Just got back last night from a Christmas and New Year’s trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo. Getting connected in Hong Kong was as simple as swapping out my home SIM for a Hong Kong Tourist one—which still worked perfectly despite the change in service from PCCW to csl.
Japan, though, was a whole other story. And the worst part is that it could have been so much easier.
My girlfriend and I landed at Haneda Airport and immediately proceeded to a crowded and small booth in the Arrivals Hall, run by a company called Telecom Square. If you didn’t already know, mobile data is egregiously expensive in Japan, and the pair of SIM cards I got from this counter was no exception—almost $160 CAD for a pair of SIMs with 3 GB of data each. For comparison, a Hong Kong Tourist SIM gives you 5 GB of LTE data for the equivalent of $21.50 CAD.
Speaking of LTE, for some reason my Moto Nexus 6 wasn’t compatible with DoCoMo’s 4G network, which meant it was stuck on HSPA. The girlfriend’s OnePlus One worked fine, though—which meant that I had to hunt down a SIM adapter to put my Nano SIM in the Micro SIM slot of the spare OPO that I had thankfully brought along.
Worst of all was that using the DoCoMo SIM requires the entirely unnecessary step of registering an email address on Telecom Square mobile site (both fake, of course). Also, thanks to DoCoMo every single photo you capture is accompanied by a shutter sound, somehow overriding the sound settings on your phone.
Now here’s what I should have done, and in fact exactly what I did during our last visit to Japan in 2013: Rent an LTE hotspot from JCR Corp, a Hawaii-based company that I’ve been using since my first-ever visit to Tokyo in 2001. They’ll ship the device of your choice—like the 150Mbps LG L-02F that you see above—directly to your hotel; this way you can go directly from the airport to wherever you’re staying and be connected as soon as you arrive. When it’s time to go home, have your hotel mail back the hotspot in the free return mailer provided. Easy.
JCR can also ship SIM cards to your hotel, but after my frustrating set up and experience I honestly think that a hotspot makes a lot more sense.