Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card Japan: Which One Should You Choose?

You might be visiting Japan soon and have been considering whether to get the pocket WiFi vs SIM card Japan for your upcoming tour. Don’t worry! We will make the decision easy for you. One thing people sometimes overlook before going abroad is their internet connection. 

Staying without a secure and reliable internet connection in a foreign land can be nerve-wracking. While you might stumble upon free WiFi hotspots in some places, they’re not everywhere. Experienced tourists usually go for either buying a SIM Card or renting a WiFi router. 

While pocket WiFi routers give you flexibility, SIM cards often offer more cost-effectiveness and convenience. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of these two internet connection options and guide you on which option suits different types of travelers.

Overview of Pocket Wifi in Japan

A pocket WiFi is a tiny, portable, pocket-sized WiFi router that lets you carry the internet with you wherever you go. It fits in your hand and creates a WiFi hotspot. So, you can connect your tablet, laptop, phone, or any device that can go online. Usually, when you connect your devices with a pocket WiFi, they stay connected automatically.

It’s super handy for groups or families because everyone can connect to the same unit. These small gadgets are generally speedy and give more data compared to a SIM card. If you’re traveling in Japan, we recommend renting a pocket WiFi instead of buying one. There are several Pocket WiFi renting services available in Japan, and they’re generally easy to use.

On the counters of the arrival halls of big airports such as Kansai and Narita, you can rent a pocket WiFi device. Also, you can book through a rental service, and they’ll send the pocket WiFi to either your hotel or the airport for you to collect it. 

There are various plans available, like 5-day and 10-day options, so you can select based on how long you’ll be there in Japan. A great thing about this WiFi router is that you can get online right away after getting it. To use it, just turn on the WiFi device and your phone. Then, look for the device’s SSID shown on your smartphone and enter the password that’s given there.

Know The Advantages of Pocket Wifi Routers

Wider Coverage

Almost every Pocket WiFi provider has coverage all across Japan, from the lively roads of Osaka to the serene temples in Nara. That means you can count on having internet access throughout your journey all over Japan.

Connects to Many Devices

A pocket WiFi router lets you share your connection with tour buddies on many devices. In fact, you might connect around 15 devices. Just keep in mind that they need to be within signal range.

Gives 24/7 Accessibility

You can connect to this WiFi router anytime, whether it’s during a visit to Mount Fuji at sunrise or during midnight in Akihabara. If you’ve got a laptop with you, this router makes connecting to the internet very easy wherever your travels take you and at any time.

No Roaming Fees 

With a pocket WiFi router, you can avoid those intimidating international roaming charges that could mess up your budget for eating sushi.

Fast Internet Speed

Pocket WiFi routers in Japan have extremely fast internet speed. These routers connect to the LTE network of Japan, accessing speeds up to 150 megabits per second.


If you know how to use Wi-Fi at home, using portable Wi-Fi routers in Japan is easy. They are extremely user-friendly.

Know The Disadvantages of Pocket Wifi Routers

Battery Life Problems

A day exploring Kyoto with a continuous connection can drain the battery of the pocket WiFi.  Usually, it lasts up to 9 hours, so you’ll need to charge it either through a portable power bank or an electrical outlet. 

You will have to keep an eye on the battery life to avoid unexpected shutdowns. Carrying a portable power supply allows you to recharge the WiFi router while you are on the move.

The Hassle of Getting or Returning It

When you rent a pocket WiFi router, you will have to pick it up from designated spots such as the rental company offices or the airport. This sometimes can be a hassle for you. And remember, you’ve got to return it on time. If the router goes missing or gets damaged, you need to pay a huge compensation fee.

It Needs to be with You

If you want to discover that hidden sushi restaurant in Tsukiji using your phone, make sure your router is always with you. For those traveling in a group, they have to stick together to stay connected to the internet. They won’t be able to connect to the internet if they are in different places unless they have numerous pocket WiFi devices.

Overview of SIM Cards in Japan

A SIM card is basically a tiny chip you put into your phone to link it up with a particular network. It’s an IC card that helps you make calls and use the internet. A SIM card is comparatively cheaper than a Pocket WiFi router. You can grab one easily in Japan, either at big airports such as Kansai and Narita or at any electronics store in the city.

If you want, there are services that’ll send the SIM card to your hotel or the airport. Just note that some of these SIM cards need a quick registration. It’s safest to get them from places that’ll do the setup for you. 

Also, keep in mind that your mobile has to be unlocked to use a Japanese SIM card. Once you put the card in your phone, you will get local data and signals as you would get at home. Prepaid SIM cards generally have a set data limit and usage time. 

To install them, use a safety pin to open your phone’s SIM tray and insert the SIM card. In recent times, there’s also the option of eSIMs. These SIM cards are already embedded in the phone and can be bought online.

Know The Advantages of SIM Cards

Don’t Need to Return It

With prepaid SIM cards, you don’t have to go through any return procedures like pocket Wi-Fi routers. Just throw it away after using it. Go shopping in Harajuku or eat the last-minute sushi in Tsukiji without stressing about returning equipment.

No Additional Device

A SIM card eliminates the need to carry any extra devices apart from your phone.

