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Phones in Japan

We recommend that all YWAMers in Japan have a mobile phone in order to be easily contacted - especially in the case of emergency. We highly recommend using a smartphone in Japan, as we primarily communicate with each other via Element as YWAMers, and most people in Japan communicate using LINE. Please see recommended apps at the end of this section.


Bring One From Home

If you already own a phone from your home country, it is compatible with GSM SIM cards, and is unlocked, then you can use that here in Japan. Unlocking your smartphone may require some work, but will save you a lot of money. Most GSM phones can be unlocked so long as you are not still paying for it. The first place to turn is the network carrier to which your phone is locked. They will often unlock it for free upon request. The second place to turn is an IMEI unlock service provider. There are many online, just be cautious of choosing one that is well reviewed. One such company is DoctorSIM.

Purchasing in Japan

If you do not have a device, you can purchase a SIM-free (unlocked) smartphone from places such as Amazon or Rakuten in Japan for around ¥20,000 for a basic smartphone, ¥40,000 for a mid-range smartphone or ¥90,000 for a high-end smartphone. You can also find them in second hand shops.

Side note: If you get a phone with saifu-keitai (mobile wallet) function, you can use your phone to make payments at many shops and public transport, as well as logging in to the government ID system (MyNumber). The latest iPhones from overseas tend to also have this function.

SIM Card

There are many different companies that offer affordable plans, which include data and a phone number. You can find a list of the most popular plans at

You can purchase a SIM card and set up a plan online. Calling time is usually not included in the cost, so you will be charged per minute for any calls, though most people call using a messenger app like LINE for free or little cost.

Most of these companies require a Japanese credit card. If you do not have (or don't wish to use) a Japanese credit card, as of now these plans accept payment via Japanese bank transfer:

  • LINEMO costs ¥990 for 3GB data per month.
  • Y!mobile costs ¥990 for 3GB data per month.
  • ahamo costs ¥2,970 for 20GB data per month.
  • Rakuten Mobile costs ¥1,078 for 3GB data per month.

This plan accepts foreign credit cards:

  • IILmio costs ¥850 for 2GB data per month.
  • Element - Main app used by YWAMers in Japan to communicate
  • LINE - This is the most popular messaging app in Japan. Most people you meet will ask to add you on LINE
  • Yurekuru Call - Disaster warning system in English
  • Google Maps - Reliable maps in Japan, including public transport routes
  • Google Translate - Extremely helpful, especially the translate from a picture function