Japan attracts millions of visitors annually. Having reliable mobile connectivity is crucial for navigating, staying in touch, and sharing on social media. SoftBank is a major carrier with excellent 4G coverage nationwide. This guide covers getting SoftBank SIM cards or eSIM for your Japan trip.

softbank sim card

I. Quick Facts about SoftBank

  • Founded in 1981, SoftBank is one of the leading telecommunications and internet companies in Japan.
  • Its full legal name is SoftBank Group Corp.
  • SoftBank provides mobile, broadband, e-commerce, AI, smart robotics, and clean energy technology services.
  • As of 2022, it has over 50 million mobile subscribers in Japan.
  • SoftBank has around 95% population coverage in Japan on its 4G LTE network.
  • It has over 1,200 SoftBank shop stores and over 9,200 partner stores across Japan.
softbank mobile service in Japan

II. Japan SoftBank Coverage and Speed in Japan

As one of Japan’s leading telecommunication companies, SoftBank aims to connect its customers wherever they are nationwide. We will look at the extent of SoftBank’s network coverage in Japan as well as the mobile internet speeds generally available to users.

1. SoftBank Coverage in Japan

Japan Mobile Operators Coverage
Japan Mobile Operators Coverage

Here is an analysis of SoftBank’s coverage based on the Opensignal Report from October 2023 about the Japan Mobile Network Experience:

  • Overall Coverage: While Softbank has improved its network, it still lags behind established operators like Rakuten, NTT Docomo, and au in terms of overall coverage. This means users might experience fewer signal drops and wider availability with other providers.
  • 5G Availability: SoftBank’s 5G Availability of 31.7% is the second highest, demonstrating the increasing pervasiveness of 5G on its network.

In summary, SoftBank provides excellent mobile coverage across Japan according to Opensignal’s metrics. It leads in overall coverage and shares the 5G coverage award. 5G is being rapidly rolled out on SoftBank’s network as availability increases. SoftBank’s coverage allows users to reliably use smartphones virtually anywhere in the country.

2. SoftBank Network Speed

Japan Mobile Operators Speed
Japan Mobile Operators Speed

Here is an analysis of SoftBank’s speed based on the Opensignal Japan Mobile Network Experience Report for October 2023:

  • SoftBank retains the sole award for 5G Games Experience, scoring 90.2 points out of 100. This reflects a good gaming experience on SoftBank’s 5G network with low latency and minimal disruption.
  • SoftBank also wins the 5G Video Experience award outright with a score of 77.4 points. This means SoftBank users can stream 1080p or higher resolution video on 5G with satisfactory speeds and little buffering.
  • While SoftBank does not win an outright award for Download Speed Experience, its score of 40.9 Mbps is competitive in third place behind the joint winners au and NTT Docomo. This reflects overall fast speeds across SoftBank’s 4G and 5G networks.
  • SoftBank comes second for Upload Speed Experience with 8.7 Mbps, over double the speed of third place NTT Docomo but still lagging far behind winner Rakuten Mobile. Uploads on SoftBank are reasonably quick.

In summary, while it may not lead in all speed metrics, SoftBank consistently delivers sufficiently fast speeds across its 4G and 5G networks to support high bandwidth activities like video streaming, online gaming, and real-time communications without disruption, according to Opensignal’s measurements and analysis.

III. SoftBank Connectivity Options for Travelers to Japan

There are three main options to get SoftBank mobile connectivity in Japan as a short-term visitor:

Option Description Pros Cons
Prepaid SIM Physical SIM card with data only plan. Affordable, especially for longer stays. Data-only plans available. Can be used with your own phone. Requires SIM-unlocked phone. No voice calls or SMS. Requires manual setup.
eSIM Digital SIM embedded in your phone. Convenient, no physical card needed. Faster activation compared to physical SIM. Some offer voice and SMS options. Requires compatible phone with eSIM support. Limited availability compared to physical SIM. Not all eSIMs offer voice and SMS.
Pocket WiFi Portable Wi-Fi device with data plan. Connects multiple devices. No need for SIM-unlocked phone. Convenient for groups or families. Higher cost compared to SIM or eSIM. Requires carrying and charging an extra device. Data speed might be slower than phone plans.

Both prepaid SIM cards and eSIM provide the same SoftBank coverage and speed. Choose as per your phone compatibility and activation preference.

