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Phones in Japan

My daughter is planning a trip to Japan for November. I would like to advise her on the best way to keep in touch by phone. I'm pretty familiar with cell networks in Europe, but know nothing about the ones in Japan. She has an iPhone with a SIM card, and here at home we're on the Verizon network.

Posted by
4805 posts

I would start with Verizon. It has changed since I traveled there, but back then they used a totally different network frequency such that your phone was useless. I do know that now some US phones will work, but given the variation in phones and carriers, start with yours and figure out if you will have coverage, and then how much it might cost. The upside though to incompatible networks is that at the airport there will be an array of phone rental kiosks, that might be an option.

Posted by
30932 posts

Al,

That's an older model iPhone, so I'm not sure if it has all the frequencies for data. However it should work fine for voice and texts, and should work fine on Wi-Fi at hotels. Ask your daughter to check with a knowledgeable rep. at Verizon that's familiar with travel.

Posted by
123 posts

According to the Sakura Mobile website, her phone is compatible with the frequencies used in Japan. But I don't know whether or not her phone is unlocked - that's where I have to contact VZW.

I signed up for TravelPass last year, which incurs a $10/day charge but only if you use it, then I didn't use it for my European trip because the only call that I made was a Wi-Fi call. Her phone is also on TravelPass, so she should be golden as long as her phone is unlocked. I need the confidence that she will be able to contact somebody no matter where she is. She will be confined to Tokyo, and has some familiarity with the language, but she will be traveling alone. She doesn't want to swap out her SIM card because she's afraid that she'll lose it (and I feel better knowing that I can contact her at her regular number).

Sakura Mobile has something called a "pocket Wi-Fi" which looks like a MiFi and functions as a mobile hotspot. That's always an option.

Posted by
4686 posts

According to the Sakura Mobile website, her phone is compatible with the frequencies used in Japan. But I don't know whether or not her phone is unlocked - that's where I have to contact VZW.

Verizon does not (yet) lock their phones, though they have announced a change in policy for new phones, which as of yet hasn't taken effect. Almost surely her phone isn't locked.

https://www.verizon.com/about/consumer-safety/device-unlocking-policy

Posted by
30932 posts

Al,

As long as your daughter is only planning to travel with roaming with your home network, it makes no difference whether the phone is unlocked or not. The locking only applies if she plans to use a SIM other than VZW in her phone.

It might be a good idea to pack along a small backup battery unit, in case she will be away from electrical outlets for extended periods. Also, don’t forget Plug Adaptors.

Posted by
55 posts

I have T-Mobile and don't usually put much thought into connectivity overseas because their international coverage is very good: free unlimited text and data (though data speeds can be slow) and reasonably priced phone calls (on the order of $0.20 per minute last I looked).

Japan was an exception. I wanted to ensure fast data speeds and renting a pocket wifi there is 1) not that expensive, 2) pretty straightforward, and 3) can be done in advance online with the device delivered to your hotel. I'm really happy that I rented one and it got me unlimited, very fast data for my full 16-day trip for around $90. If I go back to Japan, I'd do it again as the worry-free connectivity, especially for things like Google Translate, was worth that and more to me.

Posted by
123 posts

She opted for the pocket wi-fi. We got Google Hangouts (for outgoing voice calls) and WhatsApp (for text messages) working on her phone. The trickiest part was getting her phone to send caller ID. I block anonymous calls, and calls from her phone weren't going through. I discovered a procedure to turn it on; oddly, I had to use my Android phone to do it.

Posted by
4686 posts

If you get a Google Voice number (free), then that will attach itself to Hangouts, and outgoing caller ID will show as the Google Voice number, not "Unavaialble." Plus, she could get incoming calls, in Hangouts, on that same Google number, including Voicemail.