Cheapest Options To Buy A SIM Card For Japan (2024 Update)

Cheapest Options To Buy A SIM Card For Japan (2024 Update)

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I travel to Japan frequently and getting data for my phone is no longer as complicated as it once was. Still, the process is confusing enough for a perennial traveler, let alone someone visiting Japan for the first time.

The last thing you want to try to figure out the whole SIM thing after you land at one of Japan’s busy airports.

Here’s a quick high level breakdown of your best options for getting a SIM in Japan in the order that I recommend.

SIM card in Japan

Option 1: Buy an eSIM plan from your phone

Electronic SIM can be activated automatically on any phone that supports an eSIM. Airalo and Ubigi are two trusted providers. This is my default recommendation unless your phone does not support eSIM. Read my in-depth guide on choosing between Airalo vs Ubigi if eSIM is the option for you.

Plans start around $2.50 (500MB 1 day) and go up to $26 (20GB 30 days).

Pro: Easiest to use. Cheaper than most physical SIM options. Activates right when you purchase. Best option for Japan. This is what I use.  Sometimes even cheaper with promo codes.

Con: No unlimited plans.

Below are eSIM plans from Airalo for reference:

Airalo Japan eSim price list

Option 2: Buy a SIM card from a vending machine at the airport

All the major airports will have pre-paid SIM cards in vending machine. The best physical SIM option if you want something quick without having to talk to anyone.

Pro: Convenient to purchase at the airport. Easy enough instructions to activate on your own.

Con: Moderately expensive. Cheapest plans start around ¥2000 for 1 GB 6 Days and go up to ¥5500 for Unlimited 31 Days.

Option 3: Buy a SIM card or eSIM on Klook

Klook is a popular authorized reseller of tickets, tours, and attractions. They also sell both SIM cards that you can purchase ahead of time and pick up at the airport or get delivered to your hotel. They also have an unlimited data eSIM option.

Plans start from $22 (Unlimited 5 days) and go to $45 (Unlimited 31 days). eSim prices start at $5.5 (Unlimited 3 days) and go up to $21 (Unlimited 30 days).

Pro: Choose your SIM card and purchase before arriving to Japan. Easy to use and convenient pick-up at the airport.

Con: Moderately expensive. Cost more than plans from the vending machine SIM cards.

Klook Japan eSIM price list

Option 4: Buy a SIM card at Bic Camera and Yodabashi Camera

These two mega electronics stores sell more than just the camera namesake in their name. Surprisingly, this is one of the better places to get a physical SIM in Japan.

Pro: Best prices for a physical SIM card. Talk to a real person. More plan options, but if you need something other than a pre-paid SIM, it can get complicated and require documentation.

Con: Need to travel into the city first. Still more expensive than an eSIM. Employee might not be fluent in English.

Option 5: Buy a SIM card from airport kiosks

Big signs will grab your attention at the airport offering SIM card purchases. It’s convenient and the salespeople will speak English. An easy option, but you are paying more for convenience.

Pro: Conveniently located in an airport. Talk to a real person who is likely to be fluent in English.

Con: Expensive. You are paying for the convenience.

Option 6: Buy a SIM before arriving to Japan

Modal offers an option to have a SIM card shipped to your hotel in advance.

Pro: Sort out your SIM card before hand.

Con: More expensive. Need to wait until you arrive to your hotel to access.

Option 7: Buy a SIM card from an telecom provider retail store

You can stop into a telecom store to buy a SIM, but there are no benefits here for tourists.

Pro: More long term plan options.

Con: Expensive and complicated. I don’t recommend this option.

Last Thoughts

I’m always on the road and in many parts of Asia, I find that physical SIM card plans are cheaper than eSIM plans. However, Japan is an exception where an eSIM offers both good value and convenience. I’ve used both Airalo and Ubigi and they each have their advantages and disadvantages. Read in my breakdown between Airalo vs Ubigi in Japan to help you decide which is better for you.

Updated on May 13, 2024


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