Two things our research told us about Japan: Wi-fi access hadn’t been common for other travelers in the past, and the cell network is one of the most advanced in the world.
Part of this trip was to try out our technology before we transition to a more nomadic work lifestyle, so being connected was a necessity.
We currently don’t own a device that would allow for data tethering via a cell phone, otherwise we’d have just picked up a Japan SIM card when we arrived. We needed another way to stay connected, so headed to the interwebs for a solution!
Because Japan sees many business travelers, there are several companies that will arrange a temporary local cell phone, smartphone, or hotspot for short-term visits.
Pickup can be arranged at the airports or major hotels for when you arrive in the country, with returns handled by simply dropping it off at an airport office or putting in the post. Prices vary significantly.
We decided to go with Rentafone Japan because they offered a broadband device at the best pricing for the length of our trip. Unless your employer is picking up the tab, it does pay to do your research. Most of the companies offered unlimited data usage.
A package was waiting at the Narita terminal 1, 4th floor post office. A quick flash of the passport and we had the URoad-SS10 in our hands. Rentafone provided the MiFi device, a charger, easy to follow instructions, a padded travel case, some plastic bags to help protect the device, and a return post-paid envelope.
The URoad-SS10 performed well for us. We used an iPad and MacBook Air, and speeds were what we’d expect from broadband. Regular surfing with a background audio stream and some HD video streaming have been no problem in our apartments in Tokyo and Kyoto.
For some quick fact checking and location assistance while out in the cities, the Rentafone hotspot worked well with the iPad. It’s very portable at 86 grams, and claims a 9-hour continuous usage battery life. There’s no real need to worry about nursing usage to preserve battery life.
Because it connects via cell technology, the usual issues are to be expected. It wasn’t so good on the Shinkansen trains while speeding through tunnels or deep valleys. Likewise, there wasn’t much connection while deep inside a concrete building, or in very rural areas with spotty cell service.
If you are looking for more than occasional internet access while in Japan and your home provider will bankrupt you with international roaming charges, I’d recommend checking out Rentafone Japan for your next trip.
There are a couple of different options; we chose the faster and slightly more expensive version. A flat rate of 6900 Yen is charged for up to one week of usage, then a daily fee of 300 Yen after that. We were in Japan for 27 days for a total of 12900 Yen; roughly $168 CAD.
Averaged out to about $6.25/day, we thought the price was reasonable considering how much we use the internet to plan and execute our travels (and to fuel our social media addiction!). Prices vary according to device and whether you also rent a phone.