IV. Best SoftBank SIM Cards for Tourists and Cost

Below are two top recommended SoftBank SIM cards for tourists in Japan:

1. SoftBank Japan Prepaid SIM Card

  • 7-Day Plan: Comes with 500 MB data, 100 mins local calls & texts. Valid for 7 days.
  • 14-Day Plan: Offers 1.5 GB data, 200 local mins & texts. Valid for 14 days.
  • 30-Day Plan: Provides 3GB data, 300 local mins & texts. Valid for 30 days.
  • Speed reduced to 128 Kbps after the data quota finished.
  • Costs around 3500 Yen ($25) for 7 days, 4000 Yen ($30) for 14 days, 5500 Yen ($40) for 30 days plan.

2. Global Advanced SIM

  • Specifically designed for inbound tourists by SoftBank.
  • 5 GB plan valid for 21 days. Speed reduced to 128 kbps after 5GB.
  • Unlimited Japan calls & 100 international minutes.
  • Costs around 3980 Yen ($29).

Both SIM cards can be picked up at airport arrival, Softbank stores, or have it shipped directly to your hotel in Japan. Easy self-activation.

V. Does SoftBank Japan Support eSIM?

Yes, SoftBank does provide an eSIM connectivity option in Japan.

However, there are a couple of limitations to consider:

  • Only available for iPhones currently (XS, XS Max, or later models). No Android phone support yet.
  • eSIM activation must be done before arriving in Japan through the SoftBank Global Rental app. Can’t activate it after reaching Japan.

SoftBank eSIM Japan provides the same prepaid data, calls & validity as regular SIM cards but in a digital form integrated into your phone.

Pricing is also the same starting from around $25 for 7 day plan. Speed reduced after data quota finished.

XI. Where Can You Buy SoftBank SIM Card and eSIM?

SoftBank is a major Japanese telecommunications and technology conglomerate. If you need to purchase a SoftBank SIM card or eSIM while visiting Japan, here are some options for where you can buy one:

1. Where to Buy Softbank SIM Card in Japan

You can purchase SoftBank SIM cards easily in Japan:

  • SoftBank Stores – Available at most SoftBank shop stores across Japan airports, and cities. Staff can help with activation.
  • Airport pick up – Pre-order online & pick up your SoftBank SIM card after arrival at major airports.
  • Online delivery – Order a SoftBank prepaid SIM card on sites like Japan SIM Card, and get it delivered to your hotel or Airbnb.
  • Convenience stores – Can find SoftBank SIMs at popular convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Lawson, Family Mart. Self-activate using instructions.
  • Electronics stores – Sold at large electronic shops like Yodobashi, Bic Camera, and Yamada Denki often at lower prices.

2. Where to Buy Softbank eSIM

To get SoftBank Japan eSIM, you must download their Global Rental app before arriving and activate the eSIM through the app. Key steps:

  1. Download the “SoftBank Global Rental” app on your iPhone
  2. Choose the Japan eSIM plan and make payment on the app
  3. Activate your eSIM and account using Apple ID
  4. eSIM gets downloaded remotely on your phone over-the-air

eSIM activation must be done before arriving in Japan when connected to the home country’s WiFi. Can’t activate it after reaching Japan.

XII. How to Activate SoftBank SIM Card/eSIM

If you have recently purchased a SoftBank SIM card or eSIM for your device while traveling in Japan, this part will walk you through the process of activating it.

1. How to Use Softbank Japan SIM Card

Activating a regular SoftBank SIM card is easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Insert SoftBank SIM in your unlocked phone. Turn the phone off.
  2. Turn the phone back on. It will auto-detect SIM and redirect to the APN setup screen
  3. Enter APN details – fast.softbank.ne.jp. Leave the rest of the settings as default.
  4. You will get an SMS with connection confirmation and data balance
  5. Ready to start using mobile data, calling and texting

You can recharge more data packs through My SoftBank app anytime during your trip when required.

2. How to Activate Softbank eSIM

As mentioned before, SoftBank Japan eSIM must be activated before arrival in Japan via their Global Rental app using the below steps:

  1. Download the SoftBank Global Rental app on your iPhone
  2. Select the Japan eSIM plan and complete payment
  3. Enter details and verify Apple ID for eSIM activation
  4. eSIM profile will be downloaded remotely on your iPhone over-the-air
  5. Takes around 15-20 minutes for eSIM to activate after download
  6. Connect to SoftBank Japan network once landed in Japan

XIII. SoftBank Japan Call & SMS Rate

Below are the standard voice call and text rates on SoftBank Japan network:

Service Cost Cost in US$
Calling other SoftBank Japan numbers 20 JPY/min 17 cents/min
Domestic calls to other Japan networks 20 JPY/min 17 cents/min
International calls (US) 10 JPY/min 9 cents/min
International calls (China) 30 JPY/min 26 cents/min
International calls (Other Countries) 100 JPY/min 87 cents/min
Outgoing local SMS 3 JPY/message 3 cents/message
Incoming SMS Free Free

Do note international calling rates are higher so best to use apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime Audio, Skype for cheap international calls.

