Keeping in Touch in Japan

Expats moving to Japan will find keeping in touch very easyExpats can rest assured when it comes to keeping in touch in Japan. The island nation is known for its advanced technology, and thus finding ways to communicate with loved ones back home is not difficult.

Mobile phones dominate the market because of their utility and convenience; with widespread Internet allowing for real-time chatting online. 

 

Internet in Japan


Hundreds of Internet service providers (ISPs) exist across Japan, all offering different services. Broadband is by far the most popular choice of service with either fibre optics (Hikari) or ADSL. Though most locations have access to one of these types of high-speed Internet, availability depends on location. Prices vary by type of service, term of contract and current promotions. 

It’s possible to access Internet via the ubiquitous mobile phone. Cell phones run on a 3G network in Japan, which allows Internet use on a phone for those with an appropriate plan. Many phones have Wi-Fi capabilities, although most Wi-Fi in Japan is secure; it can require an account and typically charges for usage.

Softbank, NTT Docomo and AU are the three main mobile providers. Prices and plans vary by company, phone, plan, contract and current promotions. Some store locations have English-speaking staff, but many do not.

Internet cafés can also be found throughout Japan (and can be especially useful while waiting for Internet access at home). Typically, it costs a few hundred yen an hour, or a set price for a certain amount of hours.
 

Phones in Japan


As mentioned, cell phones are useful to keep in touch with people in a variety of ways – email, texting, social media and customary phone calls. However, international calls should only be made via a cell phone with an international calling plan (an option when getting a cell phone, but usually for frequent travellers) or via a voice application over Wi-Fi.

Calling cards are the best way to call overseas from a landline. They are easily found at convenience stores.
 

Voice and video chat (via Internet) in Japan


Skype is an easy and cheap way to make calls overseas, or chat for free if both users have a Skype account. Simply sign up for a Skype account online, download the software, purchase some credits, and call landlines or cell phones. Skype also allows expats to have a “local” number for people in the country of their choice to contact them. See its website for more details and prices.

Other instant messaging clients also allow voice and video chat, such as Apple’s iChat. Social media sites, like Facebook, are also great ways to keep in touch.
 

Postal and shipping services in Japan


Have a letter or package to send? Simply take it to a local post office (Japan Post). International shipping costs are reasonable; generally less expensive than in the US. Keep in mind that most post offices, with the exception of those in large cities or main city offices, close early on weekdays (between 3pm and 5pm), and are completely closed on weekends.