Are you planning your trip to Japan and looking for the best e-sim card to stay connected and avoid high roaming charges? This is a complete guide with everything you need to know about using an e-sim card when traveling to Japan and a comparison of the best Japan e-sim cards in 2024.

Don’t waste money on high roaming charges, read my recommendations below and order an e-sim card for Japan on the internet and get connected in just a couple minutes. Below you will find a Japan e-sim comparison, up to date prices as per April 2024, all specifications and my recommendations.

This guide will also show you where and when to order an e-sim card for Japan, answer all your FAQ’s about using e-sim cards, a comparison with local prepaid sim cards for Japan and of course links to directly order your e-sim card for traveling to Japan online.

Since 2012 I am already traveling the world full time and throughout the years I turned my passion for traveling into a lifestyle and became a full time nomadic travel blogger. That is why I constantly get to a different country and pretty much every week I need to look for a new sim card to stay connected.

In 2023 I visited for example 34 different countries so imagine how many different prepaid and e-sim cards I used throughout the year.

In the past I used to buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in every country, but nowadays I mostly use e-sim cards to stay connected when traveling abroad. On my latest trip to Japan I tested the below recommended Japan e-sim cards for tourists.

Helping other travelers to save money while traveling the world is one of the reasons I started this travel blog. Providing essential travel tips is what made me start writing sim card guides from every country I visited and now on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world.

Traveltomtom also wrote e-sim card guides for: Switzerland, MoroccoMexicoVietnamSingaporePhilippinesMalaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Asia, Turkey, Egypt, Dubai, BrazilEurope, United Kingdom, Italy, USA, international e-sim cards and many more.

So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination. Bookmark Traveltomtom and let me help you save money!

Let me start with giving you my e-sim card recommendation for Japan in 2024. These are my favorite e-sim cards for traveling to Japan in 2024.

My recommendation

Traveltomtom recommends the following two e-sim cards for traveling to Japan:

1. SimOptions eSIM for Japan for $29.90 USD

  • 30 GB data-only e-sim
  • 4G/LTE
  • Valid in Japan only
  • Valid for 25 days
  • $0.99 USD per Gigabyte

2. Airalo e-sim card for $26 USD

  • 20 GB data-only e-sim
  • 4G/LTE
  • Operates on the KDDI and Softbank network
  • Valid in Japan only
  • Valid for 30 days
  • $1.3 USD per Gigabyte

The simple reason why Traveltomtom recommends the SimOptions e-sim card for Japan is that it is the best value e-sim with the lowest cost per Gigabyte. You can order this e-sim card for Japan via SimOptions.

The rate of only $0.99 USD per Gigabyte is the cheapest available for Japan e-sims.

This SimOptions e-sim card plan for Japan only supports 4G/LTE. These are data-only e-sims and do not come with a phone number. Which means incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported.

SimOptions has more e-sim card plans for Japan. Some are even 5G ready and their plans start from $4.90 USD. More about it in my comparison below.

The other recommendation is an Airalo e-sim card for Japan. Traveltomtom has been using Airalo e-sim cards for nearly 5 years now and never had an issue. Airalo has e-sim cards for Japan that start from just $4.5 USD.

The Airalo e-sim cards for Japan only support 4G/LTE, are data-only and do not come with a phone number. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported with Airalo e-sims for Japan.

Is Japan one of your stops on a trip around the world then you can also look into getting an e-sim card for world travelers. There are a bunch of e-sim cards that cover multiple countries and some are great for traveling to Europe, Asia and America.

There are 2 very important things to check before ordering an e-sim card for Japan or in general before using an e-sim card.

Unlocked phones only

Make sure your phone is unlocked. E-sim cards for tourists only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked then contact your mobile internet provider in your home country.

In general phones from Europe, Asia and the Middle East tend to be unlocked. Phones from North America are often locked.

If your smartphone is locked that means it does not allow another prepaid sim card or e-sim card to operate in the device. You can easily unlock your phone, but depending on your mobile internet provider you will be charged a fee for unlocking your phone.

