Best Portable WiFi Rental in Japan: Compare Plans & Prices [2019]

     
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We’ll show you how and where to rent the best portable Wi-Fi hotspot for you in Japan.

Aside from this guide, we have more resources here to help you plan your ultimate trip to Japan:

Let’s dive in!

How to Get Wireless Internet Service in Japan

Japan has many wireless internet service providers (ISP). The most popular being NTT DoCoMo, Softbank, and au by KDDI. These three are the local ISP giants and provide reliable internet connection throughout Japan. But getting internet service directly through them is not possible for short-term tourists.

As a result, you will need to rent a portable Wi-Fi hotspot or buy a travel SIM card (you’ll see the differences between the two shortly). But we’re going to focus on portable Wi-Fi hotspots because they’re extremely easy to get in Japan (and it’s the option we have direct experience with).

The rule of the thumb with mobile wifi devices is to order it at least 3 business days before your arrival in Japan. That way, it will be waiting for you at the airport or your hotel.

About “Pocket Wi-Fi”

You may see the term “pocket WiFi” being used by negligent blogs and some Wi-Fi rental companies in Japan. Pocket WiFi is actually a registered trademark of Softbank [2]. So any Wi-Fi rental company using the term pocket WiFi for their portable hotspot router cannot be technically called “Pocket WiFi” if it uses an NTT DoCoMo or au by KDDI network. FYI.

Why rent a portable Wi-Fi in Japan?

To survive traveling in Japan as a tourist, you need internet. It gives you the freedom to travel around this strange country without relying on a tour guide or paper maps; which people are increasingly unable to use nowadays.

Without the internet, all of these things become MUCH more difficult:

  • Navigating to and from your hotel or accommodation.
  • Utilizing the train, bus, and subway systems.
  • Communication with Japanese locals.
  • Navigation in general (Japan has hundreds of unnamed streets).

In addition, free and unsecured public hotspots have security concerns [1]. And it’s a hassle to find them while you’re trying to enjoy your time sightseeing. If you are staying at an Airbnb, their connection is not reliable because the previous occupants may have used up all the data; which happens to us every time. So yes, having reliable internet access while traveling in Japan critical.

Portable Wi-Fi vs. Travel SIM Cards: Which is Better?

Travel SIM cards are the cheaper option, but you need to have an unlocked phone and make sure they’re compatible with Japanese data SIM cards. SIM cards also don’t often allow you to tether to other devices.

To help you decide, here’s a comparison:

 Portable Wi-Fi deviceData SIM Cards
Pocket Wi-Fi 501HWDoCoMo Travel SIM through Sakura Mobile
UsabilityCan be connected to any device that supports Wi-Fi.Phone and tablet only.
PowerIf frequently used, portable Wi-Fi needs to be charged to stay connected.No charging required.
SetupCan be used right away.Needs to be set up correctly.
ShareabilityCan be shared with multiple devices.Cannot be shared or tethered.

Booking Ahead vs Same-Day Pickup

Airports in Japan have several kiosks for renting portable Wi-Fi upon your arrival, and it is indeed convenient to rent it through them. However, we highly recommend booking your Wi-Fi ahead of time because:

  • You get better deals when booking online. You won’t get a discounted price renting at the kiosk, because you’re paying for the convenience of renting it on the spot.
  • It guarantees you’ll get a portable Wi-Fi. Especially when you’re traveling during peak season as rental companies do run out of these devices.

Pickup and Return Considerations

Returning the portable wi-fi through post office box in Japan
Returning the portable wi-fi through post office box in Japan. #wokeuplikethis

When ordering your portable Wi-Fi router online, consider how you want to pick it up and return it.

Most portable Wi-Fi rental companies have 3 convenient pickups and return options:

  • Airport
  • Hotel delivery
  • Rental company’s office

For airport and hotel pickups: If you’d like to pick it up at the airport upon your arrival; double-check the opening hours of the rental company’s kiosk at the airport and see if it aligns with your arrival time. If you’re arriving in Japan outside of the kiosks opening hours, then it’s best to choose the hotel delivery pickup option.

