minna ^^.. long time no post, gomen ne.. >.<
I just want to share some useful tips when you go to Japan for little bit long time (more than 6 months). I am pretty sure that you’ll miss your family, or friends, or even your lover there back in your home country. You want to communicate with them, give them good news that you are okay, not bitten by godzilla or trapped beside sadako (pretty sure that you don’t want it to be real though ^^). But, I think you’d known that international call is ALWAYS so damn expensive. Even just to text a message makes you run out of your credit easily. That even worse, some countries’ (I am not sure all countries, I just refer to Indonesia) carrier doesn’t allow you to fill up your credit from another country (including Japan). So here they are.. some tips from me when you make a little bit long (or really long) trip to Japan.
Unlike most countries in the world (not including US and Korea..and of course, our main topic, Japan) here in Japan, if you want to get handset, you have to make contract with one of the carrier in Japan. Then, your phone is locked so that you only can use your Japanese phone with your registered number. You can make contract with more than one carrier though, but it’s totally not recommended. You just throw out your money if you do that. This system makes sure that your phone is totally safe from robber (although I am not sure that any Japanese want to rob phone). But, it also makes everything complicated. The worse one is, you have to make a contract with carrier for two years. You can cancel the contract after some times though, but it cost some money.
Another point is, some of carriers from some countries don’t have access to Japan’s wireless network. That means, you can’t use your phone here if your country’s carrier doesn’t have agreement with Japanese carrier. And, some phones (old one I think) don’t have compatible wireless adapter with Japan’s network (it’s about the wireless band, 2100 Hz or something, I don’t really know about it), so even if your carrier has agreement with Japanese carrier, you still can’t operate your phone because you don’t get the signal.
So, must you buy phone or not? If you stay for 6 months or more, the answer is yes. Or if you have to contact somebody here in Japan (maybe your friend or your Professor or your boss), the answer is also yes. Why? Because you can be contacted everywhere you are. Even just by text or phone call. Yea.. of course. If you just stay for one month, I suggest you just be patient because buying a new phone here is not worthy. Japanese phone can’t be used in other countries anyway (note : without some effort of course ^^)
Now, we go to this question : “which phone should I buy?”
First, we have to know, there are three major carriers in Japan : Softbank, DoCoMo, and au by KDDI. All have their own advantages, I am not a seller or promoter of one of the carrier, but I will tell you some comparison between those three carriers later. And, as I said before, you must make a contract if you buy a phone, and your phone can only used by your registered phone number. So it means, you buy a number, you buy a phone vice versa. This, unfortunately, implies that you can’t choose your phone freely because the seller of the phone is not the maker (Samsung or Apple or Nokia or else), but the carrier. Yes, the carrier (if you are American, so you’d already known how does it work.. with your T Mobile, AT&T and Verizon). Don’t really understand about it? I’ll explain more. Actually, the maker of the phone is still those companies (LG, etc), but they don’t sell it freely on the market without SIM-card (SIM-free). They sell through one (or more) of those three carriers. Even the OS inside is customized by the carrier. Got it? I hope. Back to the “you can’t choose your handset freely”, not all carriers have relationship with all phone makers. For example, you won’t find Apple’s product if you buy DoCoMo number, but you’ll never get SGS III if you choose Softbank for your carrier. So that’s why I said those terrible statement.
Secondly, let’s move to the payment method. As I said before, you HAVE TO MAKE CONTRACT with the carrier. Two years contract. It makes us can’t change phone easily, but also makes us get the phone easily. Why? Because we can get our handset just by paying about 2,000-9,000 JPY (about 20-90 US$). How could it be? You can pay your handset monthly, within your monthly payment (for calling, mail, or internet). So that it’s really cheap. But, again, it’s two years contract. If you sum those money up, you’ll know how much do you really pay for that handset. Plus, you have to pay the rest of your handset’s price if you break the contract, and have to pay forfeit. Don’t worry, there is another payment option that you buy the handset when you receive it (as you do in your home country, again, not for American or Korean) and you just pay for your monthly payment. Of course, this way is preferable for you that just be in Japan for less than two years. Plus, your monthly payment won’t be as high as the first payment method one because you already pay your handset. Got it? I hope.
Let’s move to the real deal. The comparison.
As I said before, DoCoMo don’t have Apple’s product. But if you are Android lover, and you hate Apple fanboy, you should choose this carrier. Because, you can’t find LG Optimus G or Samsung Galaxy S III (at least the first version of SGS III, not the smaller one) or even Galaxy Note or Galaxy Tab in other carrier. But, the price of DoCoMo is (I think) the highest between those three. The handset price (for the greatest handset like LG OpG or SGS III) is about 80,000 JPY (about 800 US$). A real deal right? And the monthly payment is always above 6,000 JPY (about 60$) if you had paid your handset and can be more than 11,000 JPY/month (110 US$/month) if you buy your handset by monthly payment. But as long as I know, DoCoMo has the most wide wireless coverage around Japan. (at least now)
For wider choice of phones, au is the best deal. It has both iPhone 5 and LG OpG. The price is little bit higher than Softbank but it’s still less than DoCoMo. The disadvantages about using au is (from what I heard), the service. It means the wireless coverage and users. au users are not the biggest one, so maybe you’ll have little trouble when you want to contact your friend that using DoCoMo or Softbank, because it costs more. Second, the au’s wireless coverage is not so wide, but don’t worry, it’s not really that bad and even they have LTE.
