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Here is a guide to explain how to buy a mobile phone with a monthly plan in Japan.
When I came to the land of the rising sun for the first time, with my Japan’s Working Holiday Visa, I bought a prepaid phone from Softbank. The reason for this choice was that my visa was valid for one year and subscriptions are for a minimum of 2 years. Today, I am in Japan with a student visa for up to two years, so a subscription was much more accessible to me. Note that I’m not saying that if you have a one-year visa you can not take a phone with a monthly, it’s just there are termination fees that are about 10,000 yen if you want to terminate the contract prematurely.
In this article, I will explain the steps necessary to buy a mobile phone with a monthly plan in Japan.
Buy a mobile phone: the necessary documents
As in all countries of the world, when you want to buy a mobile phone on a monthly plan, you must bring certain documents with you to prove your identity, but also to pay your monthly consumption. Here are the mandatory documents without which you will not have the right to buy your cell phone:
- Your passport with your visa for Japan stamped
- Your Resident Card – Zairyu
- A bank or credit card linked to your bank account in Japan
With these three documents, you can open a telephone line from any operator. Moreover, it should be noted that since the establishment of the Resident Card (instead of the Alien Card), acquisition costs for a phone are amortized monthly and not paid at once at the store. Therefore, you do not have to pay in store when you buy your mobile phone. You pay for it by monthly debit on your bank account.
Choosing a telephone operator and your phone:
That is the big question. Offers among operators are the same at a few hundred yen close. May this applies to the off promotion period. This is why when you want to buy your phone, consult the various operators and their promotions to see if you can get the same service at a better price. The three major operators are Softbank, AU and Docomo. Many say that the network Softbank does not cover very well, and I confess with my prepaid Softbank cell phone I sometimes had connection problems. Here are the elements that I invite you to consider when selecting your operator:
- Plan prices
- The quality of the network
- Eventual promotions
- The free calls you can get to people using the same operator (Softbank to Softbank for example) and if people around you use this operator
- The phones offered, for example Docomo does not offer I-phone
Other information that may be useful and save you money, is that if you already have a mobile phone, unlocked, you can buy a SIM card from the operator Willcom that offers subscriptions at low rates. It will take about 3,000 yen per month for a subscription, you will be entitled to 500 calls of 10 minutes each, but this does not include the Internet. If you want internet, in this case, you will have to acquire a portable wireless device at a cost of about 3000 Yen per month. Note that you need to have your phone and portable device with you to use the Internet.
Once this information are collected and that you know in which provider you want to buy your phone, you’ll just have select the device and go into a store to make your purchase.
Buy a phone with a monthly plan: what to check
I’ll tell you right now, the calling plans in Japan are very expensive, much more expensive than in many countries in the world. That is why, I suggest you to check what you get with your plan, what is included in it, so you can avoid any bad surprises.
First, note that in general, the prices for monthly plans are only for the payment of the cell phone, and Internet. Clearly, when you buy a phone with a plan, you pay a certain amount every month which will include the cost of your phone and unlimited internet access (with a fixed broadband downloaded of 7GB). The internet being included in, of course you have the e-mails included in the package for an unlimited use too. But in your subscription will not be included SMS and phone calls. This is where the bill can take a big hit. So pay attention to this when you go shopping and make your budget.
You should also pay attention to the options, additions and reductions. The system is very complex sometimes. There a displayed price that will include options, more or less obligatory, and discounts. To be sure, do as I did and ask the seller for every detail.
Finally, note that after the opening of the telephone line, usually a month later, an amount of about 3,500 Yen (depending on the operator) will be deducted from your account as processing fees.
I bought a cell phone with a monthly: here’s how I did
To give you a concrete example, so that you can get a better idea, I’ll tell you how I bought my mobile phone with a monthly plan. I had wanted a smartphone and I hesitated between an I-phone 5, a Samsung Galaxy 4 and HTC One. I consulted all the offers available. I must say that I still had my prepaid phone from Softbank at that time. This is important. In fact, all operators proposed the I-phone 5 for 7200 yen per month and the Samsung Galaxy at 7800 yen per month. All except AU, which had a promotional offer with a discount of 1,000 yen per month if an operator change was made. As I was a Softabnk user I could legitimately apply for this and get my phone at 6200 yen per month.
For the price of 6200 Yen a month, I had an I-phone5 16 GB with unlimited Internet (7 GB limit for broadband) and unlimited emails. To do so, I just had to go to Softbank and pay 2100 yen and get a portability code number (MNP). With this code, valid for 15 days, I could take advantage of the offer from AU.
Here are the details of the cost of my phone, monthly:
- LTE Plan: + 980 Yen
- I-Phone 5 16 GB: + 2570 Yen
- 2-year contract reward: – 3550 yen
- LTE NET – Internet: + 315 Yen
- LTE Flat 2 years contract: + 5460 Yen
- Apple ‘s Insurance: + 366 Yen
Total monthly cost: 6141 yen for an I-Phone 5 16GB with 2 year subscriptions, unlimited Internet and unlimited emails. For phone calls and SMS, I pay supplements at the following cost:
- Calls to AU’s mobile from 1:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.: Free
- Call to AU’s mobile from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00: 21 yen per 30 seconds
- Calls to other operators: 21 yen per 30 seconds
- SMS to AU’s Mobile: Free
- SMS to other operators: 3.15 yen per SMS
In the end, every month, I pay about 6500 yen, because I do not call much, I communicate a lot by email. In this offer, I get the phone for free, this is why 3550 Yen will be deducted monthly on my bill.
So here are my advice to buy your mobile phone with a monthly plan in Japan. I hope this article will help you. If you have any questions or comments let me know.