E-sim compatible phones only

Second, and equally important: e-sim cards only work if your smartphone supports e-sim cards, also called e-sim compatible. All newer smartphones support e-sim cards. If you are not sure if your phone is e-sim compatible then simply go to Google and type in your mobile phone model in the search bar and ask if it is e-sim compatible. You will get the answer instantly. 

If your phone is NOT e-sim compatible then there is no other solution and you can NOT use an e-sim card for traveling to Japan.

However, you can still order a sim card for Japan on the internet before your trip. Find out everything you need to know about international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2024.

Comparison of the best e-sim cards for Japan

Buying an e-sim card on arrival in Japan is still not possible. None of the mobile internet providers in Japan offer e-sim cards for tourists, only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists.

At Haneda and Narita Airport in Tokyo as well as the airports in Sapporo, Fukuoka, Okinawa and Osaka there are NO sim card shops but only sim card vending machines and convenience stores to get a local sim card. None of the vending machines, convenience stores and sim card shops in Japan offer e-sim cards for tourists.

The only way to get an e-sim card for Japan is ordering one on the internet!

Luckily there are multiple e-sim providers that sell Japan e-sim cards for tourists. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for traveling in Japan from one of the well-known e-sim card providers that have proven to be reliable operators. 

Traveltomtom has tested and reviewed multiple e-sim providers. Here are Traveltomtom's trusted favorites that have proven to be reliable:

  1. SimOptions
  2. Airalo
  3. Nomad

Nowadays, you can buy an e-sim card for pretty much every country around the world. Order directly from one of the above e-sim card providers and instantly receive your e-sim card in your email. But before you buy an e-sim card first read all my tips below.

SimOptions is the only e-sim provider that also offers international prepaid sim cards for Japan. These are pre-activated physical prepaid sim cards that will be delivered to your door step before your trip and it is plug and play when you arrive in Japan.

Airalo and Nomad only sell e-sim cards for Japan.

SimOptions

SimOptions is a reputable e-sim card provider that is very much recommended by Traveltomtom. Ordering your tourist e-sim card for Japan through SimOptions is done fast and easy.

Traveltomtom has used SimOptions uncountable times for staying connected when traveling abroad. Very reliable, never an issue and often some of the cheapest e-sim card deals.

SimOptions is specialized in international e-sim cards valid in multiple countries however, for Japan they only have e-sim cards that are valid in Japan only.

simoptions esim card plans for japan 2024

These are the SimOptions e-sim card plans for Japan:

  • 1 GB data (5G ready) for 7 days = $4.9 USD
  • 3 GB data for 5 days = $6.90 USD
  • 5 GB data for 7 days = $7.90 USD
  • 10 GB data for 15 days = $9.90 USD
  • 15 GB data for 20 days = $21.90 USD
  • 20 GB data for 25 days = $24.90 USD
  • 30 GB data for 25 days = $29.90 USD

These SimOptions e-sim cards for Japan are only valid in Japan and are data-only. Incoming and outgoing calls/sms are not supported and these e-sim cards do not come with a phone number.

Click here to order an SimOptions e-sim cards for traveling in Japan.

The best value Japan e-sim card from SimOptions gives you 30 GB data for $29.90 USD, which comes down to $0.99 USD per Gigabyte. This rate makes SimOptions the best value e-sim card for traveling to South Korea in 2024.

Apart from the 1 GB data plan e-sim all the SimOptions e-sim cards for Japan only support 4G/LTE. The only plan that supports 5G is only valid for 7 days and gives you only 1 GB data.

Unfortunately SimOptions doesn’t specify exactly which mobile network these e-sim cards use in Japan.

The validity of these e-sim cards is 1 year and the credit validity starts instantly after installing the e-sim card, even if you are not in Japan. For more info check the SimOptions website.

Airalo

Airalo is a very reliable e-sim card provider and Traveltomtom has used Airalo uncountable times in more than 50 countries around the world. I can totally recommend using Airalo for ordering an e-sim card for Japan.

