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I want to use the cheapest SIM card in Japan! Introducing Recommended SIM & Prepaid SIM

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Foreign woman using data communication with SIM card in Japan

Nowadays, mobile terminals (smartphones) are one of the indispensable items in our daily lives. With a smartphone, you can make your life in Japan more comfortable by using convenient functions such as translation and map applications.

However, for a foreigner who has just arrived from abroad and does not understand Japanese well, signing a contract with a major cell phone company is not an easy task. The hurdles may seem high, such as the time required to prepare the necessary documents and procedures, and the language barrier.

Therefore, we recommend the use of a low-cost SIM card. With a cheap SIM card, you can easily use a smartphone at an affordable price. In this issue, we will introduce Japanese SIM cards in detail. We have compiled a list of the types of SIM cards in Japan, as well as recommended cheap SIM cards and prepaid SIMs for foreigners.

For more information on SIMs with unlimited data, please see this article.
▶︎ List of Prepaid SIM & SIM Cards with Unlimited Data in Japan for Foreigners

Goandup Picks Click here for recommended articles!

 Basic Knowledge of Cheap SIM Cards in Japan

Before choosing a cheap SIM card in Japan, let's first go over the basics. Here we will explain the types of operators offering cheap SIM cards, as well as the types and sizes of SIM cards.

What is the difference between MNO and MVNO that I should know?

Cell phone services in Japan can be broadly divided into two types: MNOs and MVNOs.

MNO" is an abbreviation for Mobile Network Operator, which refers to an operator that owns a cell phone network. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo, au, and SoftBank are MNO.

On the other hand, "MVNO" stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator, and refers to an operator that borrows communication lines from MNOs to provide low-cost SIM cards. Some plans are cheaper than those of MNOs, and have the advantage that the minimum usage period is set shorter, making them easier to use.

However, it should be noted that communication speeds may be slower when using a low-cost SIM card than when using an MNO. However, if you only use SNS and e-mail, you may not be that concerned.

In addition, there are several ways to use MNOs at a lower cost. For example, it is possible to reduce the price by using a sub-brand (such as Y!mobile) that is a subsidiary of an MNO, or by choosing a low-cost plan (such as ahamo) offered by an MNO. However, in exchange for lower rates, you may find that communication speeds are limited and support is not as good as it could be, so be sure to consider your options carefully before making a choice.

There are three types of SIM cards in Japan

Next, let's look at the types of SIM cards in Japan. Japanese SIM cards are broadly classified into the following three types.

(1) Data communication-only SIM card

As the name suggests, a data-only SIM card is a SIM card that allows only Internet communication. It is suitable for those who want to use Internet communication in a non-wifi environment.

(2) SIM card with SMS function|Available for Internet and SMS

A SIM card with SMS function allows you to send and receive SMS (Short Message Service) in addition to Internet communications; if you want to use the SMS function to authenticate applications such as LINE, you should choose this type.

(3) SIM card with voice call functionality|Enables voice calls in addition to Internet and SMS

A SIM card with voice call function is a versatile type of SIM card that allows voice calls in addition to Internet communication and SMS functions. It is recommended for those who want to use their phone as a phone and for those who want to make voice calls using applications such as LINE. Another key point is that existing phone numbers (numbers starting with 090, 080, or 070) can be carried over.

Three SIM card sizes

SIM cards come in different sizes to suit different devices. The three main SIM card sizes used in Japan are

(1) Standard SIM

A standard SIM is the largest type of SIM card, measuring 25 mm x 15 mm. It was the mainstream until not so long ago, but it is not so common these days.

(2) Micro SIM

Micro SIMs are smaller than standard SIMs, measuring 15 mm x 12 mm, and are used in relatively older models such as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s.

(3) Nano-SIM|Current mainstream

Nano-SIM, measuring 12.3 mm x 8.8 mm, is the current mainstream SIM card size used in the iPhone 5 and later, as well as in many Android smartphones.

These three types are the main SIM card sizes used in Japan. Be sure to choose the right size SIM card for your phone.

Note that recently, a SIM card that supports all sizes, called a Multi-SIM, has been introduced. With a Multi-SIM, you can conveniently adjust the size to fit your phone. Note, however, that a fee may be charged for resizing.

Six recommended Japanese low-cost SIM cards

Let us introduce six Japanese low-cost SIM cards recommended for foreigners. The table below summarizes the features and price plans of each SIM card. Please try to find the SIM card that best suits your needs.

