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I'm back in Japan for the eighth time, but it's five years since I was here and some things are changing.

I've found that every Lawson convenience store now offers free Wi-Fi in one-hour sessions that you can use a certain number of times per day (I think 5 times, but I'll check).

Obviously every accommodation from the level of backpacker hostel up has free Wi-Fi. (Rider Houses often do not.) I'm sure it's common in restaurants and cafes too.

So far the only other place I found free Wi-Fi was at a Michi-no-Eki (road station) in Chitose, Hokkaido. Maybe all Michi-no-Ekis have it. I'll find out and report back.

What I'm looking for is, when you're out and about and suddenly need Wi-Fi to contact a friend or book a hostel, where to head where you know you'll get it?

Many times in many countries I've paid for a coffee I didn't really want, expecting Wi-Fi, and found it wasn't offered, cost extra, or required a local phone to register, etc. In Japan I can just head to the nearest Lawson, but are there other possibilities?

This question is not asking about cheap or convenient Wi-Fi or data plans. There are many such available all around Japan. Please don't answer "just buy this or that card or plan, etc".

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    This is largely location-dependent; for example in large cities subway stations usually have free wifi, but this obviously don't apply in the super-inaka. I seem to remember there are some apps that collate free wifi spots, have you just googled "japan free wi-fi"? – fkraiem Apr 22 at 5:13
  • @fkraiem: Actually I didn't Google it this time. I kinda just wanted to get into SE again and put out that Watson has it. Also a lot of similar googling I've done has resulted in floods of out-of-date info. At least here every response has a date so we always know at a glance how fresh or stale the info is. – hippietrail Apr 22 at 5:17
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    Not an answer, but despite your disclaimer I do need to point out that the Wi2 300 plan is 362 yen/mo, which is pretty darn close to free. See: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/7276/… – jpatokal May 14 at 2:11
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    I found that a lot of trains now have free wifi. Not sure whether this applies to JR Hokkaido and also probably not exactly what you are looking for. – drat May 14 at 2:58
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    @hippietrail ...and it looks like they've now offering the first month for free as a promotion! – jpatokal May 14 at 3:16
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I'll work on this answer or I'll change it to an answer wiki if anybody prefers. Please let me know. This is just a rough version so far...

  • FamilyMart : 3 X 20 minutes per day via email registration. May have seats and power! Look for イートイン "eat in". Can be confusing to get working and staff can't help.

  • Lawson Station : Easiest konbini Wi-Fi to use by far!

  • 7-Eleven : Most confusing konbini Wi-Fi to use by far. Sometimes Facebook might work even if you think you can't get the login to work.

  • Aeon supermarkets : up to 15 hours per day? Possibly not "my basket" minisupermarkets.

  • Michi no Ekis (道の駅), the roadside rest areas which are not on expressways may or may not have free Wi-Fi.

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7-11 and Starbucks also have free Wi-Fi.

(I can't recall if McDonald's has Wi-Fi, but they tend to in most countries)

There is also this "Free Wi-Fi Passport" offered by Softbank: https://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/special/freewifi/en/

According to the site you only need to provide "mobile phone number, password, gender and age group". For that to work, you need to be able to receive the code via SMS with your foreign mobile number, while you're in Japan and connected to their hotspot. You can/need to renew this setup every two weeks.

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    I've been let down by McDonald's before. Maybe in China it needed a Weibo account, but maybe it was in another country. Haven't tried yet in Japan. – hippietrail Apr 22 at 4:44
  • I went to a mall in Sapporo today and Aeon and a couple of other places had free Wi-Fi via email registration. I sat opposite a McDonalds in a food court and there was no McDonalds signal. Maybe freestanding McDonalds restaurants have it but not every McDonalds... – hippietrail Apr 23 at 9:31
  • I have found the 7-Eleven one incredibly confusing to use. The fact that it gives you two options of what kind of user ID to use makes it harder than the other kombini chains. I haven't been able to get back into the account I created at the first one I tried a month ago )-: The staff inside never know how it works either. Maybe having a nerdy bilingual Japanese friend with you would help (-: – hippietrail May 14 at 2:08

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