Internet in Japan: Finding English-Speaking Providers in Japan
One of the many great things about living in Japan–being a modern city-is all the modern technological conveniences that come with it, including Internet access. In Japan–as in many other developed countries–there are two primary ways in which you can access the Internet from your apartment; wired or wireless. There are also a few variations in the services available for each category.
Getting a broadband Internet connection in Japan
The main thing to understand about broadband Internet access in Japan is that there are actually two separate companies who play a part in providing you access to the Internet. First, there is the company responsible for installing the actual lines to connect your house to their network.
The second company is the Internet service provider (ISP), who will be in charge of providing you the actual Internet services.
The company in charge of installing your Internet connection in your home will generally provide one of two main types of broadband Internet access. These types are ADSL and Hikari-Fiber (known as fiber optic in many other countries).
A limited number of these companies do still offer a cable connection for those that are interested. While there are some technological differences between ADSL and Hikari-Fiber, they are both able to provide high-speed Internet access at a similar price point.
The main distinction between the two connection types is that Hikari-Fiber has a much higher theoretical speed and is able to provide a higher tier of service, usually refered to as a "gigabyte service" or something similar.
Be sure to check with your building's management and the company that is in charge of installing the Internet connection when choosing and Internet connection type as the type of connection you are able to use will vary depending on your address and the building.
Below are companies that provide high-speed Internet line connections.
Sakura Fiber Internet
Sakura Fiber Internet provides English Service and fast internet connection (1Gbps), and they use Flet’s Hikari fiber-optic network from NTT EAST and NTT WEST. There is no 2-year contract either.
AU, formerly a purely mobile phone service provider, now offers hikari fiber access with download speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second.
You may need to prepare a wifi router
Pocket Wi-Fi from Mobal
Mobal offers a pocket WiFi and they deliver for free in Japan.
You get 100GB each month for ¥4,980 yen (including tax).
Pocket Wi-Fi from Sakura Mobile
You can also rent a Pocket-WiFi. Sakura Mobile offers from ¥3,480 per month.
For more details, please check on Sakura Mobile's website.
Pocket Wi-Fi from GTN Mobile
Go to "Plans / Services" on GTN Mobile website for details.
English-Speaking Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Japan
The second part of getting your broadband Internet connection is finding an Internet Service Provider. Some providers can bundle your line connection with the Internet service they provide for added convenience. Check with your ISP about this possibility. Below are the four main ISPs available in Japan.
Asahi Net is one of the largest Internet Service Providers in Japan and has overseas access points. Asahinet will bundle your line connection with Internet service and also offers Hikari Fiber with speeds of up to 1 gigabyte, ADSL, and also wireless internet. AsahiNet has been ranked number 1 in customer satisfaction for more than 10 years, so you know you will be happy with the service you receive.
Rakuten Broadband Premium
Rakuten Broadband Premium (formerly Fusion GOL) offers Hikari Fiber and ADSL broadband Internet, and provides technical support with native English and Japanese speaking staff.
Broadband Internet service via both eADSL and Hikari Fiber provided by the FLET’S network with full support in English. Note that SpinNet does not bundle line connections with its Internet service.
English-Speaking Wi-Fi Providers in Japan
Another way to access the Internet is by using the cellular networks. Wireless modems give you the ability to connect wirelessly to the Internet–at speeds comparable to wired Internet access–wherever cellular service is available.
This is ideal for individuals who are unable to have wired Internet service in their home or apartment, or for those who prefer the flexibility of reliable Internet access wherever they go in Japan.
If you don’t want to be tied down to a wired connection (albeit possibly with a WiFi router at your apartment), there are a couple of options for wireless Internet around Japan. Your two major options are either portable wireless Internet modems or connected WiFi.
Portable wireless Internet modems connect to one of several wireless data networks and provide Internet access to your computer either via WiFi or an Ethernet cable. Below are five companies that offer this kind of service.
Genki Mobile offers affordable portable Wi-Fi routers to visitors in Japan. They provide data usage of 1GB/day using NTT Docomo’s network–one of the most popular service providers in Japan–which provides fast and reliable service in subways and rural areas. They also provide free delivery across Japan, free pick up at the Genki Mobile office, and pick up at select airports.
AsahiNet, mentioned above as a broadband Internet provider, also provides wireless Internet service via several networks, with its fastest being the WiMax 2+ network. If for some reason this network doesn’t cover your address or needs, they have several other options that cover almost 100% of Japan with wireless Internet access.
au is the cellular service brand of KDDI, a major Japanese telecom that offers wireless Internet access through its “au one net” either by tethering your computing to your mobile phone or via its WiMAX service.
NTT Docomo provides high-speed wireless access to the Internet through multiple data networks. It’s also the largest and most popular service provider in Japan due to its reliability of underground service, in subways and in rural areas.
Rakuten Broadband Premium
Softbank is a major cellular network service provider. They have several shops throughout Japan with English speaking staff to assist with any questions or needs.
Wi-Fi Hotspots in Japan
If the above options aren't for you then you can always rely purely on WiFi hotspots. Around Japan, this is often a perfectly viable option. While not ubiquitous, there are free Wi-Fi access points throughout Japan, including in most train and subway stations. You can also find them in Starbucks, many convenience stores, and in many public places around the city.
There are also paid WiFi subscription services that will give you much broader access to WiFi access points around the city. Depending on where you live and/or spend your time, this may serve as a convenient and cheaper alternative to having a wired Internet subscription service at your home.
Wi2 300 is one company that provides access to over 200,000 WiFi hotspots across Japan and offers subscriptions in hourly, daily, and weekly segments. Check their site to see if you have sufficient coverage where you live and work.
The biggest caveat to relying only on WiFi hotspots is that you never know when you’ll be out of range of the nearest access point. That said, if 1) you don’t require much in terms of dedicated high-speed access, 2) do most of your Internet browsing on your phone, or 3) your home happens to sit within range of a WiFi hotspot access point, you can have the best of all worlds at a very reasonable price.