IX. Useful USSD Codes for SoftBank

Here are some useful USSD codes to check data balance, recharge packs on SoftBank Japan:

  • *135# – Check SoftBank prepaid data balance
  • *136# – Check prepaid card number & validity info
  • *123# – List special data & international call packs offers
  • *125*X# – Buy specific data packs (X= pack number from *123# list)

X. How to Top Up SoftBank SIM Card/eSIM

When your data or call balance runs low, you can easily recharge more packs on both SoftBank SIM and eSIM in Japan:

  • Using My SoftBank app – Buy data add-ons through the My SoftBank app using an international credit/debit card
  • SoftBank shops – Visit the nearest SoftBank store and recharge through staff assistance
  • Convenience stores – Top-up vouchers available at 7-Eleven, and Lawson stores. Load using barcode
  • Online top-up – Some sites like Japan SIM Card offer online recharge services as well

So running out of data or calls is not an issue. You can quickly buy more data packs on the fly through the app during your Japan trip.

XI. Alternatives to SoftBank SIM Cards

1. SIM Cards by Other MVNOs:

Here are some other popular Japan SIM card options to consider as an alternative to SoftBank when traveling to Japan:

Operator Plan Name Data Allowance Validity Period Price (JPY) Price (USD)
Bmobile Data SIM 1GB 30 days 1,980 $14.58
Data SIM 3GB 30 days 2,970 $22.02
COMST Data SIM 1.5GB 30 days 2,420 $18.01
Data SIM 10GB 30 days 8,800 $65.63
GTN Mobile Data SIM 1GB 30 days 5,000 $37.25
Data SIM 5GB 30 days 10,000 $74.25
IIJmio Travel SIM 1GB 30 days 1,990 $14.79
Travel SIM 2GB 30 days 3,020 $22.48
Mobal Data SIM 1GB 30 days 3,990 $29.66
Data SIM 10GB 30 days 16,500 $123.26
Nippon SIM Data SIM 1GB 30 days 1,780 $13.23
Data SIM 2GB 30 days 1,980 $14.79
Sakura Mobile Data SIM 1GB 30 days 4,950 $36.90
Data SIM 10GB 30 days 26,400 $197.01
Wi-Ho! Data SIM 1GB 30 days 4,980 $36.93
Data SIM 5GB 30 days 5,980 $44.37

So evaluate other providers as well for potentially better prices or data speeds as per your travel needs.

2. esimjapan.net

Japan eSIM

If you’re looking to travel to Japan and want to avoid the hassle of switching SIM cards or paying expensive roaming fees, then esimjapan.net is your solution.

Using esimjapan.net offers many benefits. The activation process is entirely digital, so you won’t need to wait in line to register for a SIM slot. After purchasing your eSIM profile, you’ll receive an email with a QR code which you can scan using your phone’s camera, and the eSIM will automatically provision on your device. This means that you can connect quickly and easily, wherever you are.

To make things even easier, detailed setup guides are provided in multiple languages to ensure smooth installation of the eSIM on any eSIM-compatible device. If you run into any issues during activation, customer support is available 24/7 via live chat, email, and WhatsApp.

So why wait? Get your eSIM and enjoy your trip to Japan without any worries about connectivity or costs.

Get esimjapan.net eSIM
Beat roaming fees and bypass airport SIM shops.

XII. FAQs about SoftBank Japan

Does SoftBank SIM work in other parts of Asia?

No, SoftBank SIM is valid only within Japan. It won’t work outside Japan.

Can I use SoftBank SIM in Japan for more than 30 days?

SoftBank has a maximum of 30 days validity on tourist SIM cards. You can buy multiple 30-day SIMs for a longer stay.

Does the SoftBank SIM card work in rural areas/smaller islands?

Yes, SoftBank has wide network coverage in Japan including rural areas and smaller islands.

Can I use SoftBank SIM on multiple devices?

No, one SIM can be used in only one device at a time. For multiple devices, get a pocket WiFi rental.

Does SoftBank throttle speed after the data cap?

Yes, the speed was reduced to 128 Kbps once the data quota was finished on all SoftBank tourist SIMs.

Can I make international calls with SoftBank SIM?

Yes, international calls are supported but charged higher rates. Better to use VoIP apps for cheap international calling.

XIII. Final Words

Hopefully, this detailed guide has provided you with complete information on getting SoftBank SIM cards or eSIM in Japan for your upcoming trip. SoftBank provides excellent connectivity throughout Japan so your Japan travels will be smooth and convenient. Have a wonderful trip!