For office pickup: You may encounter a rental company that has a physical office in major cities like Tokyo. This is a good option if you don’t want to pay any additional shipping or convenience costs during the booking process (some providers charge extra for the convenience of shipping). However, you need to take note of the location and closing hours. Sometimes, the cost of going to their office is more than the shipping cost.

For returns: Assess how you’d like to return the portable Wi-Fi as well. If through the airport on your departure date, you again need to check their operating hours. Or you can choose the post office box return option.

In my experience, it’s definitely more convenient to return the device through a post office box as they’re practically everywhere in Japan.

A word if you’re staying at an Airbnb: Unfortunately, Wi-Fi rental companies will not generally deliver to an Airbnb accommodation. This is because most Airbnb hosts don’t want to deal with picking up the package and you might end up not getting it. Instead, the Wi-Fi provider might ask you to pick it up from the nearest post office to the Airbnb place. But this may also pose an inconvenience because you’ll need some knowledge of Japanese for them to comprehend what you’re trying to pick-up.

Best portable Wi-Fi in Japan?

Best Pocket Wi-Fi in Japan Fake reviews
Bunch of bloggers ranking Google for the “best pocket wifi in Japan” keyword.

Perhaps, the question should be: Which is the best portable Wi-Fi for me?

We regularly come across people on TripAdvisor and reddit asking, “What is the best portable Wi-Fi in Japan?” Followed by tons of people giving their own opinions.

In addition, when you search the internet, you’ll realize many blogs are disingenuous or using predatory tactics, with titles like, “Best Pocket Wi-Fi in Japan…” then only list the options that are commissioned links…

Don’t get us wrong, affiliate marketing is fine; we do it too, but there is really no overall “best option” for everyone. So we hope to help you pick the one right for you.

Our 3-step guide to choosing the best portable hotspot for you

Portable Wi-Fi Delivered to our home
PuPuRu Wi-Fi and Ninja Wi-Fi (ordered through Veltra) delivered to our home.

Step 1: Assess what kind of user you are.

Wi-Fi rental companies like to tout their portable Wi-Fi services by flaunting their pricing along with the term “unlimited” and “fast” data speed. But the real deal here is how much data you typically use in a day.

So which are you?

  • Heavy data user – someone who watches videos, uploads multiple photos/videos on social media, and play online video games while traveling Japan.
  • Casual or light data user – someone who just uses Google maps and browses information about Japan, as needed.

Heavy data users. For example, my husband is a heavy internet user (like super heavy). He will probably consume 2-3 GB a day just watching Youtube videos and uploading photos on our social media account.

For a user like him, a portable Wi-Fi with at least 10-20GB data throughout his stay won’t fail him. However, you may need to pay considerably more for that much data.

If you have kids who watch videos to entertain themselves while traveling in Japan, you’re also in the heavy user category. Plus, since you’re a family, you are probably sharing the connection through that device. So you’ll probably need more GB data to survive your trip.

Casual data users. If you’re like me, who’s a casual user, who only looks at my phone to use Google Maps and navigate the train, or find an interesting restaurant to eat at, or read ebooks, then you don’t really need a super high GB data. You can get away with an unlimited plan or 1GB a day or even less might even work for you. And it is usually way cheaper too.

Step 2: Get the portable hotspot router model that suits your needs.

We created this comparison chart of common wireless routers that can be rented in Japan. Look at the specifications carefully and see which one best suits your needs.