Why using Airalo? Airalo is one of the most recommended e-sim providers and very reliable. Airalo has e-sim cards for pretty much every country in the world. However, the Airalo e-sim cards are slightly more expensive per Gigabyte compared to the SimOptions e-sims I showed you above.

airalo esim cards for japan 2024

Here are the Airalo e-sim card plans for Japan for 2024: 

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
  • 2 GB data for 15 days = $6.5 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $8.5 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $11.5 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $18 USD
  • 20 GB data for 30 days = $26 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for Japan from Airalo.

The best value Japan e-sim card from Airalo gives you 20 GB data for $26 USD, which comes down to $1.3 USD per Gigabyte. Not a bad rate at all but higher than the e-sims from SimOptions.

The Airalo e-sim cards for Japan are from Moshi Moshi and they operate on the 4G/LTE network of KDDI and Softbank (Y!Mobile). The Airalo e-sim cards for Japan are not 5G ready, they only support 4G/LTE network.

All the Airalo e-sim cards are data-only sim cards without a phone number, so any phone/sms service is NOT supported. An Airalo e-sim card has to be installed within 1 month and after activation the credit validity starts when it connects the first time to a supported network. For more info check out the Airalo website.

Nomad

Lately Traveltomtom started recommending Nomad e-sim cards as they sometimes have cheap tourist e-sims for a lot of countries.

Although they have some good e-sim card plans for Japan, I must add that Traveltomtom had some issues with the performance as well as the installing of Nomad e-sim cards, so it is not Traveltomtom's first recommended e-sim for traveling to Japan in 2024.

Nomad has two different kind of e-sims for Japan regular plans and daily plans.

Daily plans ('unlimited' data plans)

nomad esim cards for japan with unlimited data

Let me first explain the daily plans and why I do not recommend these daily plans.

Technically these daily plans are e-sim cards for Japan with unlimited, but in reality it can be a nightmare.

You can select the number of days of your trip to Japan and how many GB of high-speed data you wish per day. You can choose between:

  • 1 GB data per day = $4 USD
  • 2 GB data per day = $6 USD
  • 3 GB data per day = $9 USD

After you used your daily data plan, your speed is reduced to 512 Kbps, which means this Nomad e-sim card for Japan is technically unlimited. But have you ever tried to use your phone with a speed of 512 Kbps? That means only WhatsApp will work and you might be able to send an email.

It is completely useless and therefore Traveltomtom does not recommend this Nomad e-sim card for Japan with unlimited data.

On top of that it does not make any sense, because let me show you the prices for the regular Japan e-sims from Nomad.

Regular plans

nomad esim card plans for japan 2024

Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for Japan for 2024:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $9 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $13 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $17 USD
  • 20 GB data for 30 days = $28 USD
  • 30 GB data for 30 days = $80 USD
  • 40 GB data for 30 days = $110 USD
  • 50 GB data for 30 days = $125 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for Japan from Nomad.

The Nomad website is a little less user friendly for finding the best e-sim card for your trip to Japan. Depending on your device you can't see all e-sim card plans in one overview, you have to click a little here and there depending on the size of your screen.

The best value e-sim card for Japan from Nomad is the one with 20 GB data for $28 USD, which comes down to $1.4 USD per Gigabyte.

This makes Nomad e-sim cards for Japan more expensive than Airalo and SimOptions.

The Nomad e-sim cards are either from SingTel or Joytel and they are data-only. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are NOT supported.

nomad japan esim card specifications singtel

The SingTel e-sim cards from Nomad operate on the LTE/4G network of KDDI in Japan and are not 5G ready.

nomad japan esim card specifications joytel

The Joytel e-sim cards from Nomad are 5G ready and they operate on the KDDI and Softbank (Y!Mobile) network.

The Nomad Japan e-sim cards have to be installed on your phone within 60 days and after installation its validity starts when it connects for the first time to a supported network in Japan or automatically after 60 days. Basically when the plane lands you are online. For more info check the Nomad website.

What is the cheapest e-sim card for Japan?

cheapest esim card for japan 2024

The cheapest e-sim card for Japan is an Airalo e-sim card for $4.5 USD. This e-sim gives you 1 GB data for 7 days, is only valid in Japan and does not support calling and texting.

Why ordering an e-sim card for traveling in Japan

E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Japan in 2024 and you can arrange everything online in just a couple clicks. No more visiting a sim card shop and swapping physical sim cards. Order online, scan the QR code, follow the steps and you are connected in less than 2 minutes. 

The most important reason to get an e-sim card is because we would like to stay connected on our trip to Japan without wasting money on high roaming costs. Our smartphones are pretty useless without a working data connection. Think about ordering a taxi through an app, finding nearby friends, restaurants and bars. Get directions from Google Maps or simply staying in touch with family back home, check your social media apps on long bus rides or your banking apps when paying contactless. 

One of the best things about arriving in Japan with an activated e-sim card is that you are online as soon as the plane lands. More about when to instal your e-sim card later.

There are so many reasons to stay connected when traveling to Japan, but the most important reason is that it makes your trip to Japan so much more convenient and fun!

At the same time we don’t want to waste money on high roaming charges. Many mobile internet operators still charge $3 USD per MB for data roaming, that means just opening the Instagram app will already cost you 20 MB * $3 USD = $60 USD! Not kidding… it still is very common in 2024.

E-sim cards are the easiest way to avoid high roaming charges!

Overseas data roaming plans

So what about overseas data roaming plans? Well, not recommended! Why? Did you read the small letters at what data speed you can use data roaming? Pretty much all mobile internet operators limit the data speed for overseas data roaming plans, which means you end up with 3G data speed. Do you have the patience to handle 3G? It is frustrating when all around you in pretty much all of the amazing tourist destinations in Japan there is 4G/LTE available.

And price-wise it should be a no brainer since you have seen how affordable the e-sim cards for Japan are. Why would you pay $5 to $10 USD per day on an overseas data roaming plan that limits your data speed.

Uncountable times travel friends have asked me: “Tom, can I use your hotspot? My data roaming plan is so slow, it is barely working!” Trust me, invest a couple dollars in an e-sim card or an international prepaid sim card for traveling to Japan if you want a physical prepaid sim card.

Stay connected all the time instead of begging for WiFi or a hotspot from friends. 

Where to buy an e-sim card for Japan? 

Online

You can only buy an e-sim card for Japan through an e-sim card provider on the internet. There are multiple e-sim card providers for Japan. Traveltomtom compared around 7 different e-sim card providers and concluded that the above mentioned ones (SimOptionsNomad and Airalo) are the best and most reliable e-sim card providers in 2024.

When buying an e-sim card for Japan through one of the above recommended e-sim providers you only need your email address and the e-sim card is instantly ready to use after installation. There is no ID registration needed.

On arrival in Japan

There are 4 main mobile internet providers in Japan: AU by KDDI, Y! Mobile by Softbank, Rakuten Mobile and DoCoMo. Unfortunately as per April 2024 none of the mobile internet operators in Japan offer e-sim cards for tourists. 

For many years tourists could not even buy a physical prepaid sim card in Japan due to regulations, luckily this is something from the past. However, buying a local prepaid sim card for tourists is still pretty complicated in Japan.

Tourist sim cards in Japan are mostly sold in convenience stores, at the stores of the mobile internet providers you can often not get a prepaid sim card. Sounds complicated, trust me it is complicated! E-sim cards for traveling to Japan are the solution.

If you are able to get a tourist sim card then only a physical prepaid sim card is available, a chip that you put in your phone. On airports in Japan there are sim card vending machines. Zero service, not worth your time and effort.

Traveltomtom researched the best Japan prepaid sim cards for tourists and also compared all the 4G/5G data networks of the mobile internet operators in Japan, more about it later.

When to order/activate an e-sim card for Japan?

You can order an e-sim card for Japan pretty much any time you want. Most e-sim cards have to be installed on a phone within 1 or 2 months after purchasing, some even within 1 year, so you have time.

More important therefore is when do you instal/activate the e-sim card. The validity of some e-sims start straight after the installation, other e-sim cards only start their validity when they connect the first time to a supported network.

Traveltomtom advices to instal your e-sim card on the day of departure to Japan or a day before. You will need a stable internet connection to instal your e-sim card. Pretty much all the international airports in Japan have free public WiFi which works ok most of the time, so you could use that to install your e-sim card on arrival.

Very important is to make sure you have a stable internet connection or you might run into issues with your e-sim. Therefore just to make sure Traveltomtom advices you to install/activate your e-sim card in your home country.

My personal advice is to instal your tourist e-sim card for Japan before you get into the plane, because then as soon as the plane lands in Japan you will be connected to the internet and you can enjoy data on your phone instantly.

How do I know all this info about e-sims? Traveltomtom uses on average more than 30 e-sim cards per year because of my nomadic lifestyle of constantly traveling the world, 365 days a year, since 2012.

How to activate an e-sim card

Installing and activating an e-sim card is made as simple as possible. Everyone can activate an e-sim card and the instructions on how to are very detailed and will be send to you instantly by email after you ordered your e-sim.

But wait, forget about the instructions, it gets even easier. Just scan the QR code!

When you order an e-sim card plan for Japan you instantly receive a summary of your order including a QR-code after the payment is processed.

You will see a summary of your e-sim card order including a QR code on your screen and at the same time you will also receive an email with the same QR code. The email contains instructions on how to instal and activate your Japan e-sim card. Regardless where you order your e-sim card, all e-sim providers send you detailed instructions.

But installing an activating an e-sim card is as easy as scanning the QR code with the same phone where you want to activate the e-sim card on. The QR code contains all the information about your Japan e-sim card. 

Once you scan the QR code you will be guided through a couple simple steps and within less than 1 minute your e-sim card is successfully installed.

Very important is that you are connected to the internet when installing your e-sim card otherwise you will get an error and issues can occur.

Tip: if you order an e-sim card with the same phone where you want to instal the e-sim card on then ask a friend or someone nearby to take a photo of the QR code and then you scan the QR code from his/her phone and start the installation.

Things to know before ordering an e-sim card for Japan 

Here are some general tips and FAQ’s for using e-sim cards when traveling abroad. These tips do not only apply for Japan e-sim cards, but are things you have to know before buying an e-sim card in general.

Make sure your phone is unlocked

To make sure you didn’t miss this, let me say this again: e-sim cards only work in UNLOCKED phones. If your phone is unlocked then you can use any e-sim card without any problems.

If your phone is locked then ask your mobile internet provider from your home country to unlock your phone before your trip to Japan. It is likely that your mobile internet provider will charge you a fee for unlocking your smartphone.

If you are unable to unlock your phone you can look into getting a portable WiFi for staying connected when traveling to Japan or better… bring a second unlocked phone on your trip to Japan and use it as a portable WiFi device.

Which smartphones support e-sim cards?

Another very important thing you have to check before buying an e-sim card is if your smartphone supports e-sim cards. If you have any of the latest smartphones then there is no need to worry, all new smartphones of the well known brands support e-sim cards.

The fastest way to find out if your phone is e-sim compatible is by asking Google the question: is my (your phone model) e-sim compatible? Simple as that!

Can I trust these e-sim card providers?

All the e-sim card providers for Japan recommended above (SimOptions, Nomad and Airalo) are reputable e-sim card providers reviewed and tested by Traveltomtom. All of them are licensed third party companies and resellers that partner or work directly with the mobile internet providers in Japan.

Traveltomtom has successfully used prepaid and e-sim cards from SimOptions and Airalo or more than 5 years. Nomad is fairly new to Traveltomtom, but Nomad has so far proven to be a reliable e-sim card provider as well.

That said, Traveltomtom has faced some issues with installing Nomad e-sim card which was a bit disappointing and therefore it is recommended to follow all steps exactly as described and make sure you are connected to a stable internet connection.

All e-sim card providers have their own Helpdesk which you can contact may you encounter any problems with your purchased e-sim or in case you want to claim a refund.

Traveltomtom does NOT sell Japan e-sim cards, I only RECOMMEND you to use e-sim cards for your next trip to Japan instead of buying a local prepaid sim card.

Can I keep my phone number from home with a Japan e-sim card?

Yes, you can and this is for many people a reason to order an e-sim card to stay connected when traveling to Japan. An e-sim card can be used next to your physical or e-sim card from your home country at the same time. You do not need a dual-sim phone for using an e-sim card.

So you can have multiple e-sim cards installed on your phone? Yes, no problem at all!

For example: you can turn off the mobile data from your sim card from home but still use it for texting and calling. Your new Japan e-sim card you can be used at the same time just for data to ensure you are not wasting money on high roaming costs.

This is also the trick to keep receiving sms for example for OTP (one time password) sms to login to applications.

Switching between physical and e-sim cards is a matter of turning them on/off in the settings. Just always make sure your sim card from home is switched off for data roaming.

Can I make phone calls with a Japan e-sim card?

No, unfortunately all the tourist e-sim cards for Japan available on the internet do NOT include calling and texting. The e-sim cards from SimOptions, NomadAiralo are data-only e-sim cards and any outgoing calls/sms are not supported. 

Even if you buy a local prepaid sim card for tourists on arrival in Japan it is really complicated to find a tourist sim card including calling/texting. Due to regulations pretty much all the prepaid sim cards in Japan are data-only and calling/texting is not supported.

Pretty much all hotels, restaurants, guides and tour companies in Japan have WhatsApp services, so you can easily give them a call through WhatsApp. There is no direct need for local calling minutes.

Does a Japan e-sim card come with a phone number?

No, none of the Japan e-sim cards you can buy on the internet come with a phone number, which also means you can not receive any phone calls or sms.

Local prepaid sim cards you buy on arrival in Japan also do NOT support incoming and outgoing calling and texting.

In the above Japan e-sim card comparison you can find all the specifications per e-sim card.

Can I use 5G on an Japan e-sim card?

5g tourist esim for japan 2024

None of the Airalo e-sim cards for Japan are 5G ready as of April 2024. SimOptions also only has one Japan e-sim card plan that is 5G ready and that is their smallest e-sim with just 1 GB data for 7 days.

If you want a 5G e-sim card for Japan then check out the Joytel e-sim card for Japan that you can order via Nomad. These e-sim cards operate on the KDDI and Softbank 5G network if available in your area.

Here are the data e-sim cards for Japan from Nomad that are 5G ready:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $9 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $13 USD
  • 30 GB data for 30 days = $80 USD
  • 40 GB data for 30 days = $110 USD
  • 50 GB data for 30 days = $125 USD

Click here to order a 5G e-sim card for Japan from Nomad.

All the best places to visit in Japan offer an excellent 4G/LTE signal and the data speed is very good even on 4G/LTE. Later more about the best mobile data network in Japan.

Are there e-sim cards for Japan with unlimited data?

None of the by Traveltomtom recommended Japan e-sim cards for tourists include unlimited data.

However, technically the Nomad daily plans are unlimited data e-sims for Japan, but not at high speed. After you used up your daily plan of high-speed data your data speed will be reduced to 512kbps. High-speed data will reset every 24 hours from the time you activate the data.

E-sim cards with unlimited data are USELESS!

So even if you would come across e-sim card providers that offer e-sim cards for Japan with unlimited data then make sure the unlimited data is on max data speed. Pretty much all unlimited data e-sims reduce the data speed after you used X amount of Gigabytes per day.

Holafly is an e-sim card provider that sells e-sim cards with unlimited data, but does NOT specify what is the exact so-called Fair Use Policy (FUP). 

Traveltomtom does NOT recommend Japan e-sim cards with unlimited data plans. There are always restrictions! And on Holafly sim cards I experienced a reduce in data speed after using more than 2 GB per day. When I contacted support they explained me that I had to wait for 24 hours until my data speed was restored to normal.

Those 24 hours were a nightmare as my data speed was barely enough to use WhatsApp. Social media apps were not loading! 

Again, Traveltomtom does NOT recommend e-sim cards for Japan with unlimited data. But if you think you will never use more than 2 GB per day, then this might be your favorite e-sim card.

However, you should ask yourself then: what is then the point of an e-sim with unlimited data!?

The SimOptions e-sim card for Japan with 30 GB data is for most travelers more than enough for their trip to Japan. If this is not enough you can also order 2 e-sim cards and after one is done, you instal the second one.

There are a lot of different specifications per e-sim card. Another reason why I advice you to take a close look at my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to Japan in 2024 before choosing your favorite.

Are e-sim cards the best way to stay connected when traveling to Japan?

E-sim cards are the easiest and fastest way to get data on your phone when traveling to Japan, but what is the best way?

There are 3 ways to stay connected when traveling to Japan:

  • Local prepaid sim cards
  • International prepaid sim cards
  • E-sim cards

Let’s compare e-sim cards, local prepaid sim cards and international prepaid sim cards, for you to find out what is your preferred way of staying connected.  

Local prepaid sim cards

In general if you use a lot of data then local prepaid sim cards are a cheaper way to stay connected, depending on the length of your trip. However, this does not count for Japan.

The Japan prepaid sim cards for tourists from Rakuten Mobile, AU by KDDI, DoCoMo and Softbank are with unlimited data but they have a fair-use policy of 2 or 3 GB per day, so that is not really unlimited. These physical prepaid sim cards cost around $22 USD exclusive of the registration fee.

When buying a local prepaid sim card in Japan you get a physical sim card and you need to swap this one with your existing sim card from home.

You can only buy these local prepaid sim cards for tourists on arrival in Japan in a convenience store. At airports in Japan there are no sim card shops, only sim card vending machines.

Local prepaid sim cards in Japan do not come with calling minutes, pretty much all the local prepaid sim cards in Japan are data-only. That means incoming and outgoing calls/sms are not supported.

International prepaid sim cards

If your smartphone is not e-sim compatible you can order an international prepaid sim card for traveling to Japan. These are physical prepaid sim cards you order on the internet and will be delivered to your home address.

Some of these are great for visiting Japan and they are valid in up to 141 countries around the world and you can easily order them online.

If after visiting Japan you are traveling onwards in America, Asia or in Europe then check Traveltomtom’s list of the best sim cards for traveling internationally in 2024.

international prepaid sim card for japan

As I mentioned before SimOptions is the only sim card provider that also sells physical prepaid sim cards for traveling internationally.

A pre-activated physical sim card will be delivered to your door step before your trip to Japan. You put this physical sim card in your phone and as soon as the plane touches the ground in Japan and the sim card connects to a supported network you are online. Plug and play!

If you look at the international prepaid sim card above you see that the physical sim card version of the Orange Holiday World is also a good option for traveling to Japan.

A physical prepaid sim card with 10 GB data only costs $49.90 USD, which is $4.99 USD per Gigabyte.

Click here to order a physical prepaid sim card for Japan via SimOptions.

E-sim cards

As explained throughout the article there are two different e-sim cards for traveling in Japan:

  • E-sim cards that you buy on the internet through a third party
  • E-sim cards that you buy in Japan in a mobile internet provider store

However, as of April 2024 the mobile internet providers in Japan do NOT offer e-sim cards for tourists. They only provide physical prepaid sim cards for tourists.

E-sim cards vs. local prepaid sim cards

Getting an e-sim card on the internet is the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Japan, no doubt! You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. Right here, right now and you are all set for your trip to Japan.

