Choosing a Cell Phone Provider

Any foreign person who has lived in Japan for an extended period will tell you that making a cell phone plan is one of the single hardest things about getting yourself situated here. You get sent on a wild goose chase or just plain shut out every step of the way. I`m going to help you avoid the pitfalls and learn about the different carrier options available in Kashiwa.

•A Long-Term Visa. If you plan on staying for less than two years, you will not be allowed to make a cell phone plan. Just get yourself a sim card instead. It`s less hassle and far cheaper.
A Zairyu Card. The ID card that you received at the airport or after you obtained a visa.
• A Bank Account/Credit Card. Here is where most of us fall into a trap. You need a bank account to make a cell phone plan and you need a cell phone plan to make a bank account. The way I got around this policy was connecting my cell phone account to a credit card.
• A Lot of Money. Because so many flyjiin left without finishing their cell phone payments in the past, cell phone companies will not let you pay for your phone in installments during your first year in Japan. You will have to pay the entire cost of the phone upfront unless you go with a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) or a SIM card. 
• A Physical Address in Japan
An Individual Number Card. You either got this in the mail or you have to get it from city hall.
• A kind Japanese friend to Help You Out. These plans are tough to understand for Japanese people as well. You’re going to want someone on your side.

Carriers in Kashiwa: The Big Three


They tend to have pretty good English language support, as all bills arrive in English and some stores provide services in English.


It appears that Docomo has also joined the other companies in offering English language services online. They are one of the more expensive ones of the three. However,  their service is fast and they have the best coverage. 


au is the most popular with younger people. They have more phone options and eye-catching commercials. Plus, they offer their services in multiple languages.

Woman holding a new phone and staring out the window of a store

Carriers in Kashiwa: Third-party providers and MNVOs

Y-Mobile is considered a third-party provider in a way, as they are technically owned by Softbank but price things separately. This company is definitely foreigner-friendly. I was surprised to find that they now have an English website which lays out their plans very simply. Prices seem to have gotten more competitive as well.

Rakuten Mobile
Rakuten has been giving the other networks a run for their money recently. Even though they're a newer company, they`ve become the largest MNVO in Japan at the time of writing this article. They use Docomo`s network as well, so they have pretty good coverage. Their homepage is only offered in Japanese unfortunately.

UQ mobile
This company is pretty similar to the other MNVOs. They are pretty competitively priced and also offer bundling services. They use au`s network for their services. They also don't have a foreign language page.


Phone Options for Short-term Residents
If you`re only here in Japan for a short time, you`ll be better suited with a SIM card or portable Wifi. There are a couple of places where you can find these in Kashiwa. Rakuten Mobile and Bic Camera both have SIM cards available and portable Wifi can be rented online. Tokyo Cheapo has some great articles about SIM cards and portable Wifi, so I would give those a read.


If you aren't confident with your Japanese and you want to have fast service, choose one of the big three (Softbank, Docomo, or au).

If the price point is most important with you, go with an MNVO.

If you plan on going back to your home country soon, just get a SIM card or portable Wifi. 

*Please note that the information on this page is subject to change and we are not responsible for any changes in information.

This article is written by:

United States




Hey guys! I’m Sydney, your friendly neighborhood foreigner! I moved to Japan in 2014, but I came to Kashiwa in 2019. Despite my name, I’m American not Australian.

When I first arrived in Japan, I was so relieved to find articles written by other foreigners about how to make my way in my new country. Now that I’ve been here a while, I’d like to share what I’ve learned as well and pay it forward.