How We Got Our Data SIM in Japan

Since we were in Shinjuku and already heading to check out the area, we thought we’d inquire at the Tourist Information Center about getting a SIM Card.

We showed them that we wanted to sign up with IIJmio, and the staff pointed us in the right direction and were even kind enough to call the BIC Camera Shinjuku West store to confirm that we could in fact purchase the SIM card we were after from there.

BIC Camera: A good place to get a SIM in Japan

Bic Camera is an electronics retail chain and has three stores in Shinjuku. In general, they appear to be massive. From what we saw, they cover multiple floors and seems to sell anything electronic-related, including cameras, video games, drones, househould appliances, smart washlet toilets, robots etc. We found our way to the floor selling smart phones and were able to find the SIM card options easily enough.

At this point we were approached by staff, but not knowing any Japanese were reduced to pointing at the products that we were after.

Of course, at this point, a polite “えいごが わかりますか? Eigo ga wakarimas ka?”  (Do you understand English?) is not out of place, and being in the most touristy area in Tokyo, there was at least 1 english speaking staff on hand.

We were taken to the service desk area where another (english speaking) staff member helped us to test if our phones would work on the IIJmio carrier network. This involved putting one of their IIJmio test SIM cards into each of our phones (Google Pixel, and iPhone 5S), and downloading/setting up the APN profile for the IIJmio network.

Setting Up Your Phone’s APN Details

APN settings are required to allow the phone to work properly on the network.

If you don’t have someone to do this for you, you can follow the APN instructions from the provider.

Here are the instructions for setting the APN on the IIJmio provider network:   https://t.iijmio.jp/en/apn/

Luckily this staff member was able to speak English quite well and answer any of our questions about the product we were getting. The key items we suggest are worth confirming are:

  • No fixed contract
  • No cancellation fees
  • No speed limit/shaping
  • Data rollover
  • If they would recommend any other provider
  • How to check usage
  • No fees for a secondary SIM card
  • No sign up fees

In our case, IIJmio seemed to be the product of choice due to the following reasons:

  • Reasonable price per month 2950Y / for the 10GB package
  • We were able to get 2 SIM cards under the one package and share the data usage
  • The initial ‘contract’ was only for 2 months minimum, and then charged month to month after that

To view all the IIJmio sim options, check out their website here   (google translate will help).

After doing a speed test to check the internet speed (by simply navigating to speedof.me on the internet when the test SIM card was in the phone) and hit ‘test’, we were happy enough to sign up.

Note: At the time we tested the speed, we got a download speed of 1.6Mbps which was not quite as fast as we expected. The staff told us this was due to the time of day (lunch time), and that this was probably the slowest we’d see it generally. We were told that the other peak time is usually around 6-8pm at night. We also tested the speed by streaming some video via youtube, which didn’t seem to uncover any issues either.

Our Options with IIJmio and Signing up for our SIM Cards

We agreed for the staff to help us sign up, however it became apparent that there was a 3,000 Yen ‘signup’ fee per SIM card, unless we opted to receive one in the mail (in which case there was no charge). In addition, it seemed that there was a 2,000 Yen fee for Bic Camera support to help set up the SIM cards.

At this point one of the workers let us know there happened to be an online campaign promotion going on where we could sign up with the sign up fee essentially waived (reduced down to 1 Yen)!

The staff were very helpful and explained our options as per the following table:

# SIM cards received today (and setup fee)

# of SIM cards received in the mail

Total Setup Cost

Option 1

(BIC helps us set up both SIM cards today)

1

(3000Y + 2000Y)

1

5000Y

Option 2

(BIC helps us set up both SIMs, but we receive one in the mail)

2

(3000Y+ 3000Y + 2000Y)

0

8000Y

Option 3

(We sign up on our own online but through the BIC website offer page)

0

(1Y)

2

1Y

We ended up opting for the Do-It-Yourself option 3, because this would save us a bunch of cash.

How We Signed Up For Japanese SIM Cards with IIJmio

At this point, we basically sat at the BIC service desk and filled out the Japanese application online form via our smart phones (using the portable WiFi egg from our accommodation for internet access), with a little help from Google Translate and the BIC Camera staff.

It did feel a little scummy to be doing this ourselves right in front of the staff and essentially cutting out their commission, but they actually didn’t seem to mind and were still quite helpful despite this.

First we went to this website as directed by the BIC staff:

https://www.iijmio.jp/bicsim/weborder/

Then used google translate to help out with the language barrier.

Some things to note about the application form:

  • We needed to specify our Japanese address for delivery, which staff advised should be within 1 week  (it actually came the next day, even though it happened to be a weekend)
  • We needed to put down a Japanese phone number. We borrowed a friend’s phone number for this purpose, but if you got really stuck, you could probably just make one up
  • After inputting our details, there were a few pages of just checking tick-boxes to agree to the various terms and conditions.
  • We used a second smart phone in parallel with the first smartphone so we could understand it (a Japanese version of the page on one phone, and an english google translated version on the other phone), as well as asking one of the staff members to assist with a little bit of translation and make sure we had input our address correctly.

With that, we left empty handed but hoping our SIM cards would soon show up in the mail! (Which they did, the next day!)

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