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Cell phone plan for a family in Japan

I’m one of the last people on the planet to own a cell phone. Being that my family can’t speak Japanese, they are pretty adamant that I get one in Japan in case they ever need to call me to help them out of a sticky situation. That being the case, I plan to obtain my first (and hopefully last) cell phone in Japan.

The first plan I was referred to was by NTT. The NTT family plan appears to be about $16 a month. Not bad. But then I found that Softbank has an even better plan at only about $10 a month.

Given that nearly all of our calls will be to each other, the fact that both of these plans allow for free calls to family is great.

We’ll also have to purchase phones. However, I understand that if you get the bottom of the barrel variety the phones are almost free. And I’ve heard that the worst cell phones in Japan are better than the best elsewhere so the cheapest Japanese phone is fine by me.

Most of these plans have large penalties if you don’t continue the plan for at least a year. Since we will be in Tokyo for a year that shouldn’t be a problem for us. If you plan to go to Japan for a shorter period of time then you probably just want to purchase some prepaid minutes.

Do you have any experiences with a cell phone plan in Japan that can be of use to me (or others reading this)? If so, please respond to this message with any hints, feedback, etc.

6 Responses to “Cell phone plan for a family in Japan”

  1. 1
    DerekNobuyuki Wallace:

    “Large penalties if you don’t continue the plan for at least a year”
    In many cases, 2 years.

    However, in some cases if you need to have multiple phones (for multiple people), it can be worth looking at PHS service as well.

    So, for people reading this, it wouldn’t hurt to check out all the options
    (and they all have english websites)

    Currently, there’s only 1 PHS provider
    Willcom :

    Plus a few providers with successors to cellular phone technology
    Docomo(NTT) :
    Softbank :
    AU (KDDI) : (family plan makes 25-60% off depending on whether combined with other things or not)

    One last company for people to check out is eMobile.
    Unfortunately, they don’t have an English website to talk about their products
    and services so you either have to use a translator like this ,
    read the Japanese text, or go there in person to ask questions. However, it looks like they have a 780/month plan.

    Finally, if you don’t plan on using your mobile phone vary often, then PrePaid phones may be a better idea even if you stay for an entire year.
    Plus, you wouldn’t have use up one of your monthly furikomi if your bank charges you for extra ones.

  2. 2

    Though, because I’ve used mobile phones of AU(KDDI) until now, I haven’t known the full details of NTT & Softbank, looking on the Net, I found a bargain sale which is called “super bonus lump-sum payment (スーパーボーナス一括払い or スパボ一括)” of Softbank. The bargain should make it possible for you to get your mobile phone by only paying 7 yen (called “universal service fee”) per a month from 3rd month to 26th month (though you must pay 1967 yen in 1st and 988 yen in 2nd month) if[after] you will pay about 10 thousand yen to get a uncurrent model mobile phone ,about 3 thousand yen for the procedure fee, and 980 yen for “W white”(you can cancel the contract from 2nd month). And you must contract some option packs which are payment-free for some months(but you can also cancel the contract from the next day). In addition, the info site says you can cancel all the contract any time (no exit penalty) after you pay these fees. The prices will differ slightly at each shops.

    The sales seems to be sometimes held in mass sales electronics stores(KOJIMA, SAKURAYA, YAMADA …etc) in TOKYO,SAITAMA,KANAGAWA…etc.

    On the below site, you will be able to get the information. (Japanese version only)

  3. 3

    EDIT: “W white” is included in the payment(1967 yen) in 1st month.

  4. 4

    EDIT2 : Not only the prices but the number & type of option packs that you must contract seems to differ at each shops. And there also seems to be some paid option packs you have to subscribe. But because you will be able to cancel the subscriptions of O.P. from the next day or month, it seems that you only have to pay these fees for a short time.

  5. 5

    I must disagree concerning the statement about the worst cell phones in Japan. 🙂
    I got a prepaid phone from Softbank (the cheapest, you get what you pay for) as I was only staying in Japan for five months and didn’t expect to make that many calls. The menu system of the phone was misleading, redundant and unnerving.
    I missed the first four calls I got, some of which were urgent, I never was able to play recordings from the answering machines and received mails that were a bit longer were often cut, forcing me to ask the sender to send the last part again.
    As you take a plan, I guess you’ll be able to get much better phones. 🙂

  6. 6

    I lived in Japan for a year and a half. Softbank worked just fine for me. The bill can add up if you regularly text or phone non-Softbank users, but I found the free phone I got to be perfect for me and easy to use. I also found that several Softbank stores had someone who spoke decent English. If your family has any problems with the phones, and you’re not available, they should be able to find a Softbank location where someone speaks English. Be sure to ask which of the free phones is the best. I was told not to get the one I liked, because the sound and overall quality wasn’t all that good. I ended up getting a flip-open white phone, and it did great. Good luck!

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