There was a new development in Japan in May, 2015, which will soon (within a year) allow any one going to Japan to use their own non-Japanese phone in Japan if the length of the visit is for 90 days or less.
As you have read on this blog elsewhere, the use of any cellphone without a “Giteki Mark” (approval for Japan’s technical standard, like an FCC mark in USA or a CE mark in Europe) is not currently allowed legally in Japan, though I’ve never heard anyone caught and penalized by a policeman for doing it.
Japan’s government was aware that this legal policy will inconvenience visitors from around the world for 2020 Tokyo Olympic in the age of instant electronic information.
So, Japanese national assembly passed the amendment to the current Radio/Telecommunication Law on May 15, 2015, to allow
- – anyone who brings a non-Japanese (with no Giteki mark) cellphone or tablet to use it for less than 90 days after entering to Japan, if the device is approved by a proper overseas regulatory agency.
- – and, it looks like a Gaijin-san (who doesn’t have a permanent Japanese address) may be able to purchase a voice/data SIM, not just a data-only SIM, for his/her less-than-90-days stay there.
- – the related government agency has one year to draw up operational details on how to implement the law.
- – this amendment to the law must be implemented within one year of the bill’s passage (which means, by May 15 , 2016)
According to the new amendment, you must bring the phone to Japan with you. Any phone that someone sends you from outside of Japan to you already in Japan is not eligible for this amendment’s exception. And, the period of use at a time (for one trip) is restricted to 90 days or less.
And, it is expected that the phone you use in Japan under this amendment must have a seal of approval from a foreign government agency like FCC in USA or CE in Europe.
To verify that your non-Japanese phone is eligible for this exception, you may have to show the Japanese entry stamp on your passport to obtain a Japanese SIM, or your air ticket itinerary. There’s already one type of talk/data SIM from b-mobile, b-mobile PAYG SIM, for which you have to send the image of entry stamp on your passport within a few days of SIM activation to continue using the service.
See b-mobile PAYG SIM (English Page)
I’m not sure if this procedure will become the standard procedure for all Talk/Data SIM for foreign travelers who want to obtain talk/data SIM and/or data-only SIM after the next year when the new amended Radio/Telecommunication law will become effective. But, you should expect something similar will be required to obtain a Talk/Data SIM in Japan.
Unfortunately, for any foreigner who plans to stay in Japan for more than 90 days there, this amendment does not change anything.
Someone suggested that you travel out of Japan for a short period with your phone every 90 days, and come back to Japan, then you can continue to use your non-Japanese phone legally forever.
Fortunately, though, some newer iPhone models and all newer iPad models bear a Giteki Mark (Japanese agency’s approval mark). And, other cellphone manufactures such as SONY, Komai and LG also plan to sell a global unlocked model which may (or may not) have a Giteki Mark.
And, if you plan to stay in Japan for more than 90 days, you should have a VISA to stay in Japan for that period. And, if you plan to stay in Japan for more than 90 days, you’re required to register your Japanese address with a local municipal office there, which will issue you an Alien Registration Card. With the card, you can obtain a Talk/Data SIM from any carrier including Docomo, Softbank and KDDI au. You must already own a phone with a Giteki Mark, or buy a new phone from a Japanese carrier (or from a Japanese Apple Store), to use it for more than 90 days in Japan.