SIM cardSIM card typeplanMonthly Fee (tax included)
ahamoSIM with voice call20GB Plan
100GB Plan
2,970 yen
4,950 yen
Rakuten MobileSIM with voice call~3GB
20GB - Unlimited
1,078 yen
2,178 yen
3,278 yen
J:COM MOBILESIM with voice call1GB Plan
5GB Plan
10GB Plan
20GB Plan
1,078 yen
1,628 yen
2,178 yen
2,728 yen
JP SMART SIMSIM with voice call
data only
880 yen and up

From 1,078 yen
NURO MobileSIM with voice call
Data + SMS
data only
NEO Plan
NEO Plan W
Value Plus
Just as many as you can call
2,699 yen

3,980 yen

From 627 yen

From 980 yen
DTI SIMSIM with voice call
Data + SMS
data only
data plan
(2G to 1.4GB per day)
Data SMS Plan
(2G to 1.4GB per day)
voice plan
(2G to 1.4GB per day)
From 660 yen

770 yen and up

From 1,485 yen
LyprimoSIM with voice call
data only
Voice Calling Plan with Unlimited Calls
(1GB to 40GB)
data-only plan
(1GB to 40GB)
From 6,980 yen

From 1,980 yen

1. ahamo

AHAMO is a low-cost SIM service that uses Docomo's line. 2,970 yen/month for 20 GB and 4,950 yen/month for 100 GB are available, allowing you to use a large amount of data communication at an affordable price. Tethering is also supported, so you can use the Internet on other devices such as tablets and laptops.

With ahamo, you can use your data for up to 2 weeks in Japan and overseas, making it convenient for travel and business trips.

With more than 5 million subscribers already, the service is very stable. It can be said that this is a recommended low-cost SIM for foreigners.

For more information: ▶︎ ahamo

2. Rakuten Mobile

Rakuten Mobile's "Rakuten Saikyou Plan" is an attractive plan that allows unlimited high-speed data usage. With an affordable pay-as-you-go pricing structure, the plan offers a flat rate of 2,980 yen (excluding tax) per month after 20 GB, 1,880 yen (excluding tax) per month for 3 to 20 GB, and 880 yen (excluding tax) per month for up to 3 GB, depending on the amount used.

With the Rakuten Link app, domestic calls are free (with some exceptions) and up to 2GB of data is free overseas, and the company offers a variety of discount programs, including family and student discounts. In addition, while you are on a Rakuten Mobile contract, you canRakuten MarketYou can earn 5X points for purchases at and use the points you earn to pay for your phone.

It is also highly reliable, having won first place in the mobile carrier rate plan category of the Oricon Customer Satisfaction Survey for three consecutive years. This low-cost SIM service is attractive for its simple and reasonable rate structure and its cooperation with Rakuten Economy.

For more information: ▶︎ Rakuten Mobile

3. j:com mobile

J:COM MOBILE is a low-cost SIM service that uses au's 4G LTE/5G lines, and offers several rate plans from 1GB to 20GB to suit your usage. 1GB plan is 980 yen per month, and is recommended for those with low data traffic. The 1GB plan costs 980 yen per month and is recommended for those with a low data allowance, while the 20GB plan is reasonably priced at 2,728 yen per month (including tax), but offers a large data allowance, making it ideal for those who watch a lot of videos and use social networking services.

In particular, a special "Strongest Young Discount" is available for those under 26 years old. With this plan, 10GB of data communication is available for the surprisingly low monthly price of 550 yen (tax included). This is a very economical plan for the younger generation.

Another attractive feature of J:COM MOBILE is the data carry-over function. Since J:COM MOBILE is 5G compatible, you can enjoy high-speed, large-capacity communications in a comfortable manner.

For more information: ▶︎ J:COM MOBILE

4. jp smart sim

JP SMART SIM is a low-cost SIM card specialized for foreigners, using NTT DoCoMo's line and offering two types of SIM cards: CALL+DATA SIM for calls and data communication, and DATA SIM for data communication only.

Multiple rate plans are available, from 1GB to 50GB, and a data carry-over feature allows you to use data communications without waste. In addition, according to a survey by the Japan Marketing Research Organization, JP Smart SIM is the No. 1 most popular SIM card among foreigners.

You can easily apply online with only your passport. The support is available in four languages (English, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese), so you can eliminate any language concerns.

For more information: ▶︎ JP Smart SIM

NURO Mobile

NURO Mobile is a low-cost SIM and smartphone service provided by a SONY group company. It offers two types of SIMs, a SIM with voice calls and a data-only SIM, and you can choose from three rate plans to suit your lifestyle: "NEO Plan," "NEO Plan W," "Value Plus," and "Unlimited Call Just".

The ability to carry over data capacity to the next month is also a nice feature, and the cancellation fee is 0 yen, making it easy to try it out. The service is compatible with three carriers (docomo, au, and Softbank), so the area coverage is excellent.

For more information: ▶︎ NURO Mobile


DTI SIM is a low-cost SIM service that uses the docomo line. It offers two types of SIM plans: a SIM plan for voice calls and a SIM plan for data only. You can choose the plan that suits you best from a wide variety of plan settings, so you can use the service without wasting money. With no cancellation fee and no MNP transfer fee, switching to another company can be done smoothly.

