International Voice & Data Roaming Planning: Japan

In my earlier post here, I gave a general overview of some of the international roaming options. However, there is nothing better than a real, practical example. In this post, I will cover how I go about researching the voice and data needs for an upcoming trip to Japan.

Voice and data roaming in Japan

I will be traveling to Japan as a first-timer, and I will need both voice and data plan when I get there. I suspect that the data plan will be more critical since I probably will be doing quite a bit of Google translations.  Interestingly, I found that Japan is also little unique in that there is a law that prohibits stores from selling pre-paid voice SIM to tourists. Fortunately, prepaid data SIM are not restricted.

Reviewing Options

I always start out by looking into the available options at any given destination.

  1.  Japan companies offer local SIMs. Data only, not voice SIM.
  2.  My international SIM card is usable, albeit at unfavorable rates.
  3.  Rental services like KeepGo does not offer coverage in Japan, so I can rule this out.
  4.  Japan is included in the international roaming plan by my phone carrier, Sprint. Technically, this shouldn’t be too surprising given that Sprint’s parent company is Japanese telecom company, Softbank. Sprint also has a Japan roaming add on plan of $5/month for calls, text and data, for eligible plans.


Game Plan

Having figured out the options above, I can quickly see what’s available and where the gaps are. Fortunately, my calling needs will be covered by my carrier. I still need reasonably fast data speeds in Japan, as I don’t want websites to take 30 seconds to load while I’m waiting at a street corner looking for information.

Given this need, I’ve come up with a game plan:

  1. Contact Sprint and set up the $5 Japan plan for my account, if I’m eligible, before the trip. If I am not eligible, simply use Sprint international roaming as the first choice for talk and text.  Sprint, I know you don’t hear this often, but thank you!
  2. Due to my need for fast and reliable connection, I purchased a 5GB 4G Japan Visitor Prepaid data SIM off Ebay (for under $30).  Even if the international data plan from Sprint is slow, I’ve still got it covered:


Voila, that was pretty easy! (Dekiagari?)

I figured it would be helpful to share a practical example on how I research data options, and I will report back on the actual experience.  For those of you who have traveled to Japan, do you have any tips or have you tried other solutions that worked well for you in Japan?


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