Can I Get a SIM Card with a Phone number?
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 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 pick 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 wasn’t any English speaking staff working. So I accepted my situation and thought “there is 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 an 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!