Finally! Now I’ve got a Japanese cell phone so that I can keep in touch with people when I’m not sitting in my dormitory, on my Internet connected laptop! For someone who is as addicted to a cell phone as I am, this feels great and makes it worth the two hours I spent getting the phone…
The most fantastic and kind J went with me and E when we went cell phone shopping, and with her help I’m not the owner of a black/limegreen smartphone that I can play around with. Luckily I had already decided what plan I wanted to sign up for, so the only thing I needed to do in the store was decide which phone I wanted (which didn’t take much time – since I wanted a really cheap or even free phone there was a very limited choice) and sign some paperwork (which took quite some time).
E decided to get her cell phone at another company, so we went there and spent another two hours for her to get her iPhone. We are both very happy with our cell phones!
I could also mention some practical things about getting a cell phone in Japan.
– First of all you need to have registered for your Alien Registration Card / Residence Card. You don’t need the actual card – IF you have your Health Insurance Card instead which is registered on the same address. This is because they need some proof that you really have an official address that you’re living at, if I understood it correctly.
– Secondly, you need some kind of bank account. I opened my account at a post office instead of a bank. Both choices have their pros and cons, but personally I think a post office account is sufficient. The form for opening the account was of course in Japanese, and you’re supposed to write your address with kanji + katakana, but apart from that it was rather easy to open the account. You get your own bank book, a withdrawal card by mail after about one week, and you can manage your account from any post office.
– When we got our cell phones we needed to combine our Health Insurance Card with our Student ID card which you get from the school. That was enough for identification. We also needed our bank books.
– The biggest cell phone companies in Japan are Softbank, DoCoMo and Au. Which one you choose is up to you of course – I chose DoCoMo and E chose Softbank. It could be a good idea to compare the different companies and their plans to find something that fits you and your needs, and not just take the first one you see.
– When you get a cell phone in Japan you get the whole package, so to speak. In Sweden we are used to having one cell phone and just changing the plan or even company, if we feel like it. In Japan you don’t change just the plan – you get a new phone as well. So if you want to change from DoCoMo to Softbank for example, you also get a new phone at Softbank, not just the SIM card with the new plan on. It’s also not allowed to get a cheap or even free phone with a plan, and then put the SIM card in your cell phone from back home, even if the SIM card would fit and work in it.
I wonder if there’s anything else worth telling? Usually you pay a basic monthly fee for the plan, some call fees can be included, and mobile e-mails are usually included in this basic monthly fee. Using the Internet is a little different between companies and types of plans. It could be included in the basic fee but it is common that you pay for the data traffic you’re using, or add a surfing plan for about 4500-5500 yen a month. It could also be worth it to check if you would gain by signing up for a two-year contract which you cancel after a year (or whenever you have to do it) if you can’t stay for two years, compared to signing up for a one-year contract.
If you’re not going to stay in Japan for very long, maybe just a few months or half a year, there are other alternatives. Like, you could get a cell phone with chargeable phone cards. I don’t know much about these alternatives, I just know that they exist.
And finally, here are a couple of pictures of my new shiny cell phone!