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.
Just looking…but to confirm, they don’t charge a hefty deposit? Some of the other devices in Japan put a hold of over $400 US on your credit card to rent. And it looks like 5 is the max number of devices you can connect? Sadly, that is barely enough for us LOL — I’ve had repeated instances with wifi devices that slow way down as you get near the max number of devices connected unfortunately.
We were not charged a deposit. Their terms and conditions indicate that if lost, or stolen, that charges will be levied but not up front. We also did not near the maximum number of devices as we only have the ipad and a laptop so I’m not sure what would happen as you near the max. I was impressed though, by the speed; often my laptop would connect to the ‘house’ wifi and would be slow. I would then connect to the WiMax and it would speed right up. I was impressed.
Be careful with Rentafone Japan when you fill out their order form. I just got dinged to the tune of about twenty dollars for a cell phone that I didn’t need and won’t use because their form asks how many phones you’re ordering, and I, probably foolishly, assumed that they meant how many devices you’re ordering. Since I was getting one of their portable wifi units, I wrote “1.” I then ended up getting a package with both a cell phone, which I didn’t want, and the wifi router, which I did want. When I e-mailed them to ask about it, thinking that there had been some kind of mix-up, I was told rather brusquely that I would be charged for both and “shouldn’t have ordered both a phone and a router if you didn’t need the phone.” Um… thanks?
The router works well, and the delivery of the stuff went off without a hitch, so I wouldn’t necessarily say not to use them, but they may not be quite as helpful once they’ve got your money. The mix-up was partly my misunderstanding of their form, so I’m actually less annoyed about the money than by the tone taken in the e-mail I received when I asked about the situation, which was fairly rude. A shame, really, because the service was quite good up until this point.