With the coming 2020 olympics, the influx of travelers to Japan is forecasted to break 40 million. For most of the Japan bound travelers, being online is a must. Free WiFi and other forms of internet will be crucial to survival during your stay here in the land of the rising sun.
Getting free WiFi in Japan will be easy, right?
For a country that is revered so much for its technical prowess, compared to some of the other developed nations (Portugal, Singapore, the U.K., etc), Japan's public wifi is not as readily available to the public... that is if you don't know where to look!
Japan does actually have quite a few options for free WiFi, but unless you do some research beforehand, it will be difficult to take advantage of them.
That's what this guide is for!
What are my options for free Wifi?
Let's get right into it. Where can you find a free WiFi connections when you are out and about in Japan?
Cafes, Coffee Shops, Restaurants
Bigger establishments like Starbucks, Tully's, and McDonalds all have free WiFi that anyone is able to access. Even smaller mom and pop restaurants are starting to hop onto the "free WiFi" bandwagon. You can find little signs in these small establishments telling you they have WiFi available.
Your best bet if you're unsure is just to ask the staff! The word for WiFi sounds similar in Japanese so you should be easily understood.
Most small cafes now have free WiFi available for use by patrons.
A downside of this form of free WiFi is the connections at these places can sometimes be slow and tricky to log into, especially at the larger establishments. Also, places sometimes have restrictions on how long and how many times a day you can use their free WiFi. (McDonalds will kick you off the WiFi after using it for an hour.)
There are three main convenience stores in Japan. 7-eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson. You are bound to come across one of these convenience stores during your time here. They are EVERYWHERE!
While every location across Japan isn't offering free WiFi, the ones that do are almost always free to access. The issue with these connections is sometimes the speeds are slow and some places even limit the amount of times you're able to get on the network for (eg. once a day). However, if you just need to get on the internet to look send a couple messages or look up directions it should be plenty!
In Public Transport and Airports
Free WiFi at Train Stations:
Many of the major train lines in Japan are also offering free WiFi connections within certain stations.
One drawback is that the WiFi usually can't be used while riding on the trains themselves (With the exception of certain bullet train lines). You have to keep reconnecting when you go from station to station. The second drawback is that each train line has its own separate free WiFi service, meaning the login process for each line is also different. Also, after testing some out myself, I found the login process for some of these networks to be a real hassle!
Free Wifi on Trains:
Recently, some of the Shinkansen bullet train lines have began to offer free WiFi access on certain train cars! However, only a couple of train companies are currently offering this: Central Japan Railway, West Japan Railway, and Kyushu Railway.
Also, as a result of the scramble by the Japanese government to improve infrastructure by the onset of the Olympics, all 180 bullet trains operating in Japan are scheduled to have free WiFi installed by 2020.
Free WiFi on Buses:
The Limousine buses that run to and from all the major airports have also become equipped with free WiFi (not all but many of them). Local buses are yet to come.
Free WiFi at Airports:
Most of the major airports in Japan offer free WiFi. The speeds are not bad, but network is not always reliable and there is also the issue of a lack of security.
List of Airports Offering Free WiFi in Japan:
- Hanada Airport [HND]
- Narita Airport [NRT]
- Kansai International Airport [KIX]
- New Chitose Airport [CTS]
- Naha Airport [OKA]
- Fukuoka Airport [FUK]
Free WiFi Access Areas in Major Cities
The rush to get things ready for the 2020 Olympics and the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, many of the bigger cities in Japan have started to offer municipal free WiFi for use in certain public places.
You can use these free WiFi services at designated museums, parks, and stations throughout these cities. A couple of websites for free public WiFi services are linked up above.
These services are still by no means widespread, so if you are planning on relying on this internet for your day to day travel needs it will definitely require some prior planning.
Free WiFi in Hotels and Hostels
Another place you are certain to find free WiFi is in hotels. Even the cheapest hotels and hostels here have some form of WiFi available.
In the end you're paying for your room though, so I'm not sure if this constitutes as "free WiFi".
Issues with Free WiFi in Japan
The biggest issues with free WiFi in Japan are Reliability, Speed and Security.
Public WiFi connections in Japan are riddled with connectivity issues. There is no guarantee that you will be able to access the network for a prolonged period of time because of pre-imposed time limits. The login process for many of these free WiFi connections is also very time consuming.
Even after getting on to the networks, you may find that the speed is not up to par with your standards. Many networks have slow speeds that make even the simplest of tasks like uploading a picture to your social media a pain in the butt.
When using public WiFi, there is always a risk that your information is being targeted by others. Public WiFi is inherently unsafe so you need to be careful about the types of activities you are engaging in while connected to these networks. You should never send any sensitive information over public networks – things like online shopping, using banking apps, or entering passwords.
Best bet for ensuring you can get online in Japan
The easiest way to ensure that you get connected to one of the free public networks in Japan is to download the app Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store.
Name in iOS App store: Japan Wi-Fi
Name in Google Play store: Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi
Just by having this or another free WiFi locating app, you will save yourself tons of time. This is because most of the free WiFi platforms each have their own unique registration method. Just by registering once with this app, you can skip the registration process for most of these WiFi access points. Super convenient! The one issue with this app is that it is still a bit underdeveloped and difficult to use. (At this point.) Find out more one of our recent posts comparing your options for free WiFi apps in Japan.
Prepare your own Mobile Internet
Your true best bet, however, is not to risk everything on free WiFi. Cheap and effective mobile internet is now widely available in Japan. Currently, Pocket WiFi and SIM cards are two of the best options available in Japan. These options are the only true way to ensure that your internet connection in safe, speedy and reliable for the price of a cup of coffee a day!
eConnect Japan offers both Pocket WiFi devices and SIM Cards with a perfect connection that will keep you from missing out on any part of your vacation. We also have a variety of data plans to choose from that will match each traveler's unique needs.
The truth of the matter is that for being such a technologically advanced nation Japan is still far from having free WiFi available everywhere. And while by the time the 2020 Olympics rolls around in a year there should be more availability, hinging your entire travel on whether or not you can stay connected free WiFi isn't in line with most traveler's agendas. Moreover, the security risks/hassle that these public WiFi connections pose could be easily avoided by simply getting your hands on mobile internet ahead of time.
Ultimately, having a reliably fast internet connection that you can trust is important to most travelers, and if you are one of those people, we encourage you to check out our website!