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Phones & Internet

Making calls, owning a phone, using and getting internet

All you need to know about telephones and internet.

  1. Domestic calls
  2. International calls
  3. Mobile phones
  4. Home phones
  5. Public phones
  6. Internet Connections

Japanese phone numbers typically take the form (012)-345-6789. The numbers in parentheses are the area code which can vary in length from 2-6 digits; however, the phone number always has ten digits regardless of the area code’s length. Mobile numbers typically take the form 090-1234-5678 and always have eleven digits.

1. Domestic calls

The domestic phone company in Japan is NTT. In Japan, you are charged for every outgoing call, except designated free numbers (i.e. 0120 numbers). Some mobile phones CANNOT call 0120 numbers. The farther away you call, the more you are charged. The charges aren`t outrageous, but it takes a few months of experimenting to see what your bill adds up to. If you aren`t careful and use your phone too much in your first month, the bill can add up quickly. In some cases, your domestic bill can be more expensive than our international bill – so if you`re feeling down and your best friend lives on the other side of the prefecture, it may be cheaper to call mom and dad. However, incoming calls are free. Your domestic phone bill can be taken out of your bank account automatically. If automatic payment is not for you, you will receive a bill by mail which you can simply bring to any convenience store (7-11, Circle K, Family Mart). You don`t need to know any Japanese to pay your bill at the convenience store – simply hand it to the clerk, and once it is rung through, hand over the right amount of yen… done!


It is possible to get discounts on your domestic calls. The way it works is by having the numbers ou call the most linked up to the company`S own access code. But this isn`t worth the hassle unless you make A LOT of domestic long distance calls.

These companies can help you: JT (Japan Telecom) – 0120-00-8882    DDI (Daini Denden Inc.) – 0120-71-0077  and TWJ (Telway Japan Corp.) – 0120-03-0070

Important numbers

  • Collect calls or credit card calls: 0051
  • National Directory Assistance: 0056
  • Telegrams at KDDI: 03-3344-5151
  • Local Directory Assistance: 104

2. International calls

This is how to dial to another country from Japan:

  1. Dial the international dialing access code (010).
  2. Dial the country code of the country you are calling.
  3. If the number starts with a 0, drop the 0 and dial everything else.

For example, to call the US number (123) 456-7890, dial 010+1+123-456-7890. Note that this method will work from any Japanese phone, however it is the most expensive way to make an international call. Most service providers offer an international calling program that is cheaper but requires registration.

Discount International Calling

There are many options for discount international calling. Internet based services (VoIP such as Skype) are probably the cheapest options for both residents and travelers. While callback services offer competitive rates, they are slowly losing popularity as VoIP becomes more mainstream.

Service Provider Programs
Direct dialing international numbers is possible through all phone service providers, but they offer better rates if you register for their international programs. Contact your service provider for details.

Internet Based Services (VoIP)
Internet based services such as Skype, YahooBB and Hikari Denwa connect through the internet and can offer some of the best rates for international calling with call quality similar to direct dialing. Their downside is that they require an internet connection, and some services can only be bought bundled with internet service. If you`re looking to sign up for internet, YahooBB and Hikari Denwa are both very good options to get a VoIP phone as part of your contract for very little cost (extra US$5 / 500 yen per month).

Calling Cards
International calling cards can be bought at convenience stores, online, and at vending machines (city only). Shop around for the best rates for the particular country that you wish to call.

Callback Services
When making a call with these services you first call an access number, let the phone ring once, and then hang up. This call starts an automated system that then calls you back and prompts you to enter the phone number that you want to call. You will then be connected through the callback service’s network at a cheaper rate than direct dialing.

3. Mobile phones

The mobile phone market is very advanced in Japan. There are three major companies offering a variety of phones and plans – choosing one will be the hardest part. All three offer plans that allow for cheap calling between phones with the same company, so it helps to ask JETs in your area which provider they have – if you`re going to be calling them, you should look into using the same provider.

The three main companies are AU by KDDI, Softbank, and NTT Docomo (the most popular among Japanese). You can find their websites on Google, all three have English versions of their websites.

To purchase a phone, you need your passport, alien registration card (or document showing that your alien registration card is being processed), and your hanko stamp.

Monthly rates start around 3,000 yen and go up to 6,000 (iphone average) and beyond. Usually you have to sign up for 2-3 year contract, and you can get one of the cheaper phones for free. Almost all phones have a way to change the operating language to English.  Softbank is the only company ( as of March 2011 ) that offers the iphone. The iphone is free, with a 3-year contract of about 6,000 yen per month.

Do foreign phones work in Japan?

Due to different technologies, mobile phones from your home country may not work in Japan. Most importantly, there is no GSM network, so GSM phones do not work. There are two things that are required for your telephone to work:

  1. Compatibility with the Japanese mobile phone network – The only foreign phones that work in Japan are some 3G models, however the number of compatible phones is increasing. Contact your service provider for details concerning your particular phone.
  2. International roaming plan or rental SIM card – With an international roaming plan (from your home service provider) you use your own phone and number, but are charged international roaming rates which tend to be expensive. Alternatively, with a rental SIM card (from a Japanese provider) you use your own phone with a Japanese phone number and lower rates.

Do Japanese phones work outside of Japan?

Many phones that are sold in Japan can operate on 3G and GSM networks (only in certain countries) with the appropriate international roaming plans, although while overseas some of their advanced functions will likely not work. This means that a person with a handset and service provided by a Japanese mobile phone carrier can roam when travelling outside of Japan.

Generally speaking it is not possible to use a Japanese phone with a foreign service provider due to network differences and because the handsets are locked. Japanese carriers do not unlock handsets. Also, Japanese phones are designed at a hardware and software level to work with only a particular network. As a result they are not interchangeable even between Japanese service providers and some of their features are disabled when used off of the network they were intended for.

4. Home phones

Actually, I do not own a home phone and dont have any experience with this – if anyone does, please let AJET know!

I do know my internet provider – NTT and Yahoo – have set up a phone plug at my home, if I were to plug in a phone, it would work, as my internet contract includes a phone number.

5. Public phones

I have never used one but will try to remember next time I see one! Actually I don`t know if these still exist – I think they are green though!

6. Internet Connections

[UPDATE: May 2013] As of this year, the iPhone 5 from Softbank officially supports and allows ‘tethering’ for up to 13GB/month.   I’m not exactly sure what happens after the 13GB, I think either the internet tethering is cut off, or speed is reduced so much as to render any significant downloading useless.

Internet providers and availability vary significantly by area. Shopping for electronic goods at your local Yamada Denki or other big box retailer, you’ll usually get a huge discount if you buy a computer with a 2 or 3-year internet connection deal. Usually you can quit the contract if you move out of the country. In those cases you can get up to 40,000 yen off an electronic device like TV or computer, if you sign up for the internet.  They check internet availability at your residence for you by using a computer program at the store, so that seems to be a very easy way to get it done and get a huge discount on some electronics, too.

Softbank offers mobile wifi – a small device you carry with you, which gives you unlimited access to the internet. The devices go for about 3,000-5,000 yen a month.

If you are considering ADSL, the following link has a lot of information on Yahoo BB service provider.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2012 4:59 am

    How come the internet connections section is empty? I am planning on buying a macbook air, and since wifi seems to be pretty uncommon in japan, what other ways can i go about using the internet on the go? can i use my iphone as a modem/hotspot for example?

  2. July 1, 2013 12:20 am

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