When the Japanese government asked foreign travelers about their “difficulties during travel” as part of a questionnaire survey*, the need for “free public wireless LAN environments” topped the list of responses. There were also many responses such as “difficulty in obtaining information about public transportation and places to eat and drink” or “difficulty in getting around due to lack of maps and pamphlets”, but even these problems can mostly be resolved if there is an environment in which travelers can connect to the Internet.
Free Wi-Fi services for foreign tourists are increasing throughout Japan. This article gives an in-depth guide to convenient services that are being provided by one of Japan’s major communications carriers. Check it out and get connected!
*“Results from Questionnaire Survey of Foreign Tourists” by Japan Tourism Agency
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These days, mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets are perhaps the items people rely on most when traveling, as they can be used to check sightseeing information in hotels, research train transfers to your destination while sitting in a cafe, e-mail family and friends, and so on. Many people also now want to immediately upload comments and photos from wherever they are, via SNS such as Facebook and Twitter. In all of these scenarios, a real-time Internet-connected environment is very important.
Of course, there are many handy and useful apps now available, including essential map applications that will guide you right to your destination. There are apps enabling English-language train route searches, apps introducing areas of Japan to foreign visitors, and much more besides. Locally obtained fresh information will add an extra level of enjoyment to your trip.
Progressive maintenance of Wi-Fi spots in Japan’s cities
Over the past few years there has been a rapid increase in the popularity of smart phones and tablets within Japan as well, which has led to progressive maintenance of Wi-Fi spots in Japan’s cities, ensuring a highly convenient and comfortable environment for foreign tourists.
Let’s take a look at the services provided by NTT East – Japan’s oldest major telecommunications company and current market leader in construction of fiber optic networks, etc. Foreign visitors can relax now that NTT East has started to provide full-blown free Wi-Fi services specifically for foreigners who are traveling in Japan.
Free use of Wi-Fi spots around Japan for 14 days (336 hours)!
We will begin by explaining how to use these free Wi-Fi services, although there are no difficult procedures involved. Basically, you just need to pick up a free Wi-Fi card from one of the counters established at facilities such as airports and tourist information centers (see illustration below). Simply show your passport and you can receive one of these cards. The ID and password necessary to log-in are printed on the card, so you just need to enter these as directed at an access point with the NTT East Wi-Fi signal (0000FLETS-PORTAL). Having done that, you can then make free use of Wi-Fi spots provided by NTT East for 14 days (336 hours). Simple and easy!
There is no need to fill out any application forms, so this service is perfect for first-time visitors to Japan. You don’t even have to send an e-mail to begin – all you need is your everyday Wi-Fi-supporting mobile device. There are already more than 17,000 NTT East Wi-Fi spots around Japan (as of January 2013) and all of these are based on fiber optic lines, guaranteeing fast and stable communications.
Services available in various places in Tokyo
The number of places where NTT East’s free Wi-Fi service can be used is still increasing. Here is a guide to some of the sightseeing areas in Tokyo, a major city with many access points.
This is one of the most popular sightseeing areas in Tokyo. The roughly 250m-long shopping district around Nakamise Street, which is lined with approximately 90 stores selling items such as snack foods and traditional handicrafts, is the perfect place to buy souvenirs. Also close by is “Tokyo Skytree”, which is the world’s tallest self-supporting communications tower. There are many restaurants here, too, so you will likely be able to find and enjoy Japanese food that is to your taste. There are dozens of Wi-Fi spots in Asakusa Station as well as in nearby hotels, convenience stores, and elsewhere.
This is an internationally renowned “electric district” and is Japan’s premier destination for people who want to buy electrical goods. You can visit safe in the knowledge that many stores in Akihabara are staffed by store assistants who speak foreign languages. Many foreign tourists also visit in search of goods related to Japanese anime and video games. If you want to take a rest, try visiting a maid cafe! Wi-Fi access points can be found in locations such as cafes, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. Wi-Fi can even be used in some electrical goods stores (duty-free stores).
There are also many access points installed in cafes, convenience stores, stations and hotels throughout the following popular districts.
This area has always had a significant foreign population, so there are plenty of easy-to-enter establishments such as cafes and bars. The various shopping facilities in Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown are especially popular.
Shinjuku has all kinds of stores, including major department stores. You can get pretty much anything you want here. The Meiji Shrine is a popular tourist attraction immediately accessible by train.
Shibuya is one of Japan’s famous fashion and culture areas. If you want to experience Japanese youth culture, this is the place to visit. The large “Shibuya Hikarie” commercial facility located directly in front of Shibuya Station was opened just last year.
This is one of Japan’s oldest commercial districts, combining the latest brand shops together with stores stocking traditional Japanese articles. Ginza also has many long-standing high-class restaurants and Japanese-style eateries.
With its many art galleries and museums, Ueno is famous as an art district. Ueno Zoo is the perfect place for families to enjoy a day out. The Japanese-style “Ameyoko” shopping district is another popular spot.
Regional sightseeing areas also progressively introducing free Wi-Fi services
As you can see in the map on the right-hand side, NTT East provides services in an area that roughly covers the whole Eastern half of Japan. Of course, East Japan also has many fascinating sightseeing areas outside of Tokyo. The free Wi-Fi service introduced in this article can be used in major sightseeing areas outside Tokyo, as well. Free Wi-Fi cards can be received sightseeing areas such as Yamanashi, Nagano, Miyagi, Iwate, Aomori and Gunma, and there are areas where sightseeing information for foreign visitors is distributed through this Wi-Fi service. The areas where such services are available are set to continue increasing in the future.
When you first arrive in Japan, make sure you pick up your free NTT East Wi-Fi card from an airport or another location. You will then be able to start out on a comfortable and enjoyable trip. These cards can be used as explained in this article, so it’s a good idea to bookmark this page before visiting Japan.