Getting a Mobile Phone Number in Japan – Simple and Easy Way for Foreign Residents | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Getting a Mobile Phone Number in Japan – Simple and Easy Way for Foreign Residents

By Guidable Writers Apr 3, 2020

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Vietnamese Chinese (Traditional) Indonesian

What is the easiest way to get a mobile phone number? What is the best mobile phone company for foreigners? 

Having a phone number is essential for your life in Japan – it is necessary for renting a place to live, opening a bank account, getting a credit card, or even registering to LINE, the most used messaging app in the country. 

However, most phone contracts for major carriers in Japan are 2 years long. That means you will have to pay fees when cancelling your contract if you are going to stay for less than that. A 2 year contract is often only available for those who have at least permission of residency that is at least 2 years long. If your permit is less than 2 years, then some companies will not even accept you as a client.

Also, if you are getting a new phone at the same time you are getting a phone number, and the price of the phone itself included in the monthly fee, you will have to pay for all the installments that are left when you cancel the contract. Depending on the model of your phone, and how much time you left until the end of the 2 year contract, that amount can be an unwelcome surprise to receive when you are planning to leave the country.

For those who are trying to avoid such troubles, another popular option is to rent a phone for the number of months one is planning on staying in Japan. It can be cheaper than the prevailing option of getting a phone for 2 years and then cancelling it, but it can still be quite expensive. 

Knowing how hard it is for some people to get a phone number in Japan, JP Smart SIM has developed a service especially designed for those who do not want to or cannot have a long-term contract.

3 reasons why JP Smart SIM is the most popular choice among expats in Japan

JP Smart SIM is designed to simplify the process and give support to anyone living in Japan. Its services have been used by many expats and long-term visitors, thanks to its simple contract, payment method, and no limitation of when it is alright to cancel the plan. 

1- Contract is easy

You just need to apply online to get your own JP Smart SIM! There is no need to go to the store; you can do it in the comfort of your room. The website is available in English, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Japanese. Customer support is also available in those languages. 

Visitors without a residence card (those visiting long-term for tourism) can apply to JP Smart Data. The only document necessary is a picture of your passport information. 

To apply, simply click APPLY at the bottom of the page, select the plan that fits you the best, and create a new account. 

Fill out the form with your information and that is it! Even if you do not have a fixed address in Japan yet, you can apply to have your SIM Card delivered anywhere you will be staying temporarily in Japan. Just be sure to be there to get your SIM Card when it arrives!

Also, if you are living long-term in Japan and have a residence card, you are eligible to apply to the popular JP Smart Call plan. This plan offers more convenience for you. 

As for the phone itself (the device), JP Smart SIM is compatible with most devices, even those from your home country, as long as it supports 4G and is SIM free. 

The SIM Card is a NANO sim, but they provide adaptors to change the size to fit your device, so you do not need to worry about the size of the SIM card.

2- No need to have a bank account or credit card

If you try to get a number or mobile phone at other carriers, you will find them asking for your credit card or bank information to register for automatic payment. You will also find out that many banks ask for a phone number when opening a bank account. This “chicken or the egg” dilemma is quite frustrating and stressful. Additionally, you cannot have a bank account if you don’t have a residence card, so long-term tourism visitors are not eligible anyway.

You do not need a bank account or credit card to apply for and pay your monthly bill if you use JP Smart SIM. 

Since this service is designed to work for anyone in Japan, it is possible to pay your monthly invoice at convenience stores inside Japan. That’s right, any convenience store will be able to process your payment!

If you choose to pay your phone bill at convenience stores, JP Smart will send you an email on the 25th of every month with the details of your bill and payment.

Also, you can keep track of your phone bills using JP Smart’s user page that you can access with your account – you will create one when applying. 

Just be careful: payments must be completed by the end of the month, otherwise service will be stopped on the first day of the following month.

