I’m posting onboard ship in the port of Otaru using a Japanese data SIM card I bought on eBay before leaving the U.S. I bought 2 of these cards which are by the Japanese company, Docomo, which my research showed to have the best coverage in Japan. The cards are for 8 days each, so we plan to use them back-to-back during our stay in Japan, using my Galaxy S7 phone as a hotspot for David’s Galaxy S7s and our laptop. Each card is described as “4G LTE, 3GB/8 days, unlimited.” The cards cannot be used with HTC, Blackberry, dual SIM phones or any smartphones made in China.
The card starting working in the wee hours this morning, while we were at sea off the Japanese coast, but still some hours from the port of Otaru. The signal is strong and fast and both David’s Galaxy S7 Android phone and the laptop are connecting well with my phone’s hotspot.
I paid $26.98 for both cards, including shipping from Hong Kong. It took about 20 days for the cards to arrive, which was within the vendor’s estimated shipping time. He was very responsive to my questions and had good reviews, so I felt reasonably comfortable making the purchase. We might could have bought the cards in Japan and I read that visitor SIM cards are sold at Narita Airport. But, we are arriving by ship in Otaru where I could find no information about such SIMs and, even if we did find them, I had concerns about language issues. I also didn’t want to spend my limited time ashore looking for and waiting in a shop anyway if I didn’t have to. Given the reasonable price on eBay, it seemed a no-brainer to me.
I chose data-only SIM cards because we don’t really care about making calls–and should we need to, we can usually call for free using Google. The Internet, i.e., data, is what we really want and need for Google Maps, researching local sites, texting with home via WhatsApp, email, etc. Anyway, so far, so good!
UPDATE: I’ve been using the Docomo card for four days now and am generally happy. Sometimes, the connection is a little slow, but for the most part it’s been really good. Also, some of the sluggishness may be due to being offshore and to having other devices using my phone as a hotspot. Most impressive of all, not only did I retain connection when we were on a ship 15 miles off the Japanese coast, but I was even able to make a 30+ minute call to my son in the U.S. on WhatsApp with excellent quality…and for free!