Can I get a SIM Card?
So, the big question here is, can I get an actual SIM card with a phone number. A SIM card that will allow you to make and receive calls, send and receive messages along with some kind of data plan. Not to be confused with a Travel SIM; which only provides you with a data limit and usually expires within 7-30days.
First of all, why do you need a Japanese phone number? It’s required for many things such as getting a job, bank account, signing up for websites etc. Life in Japan becomes much, much easier once you’ve obtained an actual phone number!
If you have a good command of reading and writing Japanese you can easily order a phone number online from any company’s website. The company I’m currently using now is IIJmio and you can access their site here.
However, when I first arrived I couldn’t speak any Japanese and so this is how it all went down.
The grueling SIM Card application process
I already had a brand new IPhone 6S in my possession at the time, so all I needed was a SIM card for it ASAP! I went down to the one of the larger BIC Camera stores, located in Shinjuku. The only Japanese phrase I knew was 英語話せるスタッフがいますか？(Eigo hanaseru suttafu ga imasu ka), which translates to “Are there any English-speaking staff working here?”.
I entered the store and went to the shelf which has SIM cards, to picked up a small card board pamphlet which presented me with several data plans and prices. I selected my desired data and monthly price I thought was suitable. It was with the company IIJmio (they use Docomo’s mobile network; and one of the major phone companies in Japan), and from my selected plan I would receive a phone number, and 3GB of data all for 3000yen per month on a 12-month contract. This was the also the cheapest plan available, which I thought was good value.
Now while I was holding the pamphlet, a gentleman came over and served me, I simply just showed him my desired plan and he replied in Japanese! I then thought it was time to use the only Japanese phrase I knew and hope for the best. But, of course he looked puzzled and just told me to follow him by way of hand gestures.
I was escorted to the service counter where I was to be served by another gentleman (standing on the same side of the counter as me). I handed him the pamphlet, he also then proceeded to speak in Japanese. I recited my single phrase one more time, only to be greeted by a similar response and facial expression. By now I was guessing there was no one available to help me.
The first question he asked me was to see my 在留カード (Residence card), sometimes also referred to as a “gaijin card”. I had heard the word “Kaado”, so this I assumed was my turn to present my only valid form of identification. He inspected it, although I guess he was mainly just checking I had one!
He returned my card and then handed me a ticket number and I waited for my number to be called.
Finally, my number was called and I arrived at the counter, there a young girl served me and started speaking in the native tongue once again. I thought, and you probably already guessed it, time to use that phrase once more! However, this time she replied “sorry” in English, which I assumed to mean there weren’t any English speaking staff working. So I accepted my situation and thought “there are no English speaking staff coming to save you, just ride it out until the end!”
I handed her my resident card, and she then brings me an iPad to fill out an application form, which surprisingly was in ENGLISH!!! I was definitely happy about that!
Next, it came to the time for payment options, I had an international credit card and that seemed to work just fine! For people without this kind of card, you can also purchase pre-paid credit cards from most convenience stores throughout Japan.
After that was all done she handed me a invoice that had a total price of 1 yen! She gestured over to the register, so I went over to pay my 1 yen and came back and see her!
Selling my Soul
After returning with my 1 yen receipt, she then called another gentleman over and he started explaining everything about the contract. Of course, I didn’t understand anything, as this was also in the native dialect. So I just stood there saying はい (yes) when it was required, accepting my one year sentence. I could have sold my soul to the devil and still been completely oblivious…
After the big explanation and soul selling was over, the same girl from before returned and asked for my iPhone, she put the new SIM card in for me, set it all up and bang I was ready to go! It was all over like a quick slap in the face!
Indeed, there are many other ways to skin a cat, but that’s the story of how I got my SIM card in Japan!