Using Your US Phone in Japan

Traveling to Japan is an exciting journey—there’s so much to see and do! But while you’re making all your plans and getting ready to pack, it’s important to know all the ins and outs of using your phone in Japan. Read on to find out about AT&T service in Japan, whether you need a SIM card or eSIM, and all the ins and outs of using your U.S. phone in Japan.

The basics of using your phone in Japan

Can I use my U.S. cell phone in Japan?

Most likely, but it depends on your cell phone model. If you have an iPhone, it’s likely you’ll have no issue, as it’s built for international use. Most current smartphones are also built for use in different countries.

If you have an older phone, you may not have the capability to use it overseas. In some instances, you may need to make modifications—such as inserting a SIM card that will work in Japan—to get it to work. To find out if you can use your older phone model in Japan, do a Google search on the make, model and year of your phone to find out what its capabilities are. This is information that may be available on the manufacturer’s website.

Does AT&T wireless service work in Japan?

In short, yes! Using your cell phone in Japan is easy with AT&T. However, you’ll need to decide how you want to stay connected. The easiest way to use your AT&T service in Japan is to activate AT&T International Day Pass, which makes it easy for you to use your phone the same way you do when you’re at home for only $12 per day.

What is AT&T International Day Pass?

You can use AT&T International Day Pass for unlimited data, talk and text that allows you to use your US phone in Japan with an eligible AT&T unlimited plan. It will cost you $12 per day, plus $6 for each additional line used on the same calendar day—but you only pay for the days you use. International Day Pass doesn’t cost you a thing until the first time you use your phone in Japan. After that, your charges will accrue on a 24-hour basis. You can sign up for International Day Pass before you leave, or AT&T will add it to your bill when you start using your phone in Japan.

When you get home, you won’t be charged for International Day Pass anymore. It only charges you a daily fee when you use it in one of the 210 destinations that are supported by the service. Read more about International Day Pass and how you can use it to stay connected to home while you’re on your trip to Japan.

Information on SIM cards and eSIM

Do you need a SIM card in Japan?

If you want to limit your phone usage to make your cell phone use more affordable, using a SIM card in Japan may be a good option for you. If you opt for a physical SIM card, you’ll want to make sure you purchase one from a Japanese wireless carrier—but remember you’ll be billed separately for your usage, and your U.S. phone number won’t be accessible until you get home. Another option is to download and activate an eSIM if your phone will support it. Once you return home, you can simply deactivate it by switching your phone settings back to your domestic phone line.

Where can I buy a SIM card in Japan?

There are plenty of places where you can buy a SIM card in Japan, but one of the most popular is through a store called Bic Camera. It’s a chain, so you can find them all over Japan—and they’re well versed in helping tourists find the electronic and wireless accessories they need for their trip. It’s also possible to buy a SIM card at the airports in Osaka, Haneda or Narita.

What is an eSIM?

Whether you’re looking for an eSIM for Japan or for another international trip, an eSIM is a digital version of a SIM card that lets you connect to a wireless network without inserting a physical chip into your phone. That’s why it’s called an eSIM—it’s short for “embedded SIM.” With a physical SIM card, you’d insert a tiny card into a slot in the side of your phone. But with an eSIM, you just download it and activate it on your phone to connect you to the network of your choice. Learn more about what an eSIM is and how it works.

Does Japan support eSIM?

eSIM can be used anywhere internationally, but yes, you can get eSIM for Japan. All you need is a compatible device that can download and activate an eSIM, and you’re good to go!

What to know about Wi-Fi in Japan

Is there free Wi-Fi everywhere in Japan?

Absolutely—there’s both paid and free Wi-Fi options all throughout Japan that support all your wireless devices. There are free public Wi-Fi networks at airports, train stations, tourist information offices, and certain coffee houses and restaurants. Some Wi-Fi hotspots may need an app to connect you to the network. Just remember to exercise safety when using public Wi-Fi.

However, paid Wi-Fi hotspots are more common throughout Japan, with options to pay for daily or weekly usage. Bear in mind some paid Wi-Fi hotspots require payment connected to a Japanese address and credit card number, but there are some in English that will let you pay with your U.S. credit card.

Is it better to get pocket Wi-Fi or a SIM card in Japan?

It depends on your needs. A pocket Wi-Fi is a small device that can help you create your own personal wireless network using the greater cellular phone network, and can connect multiple devices. You can buy or rent pocket Wi-Fi at the airport in Japan.

If you’re using more than just your cell phone when you’re out and about—for example, if you’ll also need to connect your smart watch, tablet and computer and use them when you’re out and about—pocket Wi-Fi might be the best option for you. But if you’re just using your smart phone and don’t want to use an international plan or roaming, a SIM card may be your best bet.

General travel info for visiting Japan

What is mobile phone etiquette in Japan?

When in Japan, you definitely don’t want to use your mobile phone the same way you do at home. In general, using your cell phone in a public space is a bad idea. It’s considered rude to have private conversations in public, especially if you’re on the train. But it’s also considered impolite to use your phone in restaurants, hotel lobbies, and coffee shops.

If you need to use your phone in public, try to find a quiet spot away from public spaces to make or receive a call. If you can’t find a space, try to text whoever is calling you to let them know you’ll call them back when you can find a less public area to make or receive a call. If you absolutely can’t find a quiet space to use your phone, at the very least, ensure you’re quiet while you’re on your call.

Similarly, it’s considered rude to watch videos on your phone without headphones, so make sure your headphones are connected so people around you don’t have to listen to your favorite YouTuber giving you travel tips. It’s also recommended to keep your ringtone and text notifications quiet. If you can, opt for silence mode so your phone vibrates when you get a call or text, but doesn’t make any sound.

Lastly—and this is good advice no matter where you travel—don’t walk around staring at your phone! If you need to use your phone for directions or while you’re out and about, don’t impede the flow of foot traffic. Pull over to the side to do what you need to do, and make sure you’re always aware of your surroundings.

What accessories do I need for traveling to Japan?

To make sure you’re honoring Japanese etiquette for using your cell phone in public spaces, it’s a good idea to invest in a good pair of headphones so you don’t disturb anyone when listening to music or watching videos when you’re out and about. And if you don’t already have a good protective phone case or screen protector, it may be time to invest in some. You want to make sure your phone can survive if you drop it on the train platform!

But probably most importantly, you’ll want to keep your phone juiced up and ready to go at a moment’s notice. A travel kit that includes a magsafe charger and lightning cable can be a helpful addition to your suitcase, as is a world travel adapter that ensures you can easily plug your device into a Japanese outlet without frying your tech. Plus, you can use it in other countries, so you’ll be ready to bring your device on your next trip—wherever it takes you!

This article is AT&T sponsored content written by Carly Milne, a TechBuzz contributor. The statements in this article are her own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of AT&T.


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