Japanese Phone Companies – Which Provides The Best Plans And Services?

Japan is one of the most leading countries in the mobile phone industry. Even before smartphones, Japanese mobile phones were among the first to include functions like internet browsers, games, cameras, televisions, electronic wallets, rail passes, GPS navigation, and music players in addition to calling, email, and texting. In Japan, mobile phone plans for residents and mobile Internet products for tourists are all provided by Japanese phone companies. So, what are these companies and what are the mobile phone services they supply? Let’s check them out in this blog!

Major Japanese Phone Companies And Budget Options

NTT Docomo, au by KDDI, and Softbank (formerly Vodafone, and before that J-phone) are three major Japanese phone companies with the largest number of phone subscribers. These providers offer reliable calling, data, stable connections, and excellent customer service. For people who value service quality, any of them is a great choice. Besides, there are a few smaller companies that offer low-cost cell phone services in Japan for both the country’s residents and foreigners, but they mainly use the big three companies’ networks.

4 Biggest Japanese Phone Companies

1. NTT Docomo

In Japan, NTT Docomo has the highest percentage of smartphone users. They’re noted for their constant and stable speeds. You’ll be able to stay connected in most parts of the country thanks to their extensive cellular coverage.

Japanese phone companies

NTT Docomo is the biggest Japanese phone company.

2. au by KDDI

Au is Japan’s second-largest phone company. Its commercial series “Santaro,” which depicts Japanese folk heroes, is also famous worldwide.

Au offers a large range of phone plans and, like Docomo, provides extensive cellular coverage.

Like Docomo, au by KDDI provides extensive cellular coverage with a large range of phone plans.

3. SoftBank

SoftBank is well-known for its advertisements featuring an adorable white dog. In addition to selling phones and cellular plans, it is also the owner of the Fukuoka Hawks, a professional baseball team in Japan.

SoftBank was the only service provider of Apple’s iPhone in Japan and it now offers 3G, 4G and 5G services using W-CDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) technology at 2100 MHz.

Japanese phone companies

SoftBank is Japan’s first major mobile carrier to launch 5G services.


Budget Phone Service And SIM Cards In Japan

A phone contract with one of the three major carriers can cost up to 10,000 yen per month in exchange for consistent speeds and extensive support. If you’re on a budget, you should opt for one of the budget smartphones and SIM options below. The most basic plans cost roughly 2,000 yen per month.

Here comes the table showing the basic monthly fees for each service, as well as the data limit and phone call charges in Japan. Please check each official website for details on any special discount campaigns offered by the mentioned providers. Note that the fees do not include initial costs.

CompanyMonthly feeData limitNational phone calls
LINE Mobile¥1,480up to 3GB¥20/30 seconds
IIJmio¥1,600up to 3GB¥20/30 seconds
UQ mobile¥1,980up to 3GB¥20/30 seconds
GTN MOBILE¥2,280up to 3GB10 minutes free
HIS Mobile¥2,480up to 3GBno limit
Y!mobile¥2,680up to 3GB10 minutes free
Rakuten Mobile¥2,980no limitno limit

1. LINE Mobile

Online registration for LINE Mobile is available. The signup process is simple to understand, with clear menu options. You can pick between Softbank, Docomo, and au cellular lines.

Furthermore, LINE Mobile offers a service that excludes social media activity from total data usage.

2. IIJmio

Founded in 2012, IIJmio is an older budget carrier in comparison to other companies. The company’s low-cost options really popular among international students.

3. UQ mobile

Despite being a low-cost mobile phone service provider, UQ Mobile features the fastest data speeds. They provide unique solutions to save money, such as a data-saving mode that disables social networking site data usage.


GTN Mobile is developed for residents who are not Japanese citizens. They provide multilingual assistance and accept contracts that include a certificate of residence and a student identification card.

In addition to low rates, the programs do not require you to sign a contract. If you’re in Japan for a working holiday, a study abroad program, or a quick visit, this service is ideal.