I think the cheapest phone is from Softbank. Even they have cheap phones that can be used by people who just stay for a while (less than 6 months) in Japan, that don’t need two year contract (but still you have to pay for your handset). But it’s just for phone call and email though. From information that I heard, most Japanese are using Softbank. Why? I think because of these two points : first, they have Apple iPhone. Japanese people like to use iPhone. Softbank is the first carrier in Japan that sells iPhone (since 3GS if I don’t make mistake), au just join the iPhone selling from this iPhone 5. Second, they have monthly price plan that makes free call between Softbank whithin 1.00 AM until 9.00 PM, and also free SMS (not really free, because you actually subscribe for it, whether you use your phone to call or not, you have to pay that amount of money) but it really help people to make call comfortably. So, if you want to make many calls to your friend, I think Softbank is the best.
Conclusion : all three have advantages and disadvantages. The choice is yours.
But wait. Maybe you still have a question “must I buy another phone because my phone is already good and can be used for connecting to internet?”
This is my opinion. If you really love your phone (esp. smartphone) but you still want to use phone call or text with your friend here in Japan, I have a solution. There are portable WiFi service in Japan. Whether by those three carriers that I mentioned before or from em-mobile (I am not sure about the brand, sorry, but you can find it easily in electronic store). With this portable WiFi, you can bring your own WiFi wherever you go by carrying small device. And this WiFi can be used by your smartphone or even laptop. Don’t worry, your WiFi will be protected, because you have to register your device’s MAC (physical address) to connect to the portable WiFi.. not just by typing silly password. And the monthly payment is cheap (about 3,000 JPY). While you using that portable WiFi, you can buy cheap keitai (ordinary phone, usually flip model, used only for calling or texting) and still can make call to your friend. So, you’ll still use your beloved phone that connected to the internet, and you still can use Japanese phone. ^^
Can you live without it now? I think you don’t You even see this post by it right? Heheh
Here in Japan, most of dormitories or apatos (apartment), or mansions, or houses are utilized by monthly paid internet connection. You can choose either LAN connection or wireless connection. Don’t worry about your WiFi, because to connect to this WiFi, your computer’s (or device’s) MAC (physical address) must be registered to the network. So it’s not just about getting the WiFi’s password ^^, yokatta. Japan’s internet connection is fast (I think at least). Can reach 45 Mbps.. or more.. So if you want to see youtube, using skype, or just browsing, you will feel comfortable. I think, you already know about what can you do in internet, so this section is just about this. Ijyou desu.
3. Line, Viber, KakaoTalk, Yahoo! Messenger, and Skype (and other VoIP services)
Still want to make call to your home country? Still not satisfied with just sending email or wall or tweet? You know that there are some VoIP service that you can use. Especially if your beloved one that you want to call is also using that VoIP service like Line, Viber, YM, or else. Just buy smartphone (or WiFi pocket like I said before) or just make sure that you have internet connection at your house or workplace, voila. You can call your beloved one freely.
But, if your father is too old to know internet and just can use old feature phone, and you still want to contact him, here is the solution : using Yahoo! Messenger’s landline call or Skype Credit.
For Yahoo! Messenger call, I don’t really know the price and the payment method, but as far as I know, you have to register your credit card to Yahoo! service. So, if you don’t make a credit card here, you cannot use it. Use Skype credit.
For term of use or anything else about how to use Skype credit, please go to their website. I am not the seller, but I just want to share how to get that Skype credit. Basically, you can pay Skype credit by your credit card, but you can also buy voucher from konbini (convenience store) in Japan. Here is how can you buy. I am sorry I just tell you how to buy from Seven Eleven store, but actually you can also buy from Lawson or Sunkus or Family Mart. But sorry, I’d never tried those store before.
1. Go to Seven Eleven. You’ll find it easily if you are in Tokyo or other big cities.
2. Find the copier-like-machine (usually in the corner) like this
3. Press button with dog picture in the touch panel
4. Press International Call
5. Press Skype Credit
6. Choose your credit’s price
7. Okay (usually in green, not red)
8. There will be a print out
9. Go to cashier, just give it, they will understand
10. They will ask you to pay
11. They will give you a paper that contains your Skype credit pin
12. Go to your Skype account from your computer
13. Choose redeem voucher
14. Insert the pin
15. Voila, you just get your credit
Skype call is more more cheaper than international call using your cellular carrier. For example, if I call to Indonesia from my Softbank, it will cost 700 JPY per minute (7 US$/min!!!). But if I use Skype credit, I just pay for 17 JPY per minute. Furthermore, I use subscription that can make 800 minutes call for a month just for 2,400 JPY per month (it’s 3 JPY per minute!!)
So that’s all for now
I hope it can help you sometime
Keep smile ^^ and never worry to make a call to your beloved one in your country