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Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: The Comprehensive Guide

pocket wifi vs sim card in Japan

Thinking about whether you should get Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan for your next travel?

We compare in this guide if it’s better to have a pocket wifi or sim card in Japan to make sure you get the most out of your next trip. While pocket wifi can be brought anywhere, sim cards and esims in Japan allow for better convenience and are often cheaper.

Traveling to Japan can be an exciting adventure, but staying connected in a foreign land can be a challenging task. Whether it’s for business, travel, or staying in touch with loved ones back home, having a reliable internet connection is crucial.

The two most popular options for tourists are Pocket WiFi and SIM cards. This guide aims to provide a detailed comparison of these two options, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Read here: Pocket Wifi vs eSIM and Things to know before visiting Japan


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Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: Introduction to Pocket WiFi and SIM Cards

Before we delve into the comparison, let’s briefly understand what Pocket WiFi and SIM cards are.

Pocket WiFi

pocket wifi vs sim card in japan

Pocket WiFi is a small, portable device that provides wireless internet access. It creates a personal hotspot, allowing multiple devices (like your phone, laptop, or tablet) to connect to it simultaneously. Essentially, it gives you a private WiFi network that you can carry around in your pocket.

Check our favorite pocket wifi device – GlocalMe.

SIM Card

A SIM card is a tiny chip that you insert into your phone. It connects your phone to a particular cellular network, enabling voice calls, text messages, and mobile data usage. When you buy a local SIM card in Japan, you’re buying access to Japan’s local network for a specific period and data limit.

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: Alteratives to Pocket Wifi or SIM Card in Japan

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: The Comprehensive Guide

eSIM in Japan is very popular and convenient. Holafly offers unlimited data in Japan while Airalo gives you cheaper data prices which are great alternatives to pocket wifi or sim card in Japan.

Holafly Japan eSim for less than $60 USD if you use our code GAMINTRAVELER you will have unlimited internet for 30 days eSim in Japan for just $2 USD per day.

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: Why You Need Internet Connection in Japan

Japan is a technologically advanced country with a rich history and culture. From navigating the vast Tokyo subway system to translating menus in Osaka, to sharing pictures of the beautiful temples in Kyoto, you’ll need a dependable internet connection.

Having access to apps like Google Maps, Google Translate, and social media platforms will make your journey much smoother.

Pocket WiFi in Japan: Pros and Cons

Pros of Pocket WiFi

1. Multi-Device Connection: A significant advantage of Pocket WiFi is that it allows multiple devices to connect simultaneously. This is especially beneficial if you’re traveling with family or friends or have multiple devices.

2. No Compatibility Issues: Pocket WiFi works with any WiFi-enabled device. There’s no need to worry about whether your phone is unlocked or compatible with Japan’s cellular networks.

3. High-Speed Internet: Pocket WiFi devices in Japan usually connect to the LTE network, offering high-speed internet access. It’s perfect for high-data activities like streaming or video calls.

Cons of Pocket WiFi

1. Battery Life: While the battery life of a Pocket WiFi device is usually good, heavy usage can drain it quickly. You might need to carry a power bank for backup.

2. Rental Process: You have to rent a Pocket WiFi device, pick it up from a specific location (like the airport or a post office), and return it before leaving the country.

3. Cost: Depending on the rental plan, Pocket WiFi can be more expensive than a SIM card.

SIM Card in Japan: Pros and Cons

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: The Comprehensive Guide

Pros of SIM Card

1. Cost-Effective: For solo travelers or those on a budget, SIM cards can be a cheaper alternative to Pocket WiFi.

2. Convenience: Once you’ve installed the SIM card in your phone, you’re good to go. No need to worry about charging or returning a device.

3. Variety of Plans: There are various SIM card plans to choose from, depending on your data needs and length of stay.

Holafly Japan eSim for less than $60 USD if you use our code GAMINTRAVELER you will have unlimited internet for 30 days eSim in Japan for just $2 USD per day.

Cons of SIM Card

1. Phone Compatibility: Not all phones are compatible with Japan’s cellular networks. Your phone must be SIM-free or unlocked to use a Japanese SIM card.

2. Single Device: Unlike Pocket WiFi, a SIM card typically supports only a single device. If you have multiple devices or are traveling in a group, everyone would need their own SIM card.

