone number for your business

If you want to enter the Japanese market, your business needs to be able to cater and offer the same customer service that consumers expect.

That’s where MailMate’s bilingual receptionist comes in handy. 

Your business will obtain a dedicated Japanese business phone number. For any calls that come, we will state your company’s name and ask for the caller’s name and their phone number or email. MailMate will send you a notification and any notes about the call.

Their service bridges the language barrier that most foreign businesses encounter, allowing you to speedily establish your business within the local market.

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Frequently asked questions

How can a foreigner get a SIM card in Japan? 

The easiest way for foreigners to get a SIM card in Japan is to use Sakura Mobile or Mobal. These are English-speaking phone service providers that will deliver the SIM card to your accommodation if you are in Japan. You can also order a SIM card before coming and pick it up at the airport.

How much does it cost to get a Japanese phone number?

The initial cost of getting a Japanese phone number can range from ¥4,000 to ¥5,000 including the activation and SIM card fee. But after this cost, it can cost ¥1,000 to ¥5,000 per month depending on the provider and voice-data-SMS plan you would like to use.

In closing

Knowing how to get a Japanese phone number is an essential part while living here.

Whether you are living in Japan or running your business, getting a Japanese phone number is not too difficult. Once you have one, you can easily sign up for a bank account, sign a lease, and more to make your day-to-day living easier.

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