Individual Connectivity Option

When you give each of your travel companions a SIM card, it allows everyone to explore individually. There’s no need to stick together just to stay connected to the internet. SIM cards are an excellent choice for couples or solo travelers who aren’t required to connect multiple devices often.

Speedy Internet 

A 4G or even a 5G SIM card provides a stable connection and faster speed. They are ideal for streaming from a lively Tokyo road or sharing breathtaking photos of Mount Fuji.

Know The Disadvantages of SIM Cards

No Group Connectivity

Unlike pocket WiFi devices, SIM cards don’t permit numerous devices to connect simultaneously. Before making a reservation, make sure to check if device tethering is permitted with the plan.

Not Compatible with All Phones

Not all phones can use Japanese SIM cards because some phone models from certain countries might not be compatible. To use a Japanese SIM card, your phone needs to be “unlocked” or SIM-free. Several mobile companies lock their phones, making them only function with their network. 

They usually will not unlock them unless you complete your contract or pay an additional fee. Also, to use a SIM card in Japan, your phone needs to be compatible with local network specs, like a 3G or 4G phone. Some older Blackberry phones and specific smartphones might not be compatible, so it is essential to check if your phone will work.

Settings Need to be Changed

Some primary setup may be needed, which may pose a challenge if you are not tech-savvy. You’ll have to change the Access Point Name settings on your smartphone before connecting to a network. 

Incorrect APN settings can lead to a loss of phone functionality or result in extra charges. If adjusting phone settings makes you uncomfortable, it’s advisable to opt for a pocket WiFi router instead.

Possible Limitations

Some plans might have data restrictions, which can impact your capability to stream while wandering around the streets of Shibuya. So, make sure to read the plan clearly and fully understand what is included in the plan before making a reservation. 

Pocket WiFi vs Sim Card in Japan: The Key Differences

  • Number of Devices

This is where the pocket WiFi truly stands out. When using a SIM card, you’re limited to internet access for just one device. However, with a pocket WiFi router, you can simultaneously connect several devices like a tablet, PC, or other people’s smartphones.

  • Data Capacity

Pocket Wi-Fi routers typically offer a lot of data capacity, often surpassing 100GB. Prepaid SIM cards are designed for short-term use and usually come with smaller data capacities. However, there are now Prepaid SIM cards available with about 50GB capacity.

  • Installation Process

When it comes to installation procedures for getting connected to the internet, the WiFi router takes the lead. With a SIM card, you have to ensure that your smartphone is compatible with it. Also, you have to make the correct settings on your smartphone. 

On the other side, with the WiFi router, you just need to turn it on, and connect to its network by entering the password.

  • Plan Differences

When choosing between a pocket WiFi router and a SIM card, a major factor is comparing their available data plans. SIM cards typically come with more restricted daily data limits, generally ranging from 1-3 GB. This is sufficient for essential things such as light web browsing, maps, and transit applications.

However, travelers intending to use data-heavy applications or stream lots of video or music might find these limits insufficient. Many WiFi router rental companies offer unlimited data plans, providing support to heavy data users. 

Nonetheless, some providers may reduce data speeds after reaching a specific threshold. It’s crucial to read the plan description to understand if unlimited truly means maintaining unlimited high-speed data.

  • Communication Speed

In Japan, pocket WiFi routers largely use communication from main carriers, which ensures quick speeds and a steady connection. They give you quick communication and stay steady even when lots of gadgets are connected at the same time. On the contrary, SIM cards from MVNOs might be a bit slower than pocket Wi-Fi routers.

But if you’re using them with your smartphones, there’s no problem. If you’re doing things such as online business meetings, it’s smart to go for the pocket Wi-Fi router for its quicker and more stable speeds.

  • Usability

A great thing about using SIM cards is that after they are installed on your phone, you can relax for your whole tour without any extra worries. They are generally designed for about 30 days of use. 

On the flip side, with pocket WiFi routers, you have to carry them around always and keep an eye on the remaining battery. They work well for both short-term and long-term trips. 

  • Price

Pocket Wi-Fi routers cost more than SIM cards because you are renting the device. The expenses become more affordable when shared among several people. In contrast, once you buy a SIM card, you can use it continuously, making it a more cost-effective choice compared to renting a pocket Wi-Fi router.


In the end, the decision between a pocket WiFi router or SIM card boils down to your particular travel requirements and preferences. If you will mainly use messaging and maps with just one device, Japanese SIM cards provide a convenient and affordable option for internet connection in Japan. 

For those travelers who need to connect several devices with lots of data usage, renting a Japanese pocket WiFi router offers flexible unlimited data plans. 

Trusted providers such as GlocalMe, or Klook allow you to book both SIM cards and pocket WiFi routers online and have them delivered to the hotel or airport. We are hopeful that this article on pocket WiFi vs SIM card Japan has helped you to choose one between these two connectivity methods.

David Huner
David Hunerhttps://yourtechscholar.com
I have completed my graduation from The University of Phoenix. Being a graduate, I’ve been writing on tech tips and products for several years. I love to write about all the latest trends in technology, as well as give my personal take on new products. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just want to read more articles like this one, check out our website!
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