How to Get a Phone Plan in Tokyo
The biggest tip I can give you: find someone who speaks your language and is fluent in Japanese to take with you when you go sign up for cell service in Japan. It is possible to have a Japanese cell phone number as a foreigner, but you will either have to get a residence card (6 month + visa status), or get a friend or family member's existing plan before you do.
If neither is an option, get what's called pocket wifi (portable wifi: cost is low) and you can use LINE, FB Messenger, Kakao Talk, Telegraph, Skype, etc when you're connected to your wifi to make phone calls wherever you are.
Getting a Japanse Cell Number as a Foreigner:
Be prepared to spend 2-3 hours.
You will need to go in-person.
Largest cell phone providers in Tokyo:
Before coming to Japan:
-If you want to keep the cell phone you have, make sure it is "unlocked." I highly recommend having it unlocked before you move to Japan as it can take up to one week for this to happen. If you have an AT&T phone, there is a short and simple online process to go through. If you have an AT&T phone, here's a link on. how to do that with an online "Device Unlock Request." https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/#/
Will my phone be compatible with Japanese SIM cards?
-Yes, if your phone isn't from the stone ages, it shouldn't be a problem.
What will I need to register for a cell phone service provider in Japan?
1. Residence Card (you will get a card with a 6 month approved visa). Only have a visa for three months? You won't qualify. You must have a residence card to sign up for an account here. Once you do, it's worth it. Cell phone service here is really inexpensive. For instance, in the US, I had unlimited data and cell service for two phones at $152/month. In Japan, for the same service, I pay under $80 USD total for two phones. The plan isn't technically "unlimited" but I never worry about going over. If I do go over, they just charge me a tiny bit more. But the cost is negligible.
2. Bank account (debit card) or credit card linked to a Japanese bank account, or a credit card or your bank account or credit card from home.
Note: If you tie the service to your bank account at home, there will be a foreign exchange transaction fee. For instance, I have a cell phone provider tied to my US bank account. I get two debits from my account each month. The bill amount and the foreign transaction fee. On an $80 bill, the fee is under $2 each month.
Tip: If you don't have a Japanese account or card, hook your payment up to a credit card that has zero foreign transaction fees and you won't have this problem.
3. If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a Japanese cell phone willing to register a new number for you under their plan, this is another way around the whole "needing a residence card" to have a cell plan. You could have your credit/debit card linked to their account so the cost of your cell plan is directly debited each month.
For more in-depth information, check out this link: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2223.html
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash