There are a lot of different options these days for getting online during your visit to Japan, though none are perfect. Today we went out to test one of the options offered by Japanese mobile carriers using the Wi-Fi networks that their domestic customers can access.
In order to reduce the need for their customers to use mobile data networks, the mobile carriers also provide Wi-Fi hotspots all over the country. Many of these are now being opened up for visitors as well, usually with 1~2 week subscriptions for generally low costs.
We did our test using docomo Wi-Fi for visitors, a hotspot service (approximately 150,000 in Japan) that you can purchase weekly access for. NTT DOCOMO is the largest carrier with the best network in Japan, so probably a good place to start.
Getting the service
We had a coupon code to test out the service, which we redeemed on their homepage. No matter when you purchase it, the subscription period only starts after you log-in the first time, so it’s no problem to purchase it before your trip.
After you make the initial purchase you receive an email with some important codes, but we really suggest that you write these down because you will have trouble copying and pasting on a mobile device when you need to log in. Not a problem when you’re on a PC though.
Our test was done in Meguro which is a main stop on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. You can see the available spots on the image above, but more popular areas have many more available.
Step 1: Find the network
The docomo spots are literally all over the place, from train stations to cafes and convenience stores. Sometimes you’ll see a sign like the one pictured above which shows the docomo mascot. On your device you’re looking for a network named “0000docomo” or just “docomo”.
Step 2: Put in the security key for the network
This one you can paste in if you have it. This should be remembered every time you find the same Wi-Fi network wherever you are.
Step 3: Log-in
Once you’re on the network a page will load. Tap “docomo Wi-Fi for visitors” at the top left to log-in.
Step 4: User ID and password
If you’re using a smartphone a new window will pop up with these fields. You’ll need to type these in manually.
Step 5: Success!
From now you should be online, and your device should automatically connect to these networks when they are available during your trip. We tested this by going around to a few different spots, from a burger joint to a convenience store, and our devices connected automatically.
We also made sure to do a speed test of the network to see exactly how much bandwidth we’re really talking about. Obviously it depends on where you are and how close you are to the hub, so we did our test inside of a convenience store. At an average of 30mbps the speed is pretty incredible for a public Wi-Fi service, essentially better than most people have at home. Great for mobile devices, but if you need to connect using a PC to do work this is better than any other Wi-Fi option out there, especially the free Wi-Fi offered in coffee shops or other public spaces.
Getting Wi-Fi from a carrier like docomo Wi-Fi can be a pretty good deal, with low costs, tons of networks, and great speed. The initial hurdle is getting connected the first time, but once we were on it worked quite well across different access points. Probably a good thing to get especially if you’re planning on using a PC outside of your hotel, or don’t want to max out your portable Wi-Fi or SIM card data too quickly.