You can pay your monthly bills at a convenience store using GTN Mobile. A Japanese bank account or credit card is not required. You can, of course, pay using your bank account or credit card.

5. HIS Mobile

HIS Mobile is a phone service established by H.I.S., Japan’s largest travel agency. It sells both domestic and international SIM cards at low prices.

6. Y!mobile

To get a Y!mobile SIM card, go to one of their stores or one of the Softbank outlets.

Unlike other inexpensive SIMs, which use data lines from major carriers, Y!mobile uses its parent company Softbank’s connection directly. As a result, Y!mobile can provide more stable connections.

7. Rakuten Mobile

Having launched in 2018, Rakuten Mobile is a newcomer to the carrier market. There are no contracts, and shopping on Rakuten’s online marketplace will give you double Rakuten points.

Best Mobile Plan Options In Japan

For Short-Term Stay

1. SIM Card Only

If you want to use your phone in Japan, you can choose to buy a SIM only at the airport or phone stores here. The SIM comes with a free terminal, but make sure your phone is unlocked to Japan’s network and compatible with the GSM frequency of the SIM you’ll buy.

Remember that your SIM Subscription is limited, and you won’t be able to extend it once it expires. Also, in order to connect, make sure your mobile devices fulfill the Japanese communication standard.

If you want to use your phone in Japan, you can choose to buy a SIM only at the airport or phone stores here.

2. Pocket Wifi

Portable or pocket wifi is convenient and easy to use, especially if you plan to travel around Japan. You won’t have to buy the device because you can rent it and the renting process is absolutely simple. First, you must first fill out an online application before you arrive in the country. Then, you can collect the router at the airport or have it delivered to your accommodation.

Japanese phone companies

Pocket wifi is convenient and easy to use, especially if you plan to travel around Japan.

3. Phone Rental

In Japan, phone rentals are available. You’ll be able to find some when you arrive at the airport. Some travel agencies or hotels may provide a phone to you when you book your tour or hotel, and it may even be delivered to your hotel room. Reservations are less expensive, and it is a guaranteed way to get one.

Phone rental is another great option for a short-term stay in Japan.

For Long-Term Stay

1. Phone Plan Subscription

The cellular phone sector in Japan is dominated by NTT Docomo, au by KDDI, and SoftBank. When you apply for a subscription in one of those Japanese phone companies, the contract bond is normally for two years, and you will be charged a penalty if you cancel before the contract expires.

Here’s the overview of contract price comparison from major phone service providers in Japan. Note that the data is from September 17th, 2018.

Major Japanese Phone Companies2GB3GB5GB6GB
NTT Docomo¥6,000¥7,000
au by KDDI¥4,480¥5,540¥6,480¥7,480

2. SIM Cards With Monthly Subscription

If you are going to visit Japan for a working holiday or short-term study abroad, getting a SIM card is highly recommended. That will allow you to take advantage of more services and data usage.

You can buy SIM cards at airports and retailers in Japan or order them online and get them delivered to your home or hotel.

Phone Manners

When it comes to using cell phones in Japan, you’d better know the country’s phone etiquette in order to avoid being rude. What you might consider normal phone usage in your home country may appear to be somewhat inappropriate here.

In Japan, it is impolite to talk on the phone in public places such as trains, buses, cafes, and restaurants. Voice calls on the decks at either end of each train carriage outside of the seating compartment are only tolerated on long-distance trains.

Similarly, when taking public transportation or sitting in a cafe or restaurant, keep your phone on silent mode. It is not acceptable to listen to music or other media without headphones in public spaces.

In addition, it is strongly discouraged to walk while using a smartphone. When you need to look at your phone, it’s best to stop and move to the side.


Hopefully, this blog has given you useful information about Japanese phone companies. Both major carriers and low-cost options have their pros and cons. In order to find the best mobile service provider and plan for you, you’d better consider your priorities.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.