3- Contract can be canceled anytime without fees

Different from other companies, at JP Smart you can request the termination of your contract anytime without cancellation fees! This can be done at your “My Page” on the JP Smart website. After canceling your contract, there is no need to return the SIM Card; simply dispose of it the correct way (check how to do it the correct way with your city). 

If you are leaving Japan temporarily, this is a good way to avoid paying phone bills while you are not using your phone. You can use the hibernation service, or just apply again when you return to Japan!

“Why are you telling me this just now? I already have chosen another provider!” – No problem! Change carriers and keep your phone number.

Even if you managed to get a phone number with another carrier, changing to JP Smart is still an option! First, if you have just signed your contract, check with your carrier if you can cancel for free. Some carriers will allow you to do so within 8 days from the first day of your contract.

If not, if you are going to stay in Japan for less than 2 years and will have to pay for cancellation fees anyway, it is better to pay now and change to JP Smart, which has cheaper plans available than the other major carriers. Unfortunately, you will not save on the cancellation fee, but at least you will save on your monthly bill. 

Keep your phone number: how to “port”

This may sound odd to those who are very young, but in the past (more specifically, until 2006), it was not possible to change carriers without changing your phone number. Since October 2006, any carrier in Japan must enable their customers to do MNP (Mobile Number Portability), which means you can keep your phone number even if you change carriers. 

Fees will be cheaper! What is the MNP special offer?

JP Smart has prepared a special offer for those who want to do MNP: a discount of up to ¥14,960 if you are porting your number to JP Smart SIM!

When transferring your phone number to JP Smart SIM, you will get: FREE contract administration fee, FREE monthly fee of the first contract month, and 50% OFF the monthly fee of the 2nd AND 3rd months!

This discount may even cover the cancellation fee you will have to pay to cancel your current plan. Considering that any further mobile bills you will have to pay after applying to JP Smart SIM are cheaper depending on the plan you choose, there is not a single reason to not port your number to JP Smart SIM!

Last but not least, JP Smart SIM also offers a bonus of 1GB per month for those who pay their bills on time. 

Comparing to other carriers

The major carriers in Japan have only one or two plans to choose from. Some have no data limit and will offer discounts if you use a minimum amount of it, and there are other discounts for families or if your internet provider at home is the same as your phone. Most of these discounts will not apply if you are not going to stay here for very long, if you are alone, or living at a share house, where contracts are not under your name. 

Also, not being able to choose lighter plans gives you no option but to pay a high fee, even if you are going to use, let’s say, 6GB per month of data. 

While researching Japanese mobile phone plans, we found out that if you sign up for the 20GB plan at JP Smart SIM, the one with the most data available, the monthly bill will be the same as if you use a major carrier. However, considering that you are going to use this mobile number for less than 2 years, the cancellation fee would apply for major carriers, while that will not happen at JP Smart. 


However, if you choose a lighter plan at JP Smart SIM, you will be able to save more than HALF of what you would be paying at major carriers. And we are not even considering the cancellation fees!

It’s easy to get a mobile phone number in Japan!

Being easy to apply and with flexible payment methods, JP Smart SIM is the best choice for you in Japan. 

We have focused on the practical side and financial benefits that JP Smart SIM can offer to you as your provider, but there is one last point that should not be forgotten: by being so understandable of how foreigners struggle to go through the bureaucracies of signing a contract in Japan, JP Smart SIM has designed its services in a way to minimize the stress we feel only to get a simple phone number as much as possible.

Being in Japan is, generally, a great experience. But these “small” stresses that we go through trying to apply to essential services that spoil the experience. 

For the sake of your time and mental health, choosing a service that is not only efficient but also affordable for most while at the same time offering a differential customer service to foreigners, is priceless. 

You can apply to JP Smart at any time, online, and it can be delivered even on the weekends. There is a detailed Q&A session on their website, but if you cannot find the answer to your questions there, feel free to contact their customer support. They are happy to support your application, it does not matter if this is your first phone number in Japan, or if you are coming from another carrier.

You can scan the QR code below to visit the official website with more details!