Prepaid Data SIM Cards

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get prepaid SIM cards in Japan on a tourist visa. They are quite hard to find and there’s little information available in English, which is why I thought I’d write this post. Having data on the go is indispensable if you plan to take a smartphone and laptop with you on your trip. There is very little free public Wi-Fi in Japan and the ability to check your e-mail, find your location and map out train routes with Google Maps, and book hotels on the move is a huge advantage.

I bought a 6-month prepaid u300 b-mobile data SIM for 14,900 yen. I’ve since recharged it online for a further 6 month period for the same price. There are no additional usage fees to pay. B-Mobile uses NTT Docomo’s network which has possibly the best coverage in Japan.

I use this SIM in my Australian unlocked iPhone 3GS to access the net on the move. I use a USB cable to tether with my laptop and use this connection when I’m working away from my desk. Uploads and downloads are unlimited but are speed-restricted to 300kbps. That’s fine for e-mail, maps and basic web. It’s not fast enough for Skype (even audio-only) or web video. If you want faster access you can buy the b-mobile 1GB定額 which gives you 1GB of data without a speed limit.

In Nagoya you can buy b-mobile SIMs at Bic Camera (just outside Nagoya Station) or at some of the many small electrical retailers around Osu-Kanon’s Akamon Street. The SIM card I bought required activation by making a simple phone call from a separate Japanese mobile (which you can ask a friend to do for you). However, I’ve noticed that they’ve just released a new product for travellers that doesn’t require activation and they’ve finally put up some information about it in English.

package
B-mobile SIM Package. This is the 6-month prepaid version.
b-Mobile SIM
The actual SIM card.
b-mobile speedtest
Speed is limited to 300kbps. Here’s my speedtest.net result from my tethered laptop.
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Cash Prize!!

On my cycle this morning I spotted what I can only assume is a Google streetview car. Here is a photo of it:

Streetview Car
Streetview Car, or mobile 70s disco? We may never know.

My father-in-law is on streetview. He’s standing in his driveway fixing a pump. I kinda like the fact that he is on the internet while he doesn’t even know what the internet is.

Anyway, to liven things up a bit around here I’m offering a cash prize to the first person who can find me on streetview. Good luck! And beware of the ravages of carpel tunnel.