In addition, when you sign up for DTI SIM, you will receive a members-only privilege service that allows you to use accommodation facilities, leisure facilities such as amusement parks, sports clubs, hotel restaurants and izakaya (Japanese style pubs) at special prices.

For more information: ▶︎ DTI SIM

Three recommended cheap prepaid SIMs in Japan

Next, we introduce three prepaid SIMs recommended for foreigners. Prepaid SIMs are time-limited SIM cards that can be used only for the amount of time you have charged in advance. They are ideal for those who are staying in Japan for a short period of time or who want to use the SIM for a limited period of time.

1. docomo Prepaid SIM for Japan

The "docomo Prepaid SIM for Japan" is a prepaid SIM card ideal for short-term visitors to Japan and can be easily purchased on Amazon. This SIM card uses docomo's line and allows unlimited capacity within the validity period. It also supports tethering and can be used as a Wi-Fi router.

There are three SIM card sizes: Standard SIM, Micro SIM, and Nano SIM. SIM-free devices such as Android and iOS (iPhone and iPad SIM models), or docomo SIM-locked devices (smartphones, Wi-Fi routers, tablets, etc.) They are compatible with

In addition, a 365-day telephone support desk in Japanese, English, and Chinese is available to help foreign visitors to Japan.

For more information and purchase, please contactclick here!

2. jp smart sim

JP SMART SIM, introduced earlier, also offers an extensive lineup of prepaid SIMs.

Users can choose from 30, 60, 180, and 365-day usage periods, and plans with data capacities of 10, 15, 20, 50, and 100 GB are available. In addition, virtually unlimited 7-day, 14-day, and 30-day plans are also available to meet the diverse needs of users.

This provides a wide range of options for both short-term visitors and long-term residents in Japan.

For more information and purchase, please contactclick here!

3. lyprimo

Lyprimo offers two types of plans: a voice plan (unlimited calls) and a data-only (SMS) plan, which can be extended in one-month increments for as long as you want to use it. This is a particularly nice feature for mid- to long-term residents of Japan.

Lyprimo also requires no contracting procedures and does not require a credit card or bank account. There is no screening process and only an ID card is required to apply, making it a good choice for those who cannot sign up for a monthly SIM card.

For more information and purchase, please contactclick here!

Notes on using a Japanese SIM card

Finally, here are two important points to keep in mind when using a Japanese SIM card.

Check the size of the SIM card supported by the device.

First, check the size of the SIM card that your phone supports; there are three types of SIM cards: Standard SIM, Micro SIM, and Nano-SIM. If the size does not match, you will not be able to install a SIM card in your phone.

Recently, multi-SIMs that support all sizes have been introduced, but please note that a fee may be charged for resizing.

Check if the handset is SIM unlockable.

Next, check to see if the phone is SIM unlocked; a SIM lock is a restriction that allows a phone to be used only with a SIM card from a specific carrier. Some smartphones sold in Japan are SIM-locked.

If the phone was purchased overseas, there is no problem since it is basically SIM-free (SIM lock is not applied). However, if you use a smartphone purchased in Japan, you will need to unlock the SIM lock; the method for unlocking the SIM lock varies depending on the smartphone manufacturer and carrier, so please check the websites of each company for details.

Useful information and support for living in Japan

Living in Japan is fascinating, but it is not uncommon to face many challenges due to language barriers and cultural differences. For example, you may encounter difficulties in all aspects of life, from using keigo (honorific expressions) in everyday and business situations, to difficulties in finding housing, using public services, preparing for the JLPT exam, and even meeting new friends and loved ones.

At such times, Goandup Salon will be your reliable partner!

Our community provides support and information to help foreign residents in Japan to make their life in Japan richer and more comfortable.

  • Japanese Language Studywill meet the needs of all levels, from daily conversation to the use of keigo in business situations, to efficient Japanese language learning methods and preparation for the JLPT exam.
  • livingaspect of the program provides concrete advice and information on how to establish a foundation for living in Japan, including explanations of Japanese culture and rules, finding housing, and how to contract public services and living infrastructure.
  • Jobs & CareersRegarding the "what if" section, we can help you find a job, change jobs, and understand Japanese business etiquette and workplace culture, which are key to a successful career in the workplace.

If you have any questions or concerns about life in Japan,Goandup Salon.Let's solve your problem in the following way! We will wholeheartedly support you to make your life in Japan smoother and more enjoyable.

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To use a cheap SIM card in Japan, it is important to make sure that your phone is SIM-free and that you have a compatible SIM card size.

In addition, there are three types of SIM cards: data communication only, with SMS function, and with voice call function. Be sure to select a SIM card with the functions you need.

In this article, we have carefully selected the cheapest SIM cards and prepaid SIMs recommended for foreigners. Please find the right SIM card for you by comparing the features and price plans of each company's services.

I wish you a pleasant and fulfilling stay in Japan!

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