I'm traveling to Japan in June and just wanted to ask whether I should bring my iPhone/iPad to access wifi. I remember from several years ago that it was quite hard to use unless I went to a Starbucks. Is this still the case? Can I purchase a 2 week wifi plan for my iPhone?
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There are a few options.
- Starbucks as you mention already offers free wifi (but you need to confirm via email first, which can be a pain)
- NTT East offers a free 14-day Wifi access card for foreign tourists that lets you access Flets Wifi spots all over Tokyo. You can get one of these on presentation of your passport at any of these distribution points.
- Pocket Wifi units are also available, allowing you to connect devices to a mobile internet 'dongle' that connects to the 4G network. These can be delivered to Narita and other airports. One company offering them is Global Advanced Comm
- b-mobile data SIMs can give you 3G access on your unlocked iPhone.
- 7spot at 7 Eleven convenience stores (they're everywhere) offer free wifi once registered (with English registration help)
- FamilyMart, another convenience store chain, also offers free-wifi. Again, registration in Japanese but someone has posted a comprehensive English explanation of the process.
- JR East railways also offers free wifi at certain JR East stations, but again requires registration
These I think are the easiest options, but there are more - see Japan-Guide's breakdown (a quick Google of the service name + 'English' will usually find you an explanation even if the main site is in Japanese).
Yes, I'd bring the iPad, but you will definitely have to plan ahead since 100% no strings attached free wifi is rare as hen's teeth in Japan.
Two main points:
Make sure your lodging offers free wifi for guests. Almost all business hotels and backpacker-y places do, but large chain hotels will charge an arm and a leg, and ryokan/minshuku usually won't have it.
Consider signing up for Wi2 300, discussed in this question. TL;DR: ¥380/month gets you access to ~70,000 hot spots, and you can cancel after the first month. Note that, while that number sounds huge, it's actually not that much for a country of 100 million; it's worth studying the list in advance so you can figure out the chain stores (mostly Lawson & McDonalds) where you can get online.