Getting a pre paid phone in Japan Softbank

Phone blog post

Pre paid Soft Bank phone

Getting a phone in Japan is hard work if your not going to be here for a long time (and even if you are – Ben). First of all, you can only buy a phone if you are here on a resident visa, this is law in Japan. You can however rent a phone if you’re here on holiday. As I’m on a working holiday, I am a resident, but my visa only lasts for a year, so I didn’t really want a contract phone, as contracts over here last for 2 years and to cancel them early you have to 10,000yen. Because of our visa we would also have to pay the price of the phone.

First I looked for information on sim cards in shops and on the web which was hard work. When I thought I found a sim card it turned out to be a internet only one and you could only call people through the web. The problem with this type of sim is that you we weren’t sure receive a proper phone number, which you need for opening a bank accounts. I went into one of the big electronic shops in Shinjuku and asked about this. When I finally understood what they were telling me, it looked like if you wanted a proper number you would have to pay 3500 yen a month, which would included phone calls but no internet.

I did some more research on line and discovered that a lot of people staying for only a short time in Japan get Soft Bank pre paid phones. These are normally quite expensive from the Soft Bank shops (around 10,000 yen if I remember right)

So, I went on a shopping mission to Akihabra in find one. The shop I found one in was Labi which is directly opposite the electric exit of the train station.

Phone blog post

Here the cheapest pre paid phone cost 1979 yen, but you then had to pay another 4000yen for credit. The phoned looks quite old with no internet. But all I wanted it for was to set up a bank account and a contact number for work.

Phone blog post

When I went to buy the phone I had to sit down and fill in some paperwork, this takes a little time especially if your are like me and your Japanese isn’t the best. I was then told about a hidden cost out of the 4000yen credit 3240Yen (induces tax) comes off this, as a one off set up charge. So in fact you only get 760 yen of credit.

When they ask if you need a charger say no, as you can buy one for 300yen (maybe less) in the markets around Akihbara.

The phone number it self lasts for a year from when you last top it up. The credit lasts for 60 days only and can be bought from most convenience stores.

Before you leave the shop ask the sales assistant to change the menu to English for you. The sales assistant was really helpful and showed me how to use the phone and how to check my credit balance.

Phone blog post

One things that is very different to English phones it that there is a TV tuner built into the phone. Which I have found is really useful, as we have no TV in our apartment.  I can finally watch Kyo no wanko (Dog of the day) again in the morning on Fuji TV.

Phone blog post

There is also a Kanji Grabber built in, this is where you use the camera on the phone and the phone will recognise the Kanji. It then shows the Kanji in the dictionaries with the English translation. This doesn’t work all the time, but it’s normally pretty good.

The rest of the phones functions are very standard for a basic phone.

Have you had problems getting a phone in the Japan?


  1. First of all, welcome to Japan. I hope that while you’re here you can sate all your kawaii desires and just have a good time more than is normally possible. One advice on phones is that you dont answer the door with it. You may be confronted with an NHK collector who will insist that because you have a device capable of showing NHK, that you are obligated to pay the tax. Those guys are a constant nuisance…

Leave a Reply