3. Limited Data: Some SIM cards come with data limits. If you’re a heavy data user, you might exhaust your data limit before your trip ends.

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan: Where and How to Get Pocket WiFi and SIM Card in Japan

Pocket WiFi

1. Online Pre-Order: You can pre-order your Pocket WiFi online before your trip. Many providers offer delivery to airports, hotels, or residential addresses in Japan. Once your trip is over, you’ll need to return it by post or at designated drop-off points.

2. Airport: You can also rent Pocket WiFi devices directly from kiosks at most Japanese airports.

SIM Card

1. Online Pre-Order: You can order your Japanese SIM card online and have it delivered to your home, your hotel in Japan, or pick it up at the airport.

2. Airport: Most Japanese airports have kiosks or stores where you can buy a SIM card right away.

3. Convenience Stores: Stores like 7-Eleven or BIC Camera in Japan sell prepaid SIM cards.

4. Mobile Stores: You can visit a local mobile store in Japan to buy a SIM card.

Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card: What Should You Choose?

The choice between a Pocket WiFi and a SIM card depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider the following factors:

1. Number of Devices: If you have multiple devices or are traveling in a group, Pocket WiFi could be a more convenient option.

2. Phone Compatibility: If your phone is locked or incompatible with Japanese networks, you may want to choose Pocket WiFi.

3. Cost: If budget is a concern, a SIM card might be the cheaper option, especially for solo travelers.

4. Convenience: While both options have their conveniences, a SIM card is often more straightforward — there’s no need to worry about charging or returning it.

5. Data Usage: If you’re a heavy data user, a Pocket WiFi with unlimited data might serve you better.

In conclusion, both Pocket WiFi and SIM cards have their pros and cons. Consider your data needs, budget, the number of devices, and the length of your stay in Japan before making a decision. Both options can provide reliable and fast internet, ensuring you stay connected during your visit to Japan.

Japan is a country with excellent connectivity options for travelers. Whether you choose a Pocket WiFi or a SIM card, you’re likely to have a smooth and enjoyable internet experience during your trip. Safe travels and enjoy Japan!

Choosing a Pocket WiFi or SIM Card: Personal Experiences

Example 1: The Solo Traveller

As a solo traveler, I personally found pocket WiFi to be a lifesaver during my stay in Japan. Renting a pocket WiFi from Japan Wireless, I was able to use it anywhere, whether it was navigating the busy streets of Tokyo, exploring the serene temples of Kyoto, or even during my hike on Mount Fuji. The unlimited data and long battery life kept me connected all day long. I did not have to worry about running out of data or looking for WiFi hotspots. The device was small and light, fitting easily into my backpack. The only challenge I faced was ensuring I had access to a power source to charge the pocket WiFi at the end of the day.

Example 2: The Group Traveller

On the other hand, my friend traveled as a group and found that using SIM cards was more economical and convenient for them. They all purchased the B-Mobile Visitor SIM with 5GB data for 21 days. This option gave them flexibility as they could use their phones independently without having to stay within the range of a pocket WiFi. Moreover, with a SIM card, they did not need to worry about returning any device at the end of the trip.

Popular Places for Connectivity in Japan

While Japan’s connectivity is generally impressive, it’s worth noting that there are certain locations where you might need to rely on your pocket WiFi or SIM card more.


In Tokyo, free WiFi can be found in many public places such as cafes, train stations, and convenience stores. However, the city is massive, and there will be times when you are navigating through areas with limited WiFi coverage. In these instances, having a pocket WiFi or SIM card is invaluable.


In Kyoto, the situation is similar. While you will find free WiFi spots around the city, especially in popular tourist areas, a pocket WiFi or SIM card will ensure you have a stable internet connection, which is particularly handy when you are trying to find your way around this historical city.

Rural Areas

In the rural areas of Japan, such as in the northern parts of Hokkaido or the southern islands of Okinawa, public WiFi can be sparse. If you’re planning to venture to these regions, a pocket WiFi or SIM card is a must to stay connected.

Troubleshooting: Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card in Japan

Traveling in a foreign country isn’t always seamless, and it’s important to understand some common issues you might face with both Pocket WiFi and SIM Cards in Japan.