 601HW501HWHWD11303ZT
305ZT
FS030WAterm
MR04LN
Aria 2
Wireless Router Model601HWPocket Wi-Fi 501HWHWD11Pocket Wi-Fi 303ZTFS030WAterm-MR04LNAria 2 Freetel
BrandHUAWEIHUAWEIHUAWEIZTEFujisoftNECFreetel
Rented byNinjaPuPuRu, eConnect Japan, H.I.S, and Japan WirelessPuPuRuNinjaLightPocket and Sakura MobileGenki MobileSushi Wi-Fi
Battery capacity2,400mAh3,000mAh3000mAh2,700mAh3,060mAh2,100mAh2,300mAh
Continuous Communication Time (approx.)6-8.5 hours10 hours9 hours9 hours20 hours12 hours17 hours
Network Speed4G LTE/3G4G LTE/3G4G LTE/3G4G LTE/3GLTE/3GLTE/HSPA+4G LTE
Downlink / Uplink (best-effort speed)187.5Mbps / 37.5Mbps187.5Mbps / 37.5Mbps75Mbps / 25Mbps187.5Mbps / 37.5Mbps150Mbps/50Mbps150Mbps/50Mbps150Mbps/50Mbps
WLAN versionIEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/acIEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/acIEEE 802.11 b/g/nIEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/acIEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/acIEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/acIEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Weight135g150g136g150g128g111g110g

Step 3: Start comparing plans and prices.

 PuPuRuNinjaeConnect JapanH.I.SJapan Wireless
Plans and the router model
(excl. taxes and/or shipping fee)
Pocket Wi-Fi 501HW
501HW (SoftBank)

Unlimited: ¥500 per day

HWD11
HWD11 (au by KDDI)

Unlimited: ¥900 per day
Pocket Wi-Fi 303ZT
303ZT (SoftBank)

Unlimited: ¥900 per day

¥680 per day if booked through Voyagin.

¥7,000 for 11-30 days (flat fee) if booked through Veltra.

601HW
601HW (SoftBank)

1GB/day: ¥800 per per day
Pocket Wi-Fi 501HW
501HW (SoftBank)

1GB/day: ¥980 per day

50GB: ¥5,080 per day

25GB: ¥3,350 per day

View all their plans here.
Pocket Wi-Fi 501HW
501HW (SoftBank)

Unlimited: starts at ¥2,500
minimum 3 days rent
Pocket Wi-Fi 501HW
501HW (SoftBank)

Unlimited: starts ¥4,266
minimum 2 days rent

View all their plans here.
Taxes and fees8% + ¥1,000 shipping8% + ¥800 admin fee8% + ¥790 shippingTaxes incl.8% + ¥500 shipping
Simultaneous ConnectionsUp to 10 devices.Up to 5 devices.Up to 10 devices.Up to 10 devices.Up to 10 devices.
Bonus- Free battery charger
- Free 10GB on their 1GB plan
Free battery charger
Pickup and return options- Airport
- Hotel
- Post office box
- Airport
- Company office
- Airport
- Post office
- Hotel
- Company office pick up and return only- Airport
- Post office
- Hotel
 LightPocketGenki MobileSushi Wi-FiSakura Mobile
Plans and the router model
FS030W
FS030W (SoftBank & NTT DoCoMo)

Unlimited: starts at ¥3,350
minimum of 5 days rent

500MB/day: starts at ¥3,000
minimum of 5 days rent

350MB/day: starts at ¥2,620
minimum of 5 days rent

View all plans and customizable plans here.
Aterm-MR04LN
MR04LN (NTT DoCoMo)

1GB/day: ¥300 per day

2GB/day: ¥500 per day
Aria 2 Freetel
Aria 2 (SoftBank)

Unlimited: ¥299 per day
FS030W
FS030W (SoftBank)

300MB/day: ¥3,700
minimum of 3 days rent

600MB/day: ¥4,450
minimum of 3 days rent

3G/day: ¥6,100
minimum of 3 days rent
Taxes and fees8% tax + ¥540 shipping8% tax + free shipping + ¥3,000 activation fee8% tax + ¥1,000 shipping + ¥2,999 activation fee8% tax + free shipping
Simultaneous connectionsUp to 10 devices.Up to 5 devices.Up to 10 devices.Up to 4 devices.
Bonus- Free battery charger
- + 200kbps capping after 1GB exceeded
Pickup and return options- Airport
- Hotel
- Post office box
- Airport
- Post office box
- Airport
- Post office
- Hotel
- Company office
- Airport
- Hotel
- Post office box

Conclusions

For full disclosure and transparency, know that we ordered PuPuRu and Ninja with our own pocket money for testing. We chose them simply because they’re the most popular and the cheapest. We dismissed testing the rest because they have similar devices and use the same network–SoftBank. We also dismissed testing companies with expensive activation fees; we don’t want to deal with those.

