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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:50 am 
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Mrs H (and others who can answer this),

We just bought our tickets to Japan for 3 weeks late October/November! We're focusing on S. Japan, flying into Tokyo then transferring to Osaka. My first question is about using cellphones and data plans. My wife has an iPhone 5c which is currently in use with AT&T, and a 4s that is pretty old. When we went to New Zealand she used the 4s with a SIM chip we bought at the airport in NZ that gave us 30 days talk + 500 MB data for $US 25. I unlocked her phone here first and we took it to the service desk in NZ where they inserted the chip. The phone has some issues anyway (weak battery -- probably even weaker now, external microphone dead) so when we came back we put it in a box and haven't done anything to it. The 5c is fully paid for now so we shouldn't have any problems unlocking it should that be necessary, but does Japan have a similar SIM service? Does a US iPhone even work in Japan? Is it cheaper to go with one of AT&T's foreign roaming deals? What about re-connecting it to AT&T when she returns?

Frankly we probably don't really need talk service since we don't speak Japanese. I was mostly thinking of standing on a street corner trying to ask directions and desperately needing Google Translate or something, or getting a mapping service using our GPS to tell us how to get to our hotel.

A short term SIM would also be handy for the 4S. My Tracfone is US only (and very primitive) so we are thinking of taking the 4s too so I can have it as a secondary item should we get separated and need to communicate with each other by email.

In the US I would tell somebody to buy a $10 Tracfone and a $20 service card. Does Japan have similar services?


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:56 pm 
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I doubt Japan will support a CDMA phone but it should work acceptably with a GSM phone. The same would hold true for New Zealand for that matter.

Depending on the phone Apple sometimes makes CDMA/GSM, CDMA, or GSM models. CDMA/GSM and GSM is OK.

It's getting a little more complicated than that in the newest phones thanks to LTE, there's still different models with different band LTE support. :|


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:01 pm 
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Hi Limnos,

I figured I’d hear from you sooner or later with Japan questions.

Before I tackle your question, I have a few for you :
Have you been to Japan before?
Have you discovered japanguide.com yet? [It a fabulous source for info on just about everything you might want to know.] http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e623a.html


Also tripadvisor. Whilst many of their location forums may not be active nor have dedicated participants, I have found the Japan forum most useful (and I’ve contributed a hefty 3500 posts there myself along with some 500+ reviews) If you enter cell phone, or mobile phone, or pocket wifi into the search in the Japan forum section, you’ll be given more links to discussion threads than you’ll have time to read, which is to say it’s a hot topic there with loads of folks asking the same question.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g ... Japan.html


I recall your story about the ceiling falling in and company from Japan.
Are you visiting friends there (and traveling with them) or are you on your own? (you needed answer if I am being too nosey or personal) I ask because Oct/Nov can be really busy with koyo (autumn foliage) If you haven’t made hotel reservations yet, or planned your itinerary do it now. (We will be returning from Oct-Dec ourselves) Check if a Japan Rail Pass is cost effective for your itin (unless you are traveling with friends and they have a car)

OK, on to your questions about cell phones.
To get you started here’s the link to japan guide but they are pretty brief on this. (I find them most useful for site information, including access, times, admission costs etc.)

Cell phone: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2223.html
A telling bit of info from there is this:
“Most SIM cards available to foreign tourists are data-only and do not allow for voice calls (except when using internet-based telephone services such as Skype). Your device must be unlocked to utilize SIM cards.”

My personal take on all this: rent a pocket wifi. We traveled this spring with our very first iPhone so it was all new to us. Rather than getting into a rental SIM card, we rented a pocket wifi, available from many sources. We settled on the Silver plan from here and were very happy:
https://www.japanwifibuddy.com/buddies/silver
The company is owned by an expat: communication was super easy, they were super helpful and the price was right for our long trip.

I don’t know how AT&T works, nor roaming. There are phones that work and those than don’t - I drove myself crazy before we bought the 6s on what works and what doesn’t. It had to do with 3G, 4G, and which bands etc. I could try to drag up all that info or you could look online to see if you models are compatible - I don’t know anything about Tracfone. I believe most of the newer iPhones are OK - but even here, it depended - GSM vs CDMA among other things. (I checked here the model of SE I was thinking of getting before we settled on the 6s - you can check yours probably:
https://www.frequencycheck.com/compatib ... -8-4/japan

Rental SIM cards are data only - voice was not an option for tourist rentals. We used Facetime for phone calls home which worked fine on the hotel’s wifi or on our pocket wifi. Google translate worked fine. Never used maps but did have several map apps installed. (let me know if you want to know about the apps we found most useful)

The Japanese are infinitely patient with foreigners and have helped us find places, even walking 20-30 minutes out of their way to take us somewhere they couldn’t figure out how to give us directions to.