Pocket WiFi Issues

The most common issue with pocket WiFi devices is battery drainage. Most devices last 8-10 hours, but this can vary depending on the specific model and usage. Heavy use, such as video streaming or large file downloads, can significantly decrease battery life. Carrying a portable charger can help mitigate this issue.

Also, the signal strength can sometimes be affected in underground areas or buildings with thick walls.

Finally, remember that you are responsible for the device. Losing it can result in hefty fees.

SIM Card Issues

For SIM cards, a common problem is not being able to connect to the internet after inserting the card. This is often due to incorrect APN settings, which can be resolved by following the instructions provided with the SIM card.

If you have a locked phone, you won’t be able to use a SIM card from another carrier. Before you travel, ensure your device is unlocked.

The Future: eSIMs in Japan

With technology continually advancing, the use of eSIMs is on the rise. An eSIM is an electronic SIM card. Instead of inserting a physical SIM card into your phone, you just download the eSIM profile. This technology makes switching between carriers or plans easier and eliminates the need for physical SIM cards.

As of now, eSIMs are not widely available in Japan, but this is likely to change in the future. For travelers, this means even more flexible and convenient options for staying connected when traveling in Japan.

Holafly Japan eSim for less than $60 USD if you use our code GAMINTRAVELER you will have unlimited internet for 30 days eSim in Japan for just $2 USD per day.

Best Apps for Travel in Japan

Whether you choose a pocket WiFi or a SIM card, there are some apps that can enhance your travel experience in Japan:

  1. Google Maps: This is a must-have for navigation. Japan’s cities can be confusing, and Google Maps will be your best friend.
  2. HyperDia: This app is perfect for those using the train system in Japan. It provides routes, schedules, and prices for train journeys.
  3. Japan Official Travel App: Developed by Japan National Tourism Organization, this app provides tourist information, free WiFi spots, and public transportation routes.
  4. Line: This is the most popular messaging app in Japan. It’s useful to have, especially if you’re meeting up with locals.
  5. Gurunavi: This is Japan’s premier restaurant guide. It allows you to search for restaurants by location, cuisine, and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pocket WiFi vs SIM cards in Japan

1. Can I rent a pocket WiFi at Narita or Haneda airports?

Yes, you can rent a pocket WiFi device upon arrival at either Narita or Haneda airports. There are several providers with counters at the airport, and they usually offer competitive prices. However, it’s recommended to reserve a device online beforehand to ensure availability.

2. Can I buy a Japanese SIM card outside of Japan?

Yes, several companies offer Japanese SIM cards that you can purchase online before your trip. This can save you time and stress upon arrival. However, check whether your phone is unlocked and compatible with Japanese networks before purchasing.

3. Can I use my pocket WiFi device outside of Japan?

This depends on the device and provider. Some pocket WiFi devices are only suitable for use in Japan, while others are global devices that can be used in multiple countries. Check with your provider to confirm.

4. Can I make calls and send texts with a data-only SIM card?

Data-only SIM cards, as the name suggests, only provide data services. To make calls or send texts, you can use various apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or LINE using your data.

5. How do I top up data on my Japanese SIM card?

This will depend on the provider. Some offer top-up services online or via an app, while others may require you to purchase a top-up card from a convenience store. Always check this information before purchasing a SIM card.

6. Will my Pocket WiFi or SIM card work everywhere in Japan?

While coverage is generally excellent in urban areas across Japan, it may be spotty or non-existent in rural or remote areas. If you’re planning to visit such areas, consider a provider with the best nationwide coverage, like NTT Docomo.

Final Thoughts on Pocket Wifi vs Sim Card for Japan

While Pocket Wifi can be used anywhere, data can be weaker compared to local prepaid sims and esims in Japan, which we prefer.

Whether you choose a Pocket WiFi or a SIM card, the most important thing is to ensure you are connected during your time in Japan. Plan according to your itinerary, budget, and the size of your travel group. Both options have their own strengths, and understanding them will ensure you make the right choice for your unique travel needs.

Both have their advantages and it’s about finding what fits your travel style and budget. What’s important is to ensure you have a reliable internet connection to enhance your travel experience in this beautiful country.

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