You arrive prepared and there is no need to visit a sim card shop on arrival in Japan. As soon as the plane lands, you are online!

But what is cheaper? An e-sim card or a local prepaid sim card for tourists?

When we compare the prices for Japan e-sim cards with the prices for local prepaid sim cards in Japan Traveltomtom comes to the conclusion that there is not much difference in price. E-sim cards for Japan are very affordable and there are some amazing e-sim card deals for Japan available on the internet.

Remember that some of the e-sim cards for Japan also go down to only $0.99 USD per Gigabyte. The SimOptions e-sim card plan for Japan gives you 30 GB data for $29.90 USD and is the best buy e-sim card for Japan in 2024.

Local physical prepaid sim cards cost about the same price when you include the registration fee but they will give you unlimited data. Keep in mind that this is in reality only 2 GB data per day, because if you use more than 2 GB data per day then your data speed will be reduced.

Local prepaid sim cards can only be bought in Japan on arrival in a convenience store or at the airport in a sim card vending machine. Then you will have to do the registration yourself by scanning your passport. Trust me buying a local prepaid sim card in Japan is complicated.

An e-sim card for Japan can be bought in just 2 minutes on the internet at any time of day without any form of identification.

After a long flight you just want to get to your hotel and it is often a big task to find a place where you can buy a local prepaid sim card. With an e-sim card that you order on the internet you are connected as soon as the plane lands.

Simply because of this convenience Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim cards for Japan from either SimOptions or Airalo.

There are many reasons why a lot of travelers simply get an e-sim card for visiting Japan: faster, easier, less stress and even cheaper depending on how much data you need.

Data speed

Another difference between a local prepaid sim card and an e-sim card is that e-sim cards are in general through a third party, a so called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). These MVNO’s operate on the network of one of the main mobile internet operators and basically buy bandwidth.

This may sound a little bit too technical, but what it means is that e-sim cards through an MVNO are the last ones in line when the line is busy. Especially during peak times, the performance of an e-sim cards could be less compared to a local prepaid sim card from a mobile internet operator you bought in Japan.

Bottomline: the data speed of e-sim cards can be less compared to a local prepaid Japan sim card.

In reality you won't really notice the difference much because yes it may occur that your data speed is a little slower for a couple minutes, but it is still fast enough to roam the internet without any problems.

Best 4G/5G network in Japan

best 4g 5g network in japan

Traveltomtom researched the 4G/5G network of all the mobile internet providers in Japan and compared the mobile internet coverage maps of AU (KDDI), Y!MOBILE (Softbank), Rakuten Mobile and DoCoMo.

Conclusion is that DoCoMo and AU by KDDI have the best 4G/5G mobile data network in Japan in 2024. The Rakuten Mobile 4G/5G network is small smaller and is the weakest 4G/5G mobile data network in Japan in 2024.

For tourist traveling to Sapporo it is not recommended to get a sim card to operates on the Rakuten Mobile network. Their 4G/5G coverage in Sapporo is very poor. Y! Mobile (Softbank) also has a weak 4G/5G network in Sapporo compared to KDDI and DoCoMo.

The Nomad and Airalo e-sim cards operate on the KDDI and Softbank network.

SimOptions does unfortunately not specify on which network they operate in Japan.

I am sure some of the above tips for finding the best e-sim card for your trip to Japan were helpful. I hope that after reading through my comparison and all my tips and tricks it was easier to make a decision and order your preferred e-sim card for Japan.

If you still have any questions about e-sim cards then please leave me a comment below and I am more than happy to help you out.

Curious what the life of a full time nomadic traveler looks like? Go check out my 610K Instagram account or 1.2 Million TikTok account both called @traveltomtom. Follow along with daily updates from around the world about the good, the bad and the ugly about traveling.

Traveltomtom is on the road to 197, meaning I would like to travel to every country in the world. As of April 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, still about 40 to go, but no rush.

Enjoy your trip to Japan!

Some links in this article about the best e-sim cards for Japan are affiliate links. If you buy any product after clicking on an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you!