Phone jacks are the same in Japan as in the United States. Many hotels have LAN and Wi-Fi connections for high-speed Internet access. Ethernet cables are usually available at hotels if you don't bring your own. Wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) is increasingly available for free at certain coffee shops (Starbucks, after free registration), convenience stores (like 7-Eleven), and various tourist sites throughout the country; some higher-end hotels charge an extra fee for in-room Internet access. There are Internet cafés in many cities, but they tend to be dark, cavelike halls focused more on manga (comic books) and computer games than staying in touch with people back home. Although free Wi-Fi access is not as widespread as in the United States, free services allow tourists to access a number of Wi-Fi hot spots around the country. Two of the most useful are Travel Japan Wi-Fi (for hot spots throughout Japan) and Free Wi-Fi Japan (mainly in the Tokyo area and surrounding tourist sites). Visitors needing consistent Internet access when out and about may want to rent a pocket Wi-Fi router.
Free Wi-Fi Japan. This service provides access to many hot spots in Tokyo and the surrounding areas. It just requires getting a free log-in and password online or at a tourist center. flets.com/freewifi/index.html.
PuPuRu Mobile Phone Rental. These pocket Wi-Fi routers reserved online before your trip can be picked up at the airport and returned by post before leaving Japan. Rates range from ¥400 to ¥1,000 per day depending on the device. 03/3560–9566; www.pupuru.com/en.
Travel Japan Wi-Fi. For Wi-Fi access at up to 200,000 hot spots throughout Japan using iOS or Android devices, register online with this service. wi2.co.jp/tjw/english.html.
The good news is that you can now make a direct-dial telephone call from virtually any point on Earth. The bad news? You can't always do so cheaply. Calling from a hotel is almost always the most expensive option; hotels usually add huge surcharges to all calls, particularly international ones. Calling cards usually keep costs to a minimum, but only if you purchase them locally.
The country code for Japan is 81. When dialing a Japanese number from outside Japan, drop the initial "0" from the local area code.
Calling Within Japan
Public telephones are a dying species in cell-phone-happy Japan. But there are some public telephones in train and subway stations, and in hotel lobbies. Phones accept ¥100 coins as well as prepaid telephone cards. Operator assistance at 104 is in Japanese only. Weekdays 9–5 (except national holidays) English-speaking operators can help you at the toll-free NTT Information Customer Service Centre.
Directory Assistance. 104.
NTT Information Customer Service Centre. 0120/36–4463.
Calling Outside Japan
With pay phones that can be used for international calls becoming a rarity, and high rates calling from hotels, the best way to call abroad is using a Wi-Fi–based service like Skype or Google Voice. There are still a few telephone cards such as the KDDI Super World Card that can be used for international calls. Each card has a different access code, so follow the included instructions. Major U.S. cellular carriers also have international voice and data plans. Check yours for details.
The country code for the United States is 1.
Japan has several telephone companies for international calls, so make a note of all the possible access code numbers to use to connect to your U.S. server before departure.
AT&T Travel Information. www.att.com/esupport/traveler.jsp.
MCI WorldPhone. 800/955–0925; consumer.mci.com/international/english/resources/accessnos.jsp.
Sprint International Access. 866/866–7509; shop.sprint.com.
Telephone cards, sold in vending machines, hotels, and a variety of stores, are tremendously convenient. Cards for ¥1,000 can be used in virtually all public telephones. For international calls, look for phones that accept KDDI and Softbank prepaid cards valued between ¥1,000 and ¥7,000.
Japan is the world leader in mobile-phone technology, but overseas visitors cannot easily use their handsets in Japan because it is a non-GSM country. It is best to rent a phone from one of the many outlets at Narita, Kansai, and Nagoya airports. Softbank sells 3G SIM cards so you can use your own number in Japan. Most company rental rates start at ¥525 a day, excluding insurance. Check the airport websites for the current companies.
JAL ABC Rental Phone. 0120/086–072; www.jalabc.com/english/index3.html.
Softbank. 030/3560–7730; www.softbank-rental.jp.