I’m not sure I’ve helped here, but ask further questions on this or other topics and I’ll try my best.

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Mrs H


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 6:27 pm 
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Thanks for all the information Mrs. H. I haven't been to Japan but my wife has been there twice in the past decade. One week of our trip will be centered around a sister city (with Ibaraki, just N. of Osaka) exchange program. We're doing the reciprocal visit but I am vague on the details because the whole thing seems to be getting arranged as we go. The Japanese visitors were only with us for two nights of their 9 night stay in MPLS. We said last May we could host two people for the 2 nights they were being sent to host families. I think the MN organizer looked at basic needs such as pets or no pets, etc. and those were the two we got. It actually worked out very well as one of them had common interests to my wife and they were easy guests to have. I kind of get the impression we're going to be spending our week visiting various places in our group of 10 MPLS visitors plus maybe one or two of the Japanese group as guides (or maybe not :confused: ). It really is not at all clear and I don't think there is a given structure to the program which is why it is gelling as we get closer to the date. We may or may not be hosted in a family for a night or two as we did for them, but I believe many Japanese have smaller residences so that may not happen. I know we already have a hotel booked for that week. Anyway, I do hope we get to meet our "ladies" again but it may not extend much beyond their tagging along on one of our day tours. I doubt we are going to get chauffeured around Japan! As for the other two weeks, we haven't planned that yet. I believe we are thinking of staying south which is why we are flying to Osaka. It seems that a city such as Kyoto has so much to offer one could spend a week there alone. Unless we meet up with our ladies after the exchange week we'll be on our own.

We don't really need more than a data plan. Out ladies don't speak very much English and I don't see us calling them. I don't think we will try calling anybody and instead relay upon texting. But mostly we want it for the data plan so we can use translation features and download maps and web information while we are walking around.

A SIM is a lot more attractive in terms of less fuss (the one in NZ we got on the spot and didn't have to return) but it sounds like I will have to do a lot of research since the phone is my wife's and I think I have touched it 4 times since she bought it 3 years ago. Those were to pick it up and take it to her in another room. I don't actually have access to it to learn how to do things or see configuration information, and there's only so much you can learn from an academic perspective (though 95% of the help I give on ASC is for things I haven't ever seen myself :geek: ). So it's a matter of finding time and go with her to some place like the Apple Store to get somebody to show her how to look up the information while I passively try to absorb the information. The alternative is a hotspot but then there's the delivery and return. They also tend to be more costly than a SIM (the Silver plan was roughly double what I was seeing for some 3 week 5 GB SIMS). Then too you have to carry it around. One idea was also we would get both of her phones on SIMS and then we could each have one should we get split up (e.g., somebody doesn't make it off a subway car in time).


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:13 pm 
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Limnos wrote:
Thanks for all the information Mrs. H.
...I know we already have a hotel booked for that week. Anyway, I do hope we get to meet our "ladies" again but it may not extend much beyond their tagging along on one of our day tours.

...I believe we are thinking of staying south which is why we are flying to Osaka. It seems that a city such as Kyoto has so much to offer one could spend a week there alone.

...A SIM is a lot more attractive in terms of less fuss ...One idea was also we would get both of her phones on SIMS and then we could each have one should we get split up (e.g., somebody doesn't make it off a subway car in time).


Glad to help.
Please, reread MB's note about GSM and CDMA it's really important to be sure your phone will work there and Japan seems to be different from most other places in regards to band width and GSM/CDMA - though many (most?) newer iPhones are both, some are not - check yours.

Yes, Kyoto is full of wonders. We spend about a week there on each trip - we've been many, many times to Japan (and Kyoto) and still don't feel as if we've touched the surface.

You likely won't have that much trouble with subways, but there are crowds, just hold hands ;)

Do look into the hotel situation - besides that one week that's booked, Kyoto does get full - not as full as sakura season, but full.

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Mrs H


Last edited by Mrs H on Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 5:37 pm 
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From what I recall most of the GSM iPhones work, though they can be slow transferring data due to the lack of band support. However finding out what bands that model phone supports is the only way to get a good answer. There should be an A#### or similar model either printed on the phone or listed in settings/about. Googling that model plus band support or LTE Japan or similar terms should get you worthwhile info.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:15 pm 
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Limnos,

scroll down to the second post on this page:
https://x704.net/bbs/viewtopic.php?f=19 ... &start=925

If you are in Tokyo with time to spare (unlikely, but you never know), take a day trip to Kawaguchiko if the weather is clear. I can give you directions how to get to here, to take a similar shot.

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Mrs H


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:06 pm 
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Location: Rain forest washington state
When I went to Vietnam there are all kinds of cheap used phones. Got one and bought a sim card and it worked perfectly the 5 weeks I was there. Then I gave it to the friends who put me up. Also wifi was available everywhere which helped with google translate on my actual 5s phone brought from home.


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