Note: the information on this page is not necessarily accurate for all carriers, nor is it the most up-to-date. Please confirm all information with the phone company yourself.

Getting a cell phone

Unlocked SIM card

The following information was shared by Jon Bryant on the Tokyo and Kanagawa Facebook group on 5/21/2015:
"This site has some excellent info on the topic (look at the comments): http://www.blogfromamerica.com/english/archives/43
Of particular note:
Japanese postpaid cellphone companies, NTT Docomo, Softbank and KDDI au, will not provide a SIM unless you either buy a phone from them OR bring the phone which was originally sold at one of their stores or Japanese Apple Stores. (The phone can be a used or a second-hand phone, but has to be originally sold at one of their stores or Japanese Apple stores.) That is, if the serial number of the phone you want to use is not registered with their system, they can not issue a SIM.
What some Japanese people do, if they want to use their own non-Japanese phone, is:
Step 1: Buy the postpaid service with the phone from NTT Docomo, Softbank or KDDI au with the contract.
Step 2: As soon as you are out of that store, you can switch the SIM you just obtained to your own iPhone bought outside of Japan.
Step 3: Sell your new iPhone you just bought at the NTT Docomo, Softbank or KDDI au shop to a second-hand shop or through a Japanese auction site.

If you have a certification of alien registration and you want a postpaid contract and you want to use your own phone, the above steps is what you have to do. This is true even for a Japanese resident. (Of course, they use a driver’s license or equivalent instead of a certification of alien registration.) There’re several prepaid SIM companies (MVNO), and the list is growing in the last 12 months or so. Its monthly fees are cheaper than the postpaid, but may have some data speed restrictions, and unfortunately it is not friendly to non-Japanese users.

Check:
https://www.iijmio.jp/hdd/visitors/
http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/index.html
http://lte.so-net.ne.jp/?SmRcid=sny_s_snt_tpGnv_all_SMPH
http://umobile.jp/
Sorry, I can not find the English pages for the last three.
Note that a Japanese prepaid SIM still may have the termination fee if you terminate the plan within, say, 6 months. And, it charges the initial fee or activation fee.

Another solution is to “rent” a SIM. For example, http://www.globaladvancedcomm.com/simrent.html
Of course, it’s more expensive, but there’s no “red tape” you have to go through, you can terminate anytime, and it’s more friendly to “Gaijin-san (English-speaking traveler or temporary resident)”.

As for the 1 May rule change:
AND, for the government regulation that starts May 1, 2015, Docomo and KDDI have already announced on April 22 that
1. They will unlock the SIM FOR CERTAIN MODELS, ONLY AFTER 6 MONTHS AFTER A CUSTOMER PURCHASED, and ONLY FOR THE MODELS THE CUSTOMER PURCHASED AFTER MAY 1, 2015.
2. They will NOT UNLOCK A CERTAIN MODELS.
It is expected that the iPhone will be the exceptions in 2.
And, Softbank will announce about their unlock policy just before May 1, 2015.

And, this is for their “unlocking policy”. Nothing is announced IF ANY ONE OF THE CARRIERS WILL ACCEPT THE UNLOCKED PHONE. And, the government is not forcing the carrier to accept the unlocked phones from other carriers or from outside of Japan. So, we don’t expect this situation will change soon.

If you still want to use the unlocked phone you already own, your choices are simple. And, I repeat them here
Choice 1.
Step 1: Buy the postpaid service with the phone from NTT Docomo, Softbank or KDDI au with the contract.
Step 2: As soon as you are out of that store, you can switch the SIM you just obtained to your own iPhone bought outside of Japan.
Step 3: Sell your new iPhone you just bought at the NTT Docomo, Softbank or KDDI au shop to a second-hand shop or through a Japanese auction site.

Choice 2.
Look for the Docomo MVNO, such as IIJMIO, B-Mobile, So-Net, U-Mobile. They’re quite lenient about the phone you use, meaning you can use your own phone. Just buy SIM from them.
There’re may be restrictions, such as the speed of data access, compared to MNO (NTT Docomo, Softbank or KDDI au ).

Choice 3.
Look for the SIM “rental” company such as Global Advanced Communications. This is good for a short-time stay. May be expensive for a long-time stay. But, I think they have the long-stay discount."


Cancelling your cell phone contract