Bearing in mind the confusing nature of train stations, the lack of road signs and the overall complexity of major cities like Tokyo, Osaka or almost anywhere, the convenience of having a keitai (携帯) in Japan is obvious. Here, more than anywhere else in the world, social maneuvers are most often done by mobile.
The obvious disadvantages are the cost. Probably the biggest disincentive to getting a keitai is the amount of money the little metallic rectangle sucker end up extracting from your bank account each month. You'll need a good contract and an iron will to stop from bleeding yen from your pockets. Many people pay in the upwards of ¥10,000-15,000 a month. Make sure to be aware of any hidden charges that may exist. One way to control the amount of money you spend on a cell-phone is to get a prepaid phone. You will have to pay for the phone, but unless you spend a lot of time on the phone, you will probably save a lot more in the end. Regardless, it is suggested that you buy the smartest smartphone you can afford. The improvement to your quality of life is immense e.g. looking up alternative train times when you miss your train, directions to where you want to be in the big city etc...
Please be aware of the Rudeness Factor: Many people find it quite rude if you blab away on your cell phone on the train, bus or in other inappropriate places. It can also be quite annoying when you are trying to have a conversation with someone and they are sitting there in silence typing an e-mail. A lot of people forget to switch their phones to silent mode when they are on the train, in meetings or even teaching a class. It is probably a good idea to get in the habit of leaving your phone in silent or vibrate mode (マナーモード) during these situations.
How to get a PhoneEdit
Obviously, the difficulty of all this depends on how well you can communicate with the person in the shop. The most important thing is a clear idea of what you want before you go into the shop. It is a good idea to pick up some brochures and ask your senpais first about what brands, models and features they think are best. And make sure to check with your predecessor about what service they used since some service providers have better service in certain areas and some have no service at all in various locations. When you do go get a phone, you will need top take the following items with you to the shop:
- hanko (personal stamp)
- Two forms of ID - one form of ID must have your picture; insurance card, Japanese drivers license, current bills, passport, and residency card. Be careful with the passport and residency card. The official policy at the major carriers is that you cannot get a contract longer than your visa information (which your passport and residency card contains). Different carriers and shops enforce this rule to varying degrees. In particular Softbank is well known for adhering to this policy.
- Bank book (or relevant bank information)
A confusing array of questions will crop up at the contract filling in stage. A good portion of the questions will relate to what features you want. It is a good idea to carry a Japanese friend or someone who speaks Japanese with you if your not confident in your language abilities. The answer to almost all of these questions should be NO. Most companies will prefer and often require that you set up an automatic bank transfer to pay your monthly bill.
Types of KeitaisEdit
Phones usually come in two flavors: dumb and smart phone. The smart phone are your Android and iPhones. It is suggested you get a smart phone due to the quality of life improvement. It also happens to be bilingual.
Dumb phones usually come in Japanese but almost every keitai maker has a few models that come with a bi-lingual option, a feature that is undeniably handy for those just starting out here. That said, the Japanese only models are often not as confusing as you might expect, especially one that have pictorial interfaces.
Companies to choose fromEdit
There are three major companies in Japan, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Sales and offers are changing nearly constantly, so it would be impossible to cover them all here, so checking at an electronics store or at the websites is probably the best way to decide.
The "jii-chan" (grandfather) of Japanese cell phone companies, owned by NTT. It still has an over 50% share of the market, but has fallen in recent years due to strong competition. Coverage is good throughout most of Japan.
- URL: www.nttdocomo.co.jp
- Phone: 0120-005-250 (Toll free, answered in English)
They have recently made a major attempt to undercut their competitors pricewise, and will most likely be the cheapest in general of the three major companies. Their prepaid plan is also very attractive. However, coverage is mediocre at best.
- URL: http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/
- Phone: 0088-21-2000 (toll-free, press 8 for English support)
AU provides a standard of service similar to Docomo and Softbank, and is notable because of their major efforts to provide coverage to rural areas. They are also known to have the cheapest voice per minute rates.
- URL: www.au.kddi.com/english/
- Phone: 0077-7-111 (toll free, press 0 for the operator)
Buying/Renting a Phone LineEdit
The way phonelines work in Japan has changed. For information on how to buy or rent a phone line, visit NTT's English page: www.ntt-west.co.jp/service_guide/1telephone/telephone02.html
English Phone BooksEdit
There are two English phone books available in Japan, the Japan Yellow Pages and Town Page. If you are going to buy a copy, the Japan Yellow Pages is probably the better of the two. Both offer a free online version, but the Japan Yellow Pages' listings are pretty much limited to Tokyo.
Japan Yellow PagesEdit
NTT Directory AssistanceEdit
Domestic Calls: Dial 104
International Calls: Dial 0055
NTT Information ServicesEdit
General information service which gives telephone directory assistance and answers questions on how to get things done and who to call. They will also assist with calls to the 119 emergency services.
9:00 am - 5:00 pm, M-F
As your parents or friends are certain to want you to call home once in a while, consider some of the following tips when you're calling.
Country codes for countries that most JETs come from are as follows.
- Australia 61
- Canada 1
- Ireland 353
- Jamaica 1
- New Zealand 64
- Singapore 65
- South Africa 27
- UK 44
- USA 1
For other countries try this list of country codes.
The easiest way to dial out of the country is: 010 + country code + area code + phone number ...but unless you would like to be charged too much per minute, we suggest you try one of the following.
International Phone CardsEdit
They are cheap and convenient. Several cards can be used for domestic calls as well. Phone cards are available at convenience stores such as Lawsons. Many stores now have freestanding units with a touch screen, usually semi-bilingual, from which you buy the cards. There are several cards available. The cards have a 24hr. flat rate, and can be used from any phone (mobile/public/home). Rural convenience stores will often not have calling cards in stock but they can often recharge them for you. Try buying the cards at department stores and convenience stores in the cities, and then you can recharge them back in rural areas.
00 numbers are prefixes for connecting to the cheapest Japanese phone companies. They are simple to use – just dial 00** and then the number that you want. Look out for these deals because they are generally cheaper than NTT, and some do not have any registration fee or credit card requirements (such as 0061). You are charged for this service separate from your regular phone bill. Depending on where you call and how long you talk, they can be a good, convenient deal. Some of the discount telephone services listed below fall into this category.
Popular internet telephony. Requires a computer, internet, and a microphone http://www.skype.com
Google mail oddly enough does voice and and video conferencing as well. If you log into your Gmail account the voice option will be on your left
Discount Telephone Service Providers: International and DomesticEdit
The following companies can get you a better deal on phone calls than KDDI or NTT. Rates vary. Most companies offer flat rates and bill in yen. Make sure to ask if they have any special deals for JETs.
Tel: (042) 388-5958
Fax: (042) 388-1918
Website: WorldLink-Tel.com Mobile site: WorldLink-Tel.com/i
Address: Maehara-cho 4-17-26, Koganei-shi, Tokyo 184-0013
Cheap calls from Japan on your mobile phone and home phone. Local and long distance calls within Japan too. Direct dial calling with a 4-digit prefix.
Yahoo! BB provides a very cheap rate for local and domestic calls. Go here for more details.