Keitai for foreigners

So before I came to Japan I did some online research into what phone plans were open to foreigners in Japan. Most information pointed to SoftBank and that a 3000yen/month prepaid sim was available.

Great I thought I’ll pop it into my iPhone and be ready to go!


The Japanese mobile phone system here is quite complicated and I don’t fully understand it. From what I gather you pick a network and a corresponding phone and are then tied into the two for at least two years. Your email address is also tied in with your phone and provider. I am also under the impression you give the phone back at the end.


On Sunday I went to SoftBank Omote-sando store where a nice young man with American sounding English explained it was not possible for me to put the sim in my iPhone. I needed a Japanese flip-phone. He issued me with a ticket and I had to wait about 20minutes to be seen and taken downstairs.

To obtain a Japanese phone you have to prove you are staying in Japan for more than 3 months. (You need your passport with your visa in for this!) You also need a Japanese address, I used my hotel address and this was fine.

The only options I got were – black or white?! White of course :)


The handset itself cost about 2500yen, the charger 1500yen and 3000yen for credit.

The nice lady activated it for me, set it to English and put my credit on. To activate data (email) you need to call 1400 and follow the options in English, it costs 300yen to do this and expires after 30days. Calls cost an extortionate 100yen/min!

I signed a piece of paper and she showed me my number. And then I was on my way.

You get a designated email address and you can easily change the bit before the @ either on your phone or at
To access you need the 4 digit pin number from the paper you sign.

The great thing about having a Japanese keitai email address is you can get purikura sent to your phone (well actually a link to click to download them).


The phone itself is very basic. I find it so hard to use after 5years of iPhones. It has a 2MP camera, alarm, music player and calendar. However it is really cute and I always wanted a Japanese cell phone!


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