OUR PICK FOR SPEED AND DATA USAGE

eConnect Japan 4G Plan

Pocket Wi-Fi 501HW
We like eConnect Japan’s full transparency and full disclosure of their plans and hotspot specifications. In fact, they’re the only company that does that.

Their basic 4G plan has 1GB data per day and comes with free 10GB data which is perfect for heavy data usage like watching videos or playing videos games.

Plus, their service comes with free Power Bank mobile charger, and you can’t beat that feature set at its low price.

OUR PICK FOR CASUAL USE AND AFFORDABILITY

PuPuRu Wi-Fi Hi-Speed Plan

Pocket Wi-Fi 501HW
Based on our test, PuPuRu’s connection speed was outstanding and we never experienced any downtime. But that’s probably because we used it casually, as it’s intended it to be.

We’d like to think that their unlimited plan is still capped somehow even though their website is lacking a full FUP disclosure. But, at the time of writing, they’re probably the cheapest Wi-Fi hotspot for rent in Japan.

OUR PICK FOR LONG-TERM USE (11-30 DAYS)

Ninja Wi-Fi

Pocket Wi-Fi 303ZT
In terms of value for long-term use, we found that Ninja Wi-Fi offers the cheapest plan if you’re renting the hotspot device for 11-30 days because of the flat-rate price of ¥7,000.

It says on their website that they offer unlimited data, however, based on our test and usage, the speed was average. So we’d think that this plan is not intended for heavy use.

Please know that this price is not available when booked directly from their website, but instead, is available through their partner agency Veltra.

Unlimited isn’t really “unlimited”

We’re not against Wi-Fi companies that use the term “unlimited” for their Wi-Fi rental plans. But, if they’re going to use it, they might as well indicate the Fair Usage Policy (FUP) on their websites. After all, the internet is a shared network environment and how you use it affects other internet users.

If a provider says “unlimited,” then that doesn’t mean it’s “ultra-fast speed and unlimited all the time.” It only means that you won’t lose the connection and can use the internet in an unlimited manner. However, there will be either data capping or bandwidth throttling imposed by the network provider (bandwidth throttling is when an ISP intentionally slows down the internet connection speed of a device) [3].

With Fair Use Policies, ISPs will significantly reduce the download and upload speeds of a user who has passed their allotted data limit to ensure that others using the same network are not affected by heavy internet users. Because of this, a wireless plan at 500MB a day might be faster than an “unlimited” plan.

Caring for your portable device

Caring for your mobile hotspotFor those who like to prepare for the worst, you can consider adding gadget insurance offered by the provider during the booking process to protect yourself if the device somehow gets broken.

That said, it’s usually an additional ¥300-¥400 per day, which is actually quite expensive on top of your mobile Wi-Fi cost. So it’s up to you.

If you opt to go without it, then make sure to always keep your portable Wi-Fi in a safe place inside your bag or backpack, and package it appropriately when returning it through a post office box.

Otherwise, you have to deal with the replacement fee if you lose or damage the device, which can be around ¥25,000-¥45,000!

Lastly, don’t use too much internet…

Remind yourself that you’re in Japan!

That it is much more enjoyable to put your phone down and just savor your time and the Japanese culture around you.

Try and keep your usage to navigation and photography, rather than spending your vacation glued to your phone.

Also, using your mobile phone near priority seats inside buses and trains is actually considered rude, so don’t be that guy/gal.

References

[1] Justin Dolly, J. D. (2018, January 9). Why you should never, ever connect to public WiFi. Retrieved April 19, 2019, from https://www.csoonline.com/article/3246984/why-you-should-never-ever-connect-to-public-wifi.html

[2] 商標・登録商標について | ソフトバンク. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2019, from https://www.softbank.jp/help/sitepolicy/trademark/

[3] Bandwidth throttling – Wikipedia. (2019, April 20). Retrieved April 20, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwidth_throttling



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